Star Trails as the Storm Rolls in…

Over the past week the moon has been high and it’s been bright out – right up until the summer solstice with the full moon last night.

thunderstorm passing over Gooseberry Island in Westport, Massachusetts.
A storm quickly approaches the towers over Gooseberry Island

Prints can be purchased at Midnight Shift Photography

As usual, I took a late night stroll with my camera near the World War II lookout towers at Gooseberry Island hoping to catch some shots of the full moon… but I captured something far more interesting (to me at least).

Over the past few nights, the weather forecast has called for uninterrupted clear skies, but we’ve seen a few quick passing thunderstorms strike and dissipate in very little time. Late last night was no different – I had the opportunity to capture one as it came ramblin’ over Gooseberry.

Timelapse of thunderstorm passing over Gooseberry Island in Westport, Massachusetts.
Timelapse of thunderstorm passing over Gooseberry Island in Westport, Massachusetts.

 

4-shot star trail / storm timelapse

I don’t typically capture timelapse shots, or do any sort of image stacking, but I decided to mix my love for single long-exposure shots and create a short time lapse of the stars. Here’s a breakdown of the 4 shots I captured before I fled the area (as not to get struck my incoming lightning and rain!)

thunderstorm passing over Gooseberry Island in Westport, Massachusetts.
30 Seconds @ 18mm, f/2.8, ISO 200. Custom WB

At 30 seconds we can see a little cloud whisping, but the stars remain in a solid-state due to their distance from us.

thunderstorm passing over Gooseberry Island in Westport, Massachusetts.
110 seconds @ 18mm, f/2.8, ISO 200. Custom WB

An exposure at almost 2 minutes starts to show some minor star trails due to the earths rotation, and even more cloud whisping.

thunderstorm passing over Gooseberry Island in Westport, Massachusetts.
250 seconds @ 18mm, f/6.4, ISO 200. Custom WB

An exposure at just over 4 minutes you can start to see some star trails that are longer than others (scan the shot from left to right). The shorter trails mean that we’re looking at the north pole, and the longer trails simply mean we’re getting further from it. Just think about how the earth spins on its axis!

thunderstorm passing over Gooseberry Island in Westport, Massachusetts.
480 seconds @ 18mm, f/8.0, ISO 200. Custom WB

With the 8 minute exposure we can see some pretty decent cloud whisping along with some more well defined star trails. Also take a look at the timelapse shot again – you can see the shadow at the top of the tower becoming less and less due to the movement of the moon in the south east.

How were these captured?

Each one of these 4 shots is directly from the camera (minus the watermark). The moon was bright enough to illuminate the brush in the foreground and the towers themselves. Check out the captions below each photo for the technical specs. As always, I shot these with my Fuji x-e2, with the f/2.8 18-55. My trusty manfrotto tripod and a cable release.

Unfortunately due to the brightness of the moon, I couldn’t catch any longer star trails without risking some serious highlight blow-outs and general over-exposure. However, I’m happy with the outcome, regardless.

As mentioned above, I began to see lightning far off in the distance so after this shot I quickly packed up my gear and began the mile hike back to my car. The minute I arrived it started pouring. 😀

I hope to get back out there soon and try my hand at a few more techniques.

Prints can be purchased at Midnight Shift Photography

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