Photographed with a D780 with an AF-S NIKKOR 20mm f/1.8 lens while placed on a tripod at Zion National Park; the star trails can be seen in the background. Foreground Exposure: 100 seconds at f/1.8, ISO 1000, manual exposure, long exposure noise reduction ON, high ISO noise reduction OFF, white balance: 4350°K, Flat Picture Control, which provides for the largest dynamic range and the most wiggle room in post-processing.

Exposure settings for the stars were as follows: 180 seconds at f/4, ISO 200, manual exposure, long exposure noise reduction OFF, high ISO noise reduction OFF, white balance at 4350°K, and Flat Picture Control. After taking 46 photographs, each lasting three minutes, the motion of the stars across the southern sky was imported into the StarStax program. The finished stack was imported into Photoshop Elements, where the layers were merged together.

Let me fill you in if you’ve ever had the curiosity to know what a Nikon Representative does in their leisure time. Many of us will go through the instruction manual that comes with a brand-new camera until we come across a function that piques our interest. After that, we will head out into the world and attempt to figure out how to create photographs that are, with any luck, outstanding.

When I found out that the D780 featured a function that had been exclusive to the Nikon D810A up until that moment, I was so excited that I could almost burst. With the D780, the maximum shutter speed that can be selected while using manual exposure is increased to 900 seconds—15 that’s MINUTES! This entails the use of Star Trails.

In the days when photographs were taken with film, the shutter of the camera was left open for a single very long exposure that could last for several hours. In contrast, the modern digital cameras of today use a series of shorter exposures that are stacked during the post-processing stage in order to create a single finished image.

Extended manual exposure is a superb feature that may make the process of making star trail photographs easier to do with the Nikon D780.

In the manual exposure mode of almost all cameras, the maximum shutter speed is just thirty seconds. The number of times the shutter is opened and closed, however, can quickly increase. Just keep in mind that the creation of a standard image of a star trail will take at least two hours.

The amount of time it took me to take some of my favorite pictures was well over three hours. When the exposure period is set to 30 seconds, the shutter will open and close twice each minute. That is equivalent to 120 times in one hour and more than 350 actuations for each photograph. When the exposure time is increased to 900 seconds, the number of shutter actuations each hour is significantly reduced to just four.

Go to the CUSTOM Menu item D6 in order to activate the option that enables prolonged shutter speeds in manual exposure. This option is found under the CUSTOM Menu. Turn ON D6. When exclusively using the manual exposure mode, the display for the shutter speeds will no longer stop at 30 seconds.

Newly added shutter speeds for the Nikon D780 are 30, 60, 120, 180, 240, 300, 480, 600, 720, and 900 seconds.

Extended manual exposure is a superb feature that may make the process of making star trail photographs easier to do with the Nikon D780.

Travel by Car!

I embarked on my journey to Zion National Park armed with the D780 and the AF-S NIKKOR 20mm f/1.8 lens. A quick look at the website DarkSiteFinder.com reassured me that Zion had a reasonably black sky, and a quick check of the calendar informed me that the day I selected was close to the beginning of a new moon cycle, which meant that moonlight would be at a minimum on that day.

Even though I have experience doing these kinds of shoots by myself, I make it a point to include a friend every time I go out because I believe it’s safer that way. To my good fortune, a couple of my colleagues are Nikon representatives. believe that standing outside in the midst of a freezing dark night is entertaining, and so together we made the journey to Zion.

Before coming to the park, we did engage in some further planning and preparation, as ought to be brought to your attention here. It was predicted that the weather would be inconsistent at best. The region close to Zion was forecast to see a variety of precipitation, including rain, snow, and clear sky. Daytime highs of up to 80 degrees Fahrenheit would be followed by nighttime lows as low as 20 degrees.

It was obvious that boots, waterproof and insulated jackets, and a lot of layers that could be quickly removed once the sun came up were going to be packed. The nights were going to come with mandatory necessities like as hats, gloves, and hot chocolate.

We went about during the day looking for potential spots. The principal location that we selected had a number of features that we found to be quite appealing. First, it provided an unobstructed view of the sky in both the northern and southern hemispheres. When taking photographs in a canyon, you should give careful consideration to whether or not you will get a view of the sky.

The foreground was enjoyable, and it was not difficult to get there. There is no need to go along a route at night, when it is dark, when it is cold, when freshly fallen snow is on the ground while carrying supplies.

Steps to evaluate exposure

When constructing an image of this kind, it is quite helpful to have a mental picture in your head of how you want the finished product to look. In this particular scenario, I wanted the foreground to be adequately illuminated enough that I could make out some of the details, but I wanted it to still have the appearance of having been taken at night.

That established the exposure settings to be 180 seconds at f/1.8 and 1000 ISO. The fact that the illumination from a nearby city could be seen in the photo ended up giving an interesting and unexpected layer to the finished product.

It was now just necessary for me to record the movement of the stars over the night sky. I just heard that as starlight penetrates our atmosphere, it takes up hints of color that were previously undetectable. This meant that many of my early attempts at star trails, which resulted in white or almost white trails, were overexposed. Specifically, the exposure was too high.

After experimenting with a variety of settings, I found that the stars in my test images appeared to have a bluish tinge if I maintained the exposure time of 180 seconds that I had used for the foreground, reduced the aperture to f/4, and set the ISO to 200.

When I was experimenting with a new method or utilizing a new camera, I always made sure that the camera was configured to record photographs using the JPG + NEF option. In an ideal world, I’ll utilize the completed JPG files; in this instance, I really used them.

I utilized the interval timer option that was built into the D780 in order to take a series of photographs of the actual trails. Since each exposure was for 180 seconds, I decided to make the time for between shots 181 seconds.

This meant that the camera would begin a new interval (a new image) exactly one second after the exposure for the preceding image concluded. A gap of one second every three minutes would produce trails that were rather smooth, with only slight gaps in between.

Foreground exposure settings were as follows: 100 seconds at f/1.8, ISO 1000, manual exposure, long exposure noise reduction ON, high ISO noise reduction OFF, white balance at 4350°K, and Flat Picture Control.

Exposure settings for the stars were as follows: 180 seconds at f/4, ISO 200, manual exposure, long exposure noise reduction OFF, high ISO noise reduction OFF, white balance at 4350°K, and Flat Picture Control.

After taking 46 photographs, each lasting three minutes, the motion of the stars across the southern sky was imported into the StarStax program. It does not cost anything, and it is compatible with both Mac and Windows machines. After the sky stacking was done, the final stack was taken into Photoshop Elements to be edited.

After that, a new layer was made, and the foreground was added to it. The layers were combined in such a way that the foreground could now be seen. After some tweaking to the exposure and color, the finished image was ready to be shared.

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