Follow the stars.
It’s a good idea to research weather conditions, timing, and locations before shooting star trails. Here are a few things to consider to maximize your ability to capture the night sky.
Clear skies, lights out, can’t lose.
Light pollution can kill good star trail photos before you even begin. To get the best shots, whether you live in a big city or a small town, you’ll want to escape the glow of neon signs or even the street lights of a quiet suburban neighborhood. Online light pollution maps can show you how far you need to drive for the best conditions.
Even in the wilderness, the full moon can be a competitive light source that complicates your shots. A new moon, when the moon reflects no sunlight, is ideal when you want dark skies.
Be sure to check the weather report before you jump in the car. Cloudless skies are essential to capture good night sky shots, and you don’t want to fight against the wind to prevent camera movement.
Maps to the stars.
While you can capture star trail shots anywhere it’s dark enough, remember that the positions of the stars shift based on the season. And how they sit in the night sky will vary depending on your latitude. They also differ in the southern or northern hemisphere. Star maps for the location you plan to shoot from will help you set up your shots.
“Learning to find Polaris, the North Star, became very important for me,” Tamez explains. “Especially in images where you see the concentric circles, you have to know where Polaris is to position that in the shot.”