The Night of the Torksey Bridge Star Trail Fail

I finished work today at 5pm and a quick look outside the window revealed a clear sky. Not believing my luck again, I dashed out to Torksey Bridge, an old disused railway bridge over the River Trent in Nottinghamshire. I set off a star trail sequence and got about 20 minutes in when I started to see flashing lights coming from behind. Damn those pesky kids!

Normally I would have shot approximately 180 images of 20 second exposures giving me at least an hour to wait for the sequence to finish. That would have meant quite long trails in the final image. But with the kids turning up and ruining the image with lights, I gave it up as a fail!

This is what I got:


The idea was to use the slightly brutal looking ironwork on the bridge pointing to the top left hand third of the frame (using the rule of thirds).

Once composed I set up a foreground image where I focussed on the bridge itself with the intention to stack the images later in Photoshop. I shot this at ISO640 and used a brief pop from a gelled flashgun to lift the lighting on the rusty rivets:


If you pixel peep the above image you will see that the stars are out of focus. I refocussed on the sky and made another test shot:


The above test shot is much sharper on the stars.

To create the star trails in Photoshop, I opened the images, including the foreground shot, as a stack. Much the same way as piling plates one on top of another. This part can take some time depending on the computer speed and RAM you have.

Once all the images are opened as a stack, you select all the images and use Lighten Blend mode to make all the images in the stack appear as a star trail.

The pesky kids with their flashlights managed to ruin the last 10 or so images!

Once stacked it was necessary to highlight each affected layer in Photoshop, one by one and delete the offending lights. It's a painstaking process and usually worth it!

This ain't no rave!

Another example of a failed star trail image. I managed to process (aka resurrect) this shot despite the appearance of a bloody stupid woman who rolled up with a car full of headlights ruining my star trail shot! No, this isn't where the rave is and no, I wasn't 'partying' and yes, I am probably an old fart! I orignally planned a 90 shot trail but only got up to 43....


Hoping for clear skies

This is another example where the star trail sequence starts off with the sky nice and dark but then the clouds roll in and mess up the shot! I managed to bag this with very few images. This is a monument known as the Wentworth Needle in South Yorkshire:


Dunham Pipe Bridge

This is what the star trails "should" have looked like. Much longer trails without interruption!


About me:
I usually specialise in shooting lightpainting images but occasionally dabble in urbex and artistic model photography. I'm always on the lookout for someone to collaborate with; please don't hesitate to get in touch if you'd like to create art.

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Great work here mate, even limited to 20 minutes it still looks the business. I need to do more trails as they are superb. Top job.

Cheers pal, with this thing's ISO invariance, it's possible to shoot at ISO640 then when processing you can push the darker parts of the image so they look like daylight without any difference in noise. No need to shoot at ISO1600 or 3200 with this thing's dynamic range. You need this camera....

Sounds awesome pal and I concur 😂😂. One day in the not too distant :)

Man this all turned out super awesome! I don't think many would notice your disturbances if you hadn't explained them! hahaha Keep up the great work and thanks for sharing!

Thanks, I always aim for at least 45 minutes' worth of exposures to get a decent trail when pointed away from the north. Pointing at the north needs even more; most I've done is 2 hours or 30 degrees of movement across the sky. 2 hours can get a little boring not to mention cold!

That's crazy! But the end results are well worth the time and effort. I've never done that kind of photography before. One day when i get some better equipment i will have to give your methods a try! Thanks again for sharing the tricks of the trade.


Thanks, I've got a shot in mind with a dead tree and Polaris. If I can find the tree again that is lol

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Nice work. The stars look like on speed.