Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Pic(k) of the week 13: ABANDONED MOSQUE STAR TRAILS - Fujifilm XF 8-16mm f2.8 lens

Last week, I went out to my favorite abandoned village to test shoot the new Fujifilm XF 8-16 f2.8 lens and potentially add some images to my "When the desert take over" project. I photographed at the undisclosed location in the UAE for a few hours in the late afternoon, when I realized that I could stay till after dark and do some star trail photography... 

Although I didn't plan to do astrophotography that day, I had the tripod with me and testing the new lens for this type of photography was a good last minute challenge.

The moon was a few days short of being full, which means that it is already well above the eastern horizon just after dark. As one normally will shoot towards the North (Pole star-Polaris), the foreground subject will be nicely lit by the moonlight on the right (East/South-East) and this without having the moon in the frame. For a more simple image, I choose to photograph the empty Mosque, which sits at the border of the abandoned village.

There are several ways of shooting Star Trails, the easiest for me is to shoot a continuous series of images with a 30 sec exposure time; this during a few hours. The resulting images (2hr x 120=240) are then run through a dedicated program that provides you with a nice Star Trail image. I personally use StarStaX, which is freeware (donation appreciated!) and does a good job for me!

As I was underdressed and really started to feel cold, I wasn't able to complete the full 2 hours, which let to shorter star trails; total shots were 135. On top of that I made the rookie mistake of only exposing the images for 20s instead of 30s, which again leads to even shorter trails. By the way, StarStax will only accept jpeg or tiffs files.

On a dark night, I would normally shoot my 30s exposures around ISO 1600, but given the moon was providing plenty of light, ISO 800 was sufficient. 

Image details:
  • Fujifilm X-T3 with the XF 8-16 f2.8 lens
  • ISO 800, f2.8, 20s (jpeg 135 images), 8mm (14mm full frame equivalent)
  • Photoshop CC to remove aircraft/satellites flying through some of the shots
  • StarStaX to blend the images together
I'm ok with the image, but it proved once again that good photography normally starts with good preparation; more careful planning would have resulted in an even better image. As I hadn't planned to do Star Trails shots, I should have taken more time to properly set up my in camera intervalometer and brought warmer clothes to shoot during at least two full hours... Lesson learnt! 

Careful viewers, might actually notice that I'm standing inside the Mosque, lit by my mobile phone. This adds an element of interest, but also allowed me stay a little warmer. And no, I didn't stay there for all of the 135 images; I used a single image to blend into the final image.

The First look review of the XF 8-16 f2.8 lens can be found here while more images of my "When the desert takes over" project, can be found here

Remember: "Only in the darkness can you see the stars" - Martin Luther King Jr


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