Night Sky Timelapse Videos - Digital Photography School

Night Sky Timelapse Videos

A Guest Post by Phil Hart – author of the Shooting Stars eBook (use the code DPSTARS for a 20% discount).

There are many amazing things you can do with your digital SLR, and video footage of the night sky is certainly one of them. Timelapse sequences can capture and animate the night sky in ways that audiences find truly stunning. And the good news is that you can make an impressive debut in this field with very modest equipment.

I remember the first time I saw  ‘Learning to Fly’ three years ago, just one of many incredible timelapse videos by Tom Lowe. Although I had experimented before then, it was only after watching Tom’s videos that my journey into night sky timelapse photography really began.

Dunnottar Castle

On a recent holiday in north-east Scotland, I captured this short sequence of Dunnottar Castle with an entry level DSLR, the Canon 1100D (Rebel T3). I was using the 10-22mm lens for the super-wide field of view, but even the standard 18-55mm lens can be used to create videos of similar quality. And while I would normally recommend a sturdy tripod, this was actually captured on a flexible little GorillaPod, perched on the side of the hill, as my only tripod in the travel bag was dedicated to another camera. A little bit of moonlight illuminates the castle and some low clouds and passing ships add extra movement to the sequence.

The Venus and Jupiter Show

Prior to arriving in Scotland, I had spent two months in the much colder environment of the Yukon Territory in winter. While I was in the Yukon to capture footage of the Northern Lights, this first video that I’ve compiled from that trip is primarily about the evolving conjunction between Venus and Jupiter which occurred in the evening skies at the same time.

As well as the Canon 5D Mark II, I was using a motion and exposure control system developed with my friend Fred Vanderhaven in Sydney, particularly for the smooth day-to-night transitions you can see in the video. The labelled image below shows what you can see in the first sequence. There’s a complete set of labelled images and further explanation on my website, www.philhart.com.

This Venus and Jupiter Show video is a good example of where my timelapse journey has taken me so far. But as the first Dunnottar Castle video above shows, you can record impressive sequences with even very simple equipment. Once you get the basics right, I guarantee your friends will be impressed with what you can do!

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category.

Phil Hart is an engineer by day and photographer under the stars by night. He is the author of the eBook Shooting Stars and a free Night Sky Photography Newsletter and runs Workshops in and around Melbourne, Australia.

  • http://www.photomint.com/blog Lara White

    wow Phil, so impressive! It has always been a dream of mine to see the Northern Lights!

  • http://www.photo-roll.com/ Sachin Verma

    This is just awesome! :)

    http://www.photo-roll.com/

  • http://jeffejensen.blogspot.com Jeff E Jensen

    Oh man, I love this stuff! I’m actually headed out tonight to shoot a night sky time lapse. Here’s one from a couple of months ago:

    http://blog.jeffejensenphotography.com/2012/04/stars-over-kolob.html

  • http://blogs.gonomad.com/traveltalesfromindia/ Mridula

    Instead of the video this is the notice getting in India!

    “This website/URL has been blocked until further notice either pursuant to Court orders or on the Directions issued by the Department of Telecommunications”

    http://blogs.gonomad.com/traveltalesfromindia/2012/06/skywatch-friday-mesmerizing-dingboche-everest-base-camp-trek-nepal.html

  • http://blogs.gonomad.com/traveltalesfromindia/ Mridula

    Looks like that block message is coming only on select ISPs from India. Some friends with different ISPs can see them.

  • Mark

    Your videos are nice but you didnt tell me how to make one of these? What keeps the camera shooting the whole time and are you just shooting in aperture mode. What are you putting all the images together with thats turning them into a video??

  • http://philhart.com/ Phil Hart

    mark..the very short answer is that these are made with the aperture wide open, high ISO and continuous exposures 30 seconds long (or shorter if you have a very fast lens) and i use a bulb cable to keep the shutter firing. the free way to render the video is with VirtualDub.

    my ebook Shooting Stars provides the much longer answer (129 pages!) with all the details on how to process the images and render the video file as well.

  • https://www.flickr.com/photos/patrick_kulwicki/with/14267549541 Patrick Kulwicki

    Loved the Venus and Jupiter video. Great article, will check the links out tomorrow as I was actually getting ready for bed. Any recommended dolly setups to jump into for the beginner? I am using a 6D, with a 24mm Rokinon f/1.4 (my night lens) on a manfrotto tripod for now, waiting to get the Canon Timer remote controller to put some ease into it, using Lightroom to process main sequences and LRtimelapse to put it all together (still trying to figure out how to add the audio). Again filled with questions but will wait to check your links tomorrow as this is where I want to be. Again loved the video, love what you all do here on DPS!

Some older comments

  • Phil Hart

    June 17, 2012 07:09 am

    mark..the very short answer is that these are made with the aperture wide open, high ISO and continuous exposures 30 seconds long (or shorter if you have a very fast lens) and i use a bulb cable to keep the shutter firing. the free way to render the video is with VirtualDub.

    my ebook Shooting Stars provides the much longer answer (129 pages!) with all the details on how to process the images and render the video file as well.

  • Mark

    June 15, 2012 01:37 pm

    Your videos are nice but you didnt tell me how to make one of these? What keeps the camera shooting the whole time and are you just shooting in aperture mode. What are you putting all the images together with thats turning them into a video??

  • Mridula

    June 9, 2012 03:32 am

    Looks like that block message is coming only on select ISPs from India. Some friends with different ISPs can see them.

  • Mridula

    June 9, 2012 03:05 am

    Instead of the video this is the notice getting in India!

    "This website/URL has been blocked until further notice either pursuant to Court orders or on the Directions issued by the Department of Telecommunications"

    http://blogs.gonomad.com/traveltalesfromindia/2012/06/skywatch-friday-mesmerizing-dingboche-everest-base-camp-trek-nepal.html

  • Jeff E Jensen

    June 9, 2012 03:01 am

    Oh man, I love this stuff! I'm actually headed out tonight to shoot a night sky time lapse. Here's one from a couple of months ago:

    http://blog.jeffejensenphotography.com/2012/04/stars-over-kolob.html

  • Sachin Verma

    June 9, 2012 02:22 am

    This is just awesome! :)

    http://www.photo-roll.com/

  • Lara White

    June 9, 2012 01:32 am

    wow Phil, so impressive! It has always been a dream of mine to see the Northern Lights!

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