Posted Friday, May 11, 2012
License: CC-BY-NC-SA (What does this mean?)



Blackstone, near the junction of Redbank Plains Rd and the M15 (Cunningham Hwy)
General location: Australia, South-East Queensland

The Setup:

This picture is a total exposure of 1 hr 44 mins. The location has the transmission towers for foreground interest, but also has a lot of interfering lights. I set up the camera and intervelometer, then hid away in the car, checking periodically. I was actually out there for half an hour more than this, but the battery seems to have died shortly after the 1h44m mark.

I spent several hours over two days editing and pondering about the final effect. This is plainly overprocessed, and is not a realistic picture by any measure. I think there's perhaps a bit too much going on here, however it does fit in with the recent theme of light painting.

Since my lens hood has not yet arrived from HK, I blutacked some black cardboard to the side of the lens, though that only helped with the side flare.

The camera & lens:

Camera: Canon EOS 400D DIGITAL
Lens: Canon EF-S 15-85mm f/3.5-5.6 USM IS @ 15mm
Exposure: 1h44m" @ f/8.0, ISO 100 (13 x 480 second exposures combined)

Post processing:

Source Images: StarStax: (Version 1) -

  1. Load and combine all 13 exposures.

Here it gets slightly non-linear. I ended up with two different treatments of the image (version 2 and version 3) that both had good and bad points, which I'll lay out below. Lightroom 4: Version 2 -
  1. Import version 1
  2. Presence: highlights +75, shadows -100, whites +75, clarity +80
  3. Curves: lights +70, darks -85, shadows -100
  4. Noise reduction: luminance +50

Lightroom 4: Version 3 -
  1. Import version 2 as a basis
  2. Presence: exposure -0.75 stops
  3. Luminance colour shift: red -40, orange +25, yellow -100

I wanted some aspects of version 2 (the orange transmission lines), and some aspects of version 3 (more stars, more colour splashes). I couldn't figure out a way to achieve this in Lightroom, so exported both as TIFs and moved to Photoshop. Photoshop Elements 7: Version 4
  1. Loaded version 2 as one layer, and loaded version 3 as another layer with 50% opacity.

Lightroom 4: Version 5 -
  1. Import version 4. All edits below are in addition to all of the edits above.
  2. Presence: Clarity +100, exposure +0.85 stops, shadows +75, white clipping +100, black clipping -70.
  3. Noise reduction: Luminance +50 (this last step of adjustments brought out a lot of noise).

The wash-up:

Having my lens hood would have helped. Having a battery in better shape would help as well. As below, my (now) 5.5 year old battery has trouble keeping up with this high usage.

What would you do?

You are welcome to have a go at editing this photo yourself. When editing in browser, maximum size is 1600x1200px and edits can be saved as a comment if you want to share your work. Go crazy!

If you'd rather, you can download the original/raw image to play with in your own image editor:
Download original file in JPEG format

Related Images:

20 Responses to “Transmission Line Star Trails”

  1. Al

    This is definitely spectacular, competing lines through all dimensions, nice. I would probably have stopped processing a little earlier than your final product but then it would never have looked quite this “Vegas” 🙂

  2. Al Warren

    If you mean Swanbank then just remember when security come and check you out make sure you tell them you're not taking photos of the power stations. They're quite decent (and the guy who checked me out when I took the pic to that link above admitted he'd just bought a Nikon DSLR and was keen to get into the hobby) but don't like you taking pics of the power station/s.

  3. Al Warren

    David, have you ever been down the Boonah road from Yamanto? I went up there the other day and found an old service station about 1-2km from the highway. Really cool old site, old bowsers. I know it's been shut down for a while coz the fuel price on the bowser was 20-something cents per litre.

  4. Al Warren

    The road is North of the bowsers (I think) so you'd get a decent Southerly aspect with just a little highway light over the hill. I hadn't though about star trails but now that you mention it…

    …oh, I did find a large burrow under one of the rocks out front and a shed snake skin from something about 4-5' long. There I'm thinking brown snake. Something to keep in mind if you're sitting there in the cold at night.

  5. Al Warren

    I should have added that if you're stacking a number of images rather than doing one long exposure, you won't have too much trouble with the ambient light anyway.

  6. Mick Porter

    No, it's easy as. My camera only takes infrared (no cable input) – you just solder 2 infrared LED's across the ends of a stereo audio cable and plug it into the headphone output of the Android and install "DSLR Remote" app. The circuit is simple, I can give you details if you want but if your camera takes a cable input I'd consider an eBay intervalometer.

  7. Glenn

    This is really really cool! Awesome work 🙂 I’ve stopped trying to take long exposures with my old Pentax K-10D now.. The extreme use had destroyed the sensor over the years!


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