Seney Wildlife Refuge

Critique Style Requested: Standard

The photographer is looking for generalized feedback about the aesthetic and technical qualities of their image.


From September in the Seney National Wildlife Refuge. I was fortunate to attend a workshop in this usually closed at night Wildlife Refuge. It is mainly for birds and has a large number of ponds that create many reflective surface combinations at night. I took some milky way photos and then this star trail shot during my time here.

Specific Feedback

I had limited time so i was unable to get full star trails. I still felt they looked interesting in their shortened state. This is only the second star trail shot i have ever done. I combined them in photoshop express. I know i have a small skip in there.

Technical Details

Sony a7 at 20mm. f2.0 4 exposures at 3 minutes each. ISO 640

Good image, especially for your second try. I too am a newcomer to star trails having only done a few. There are many faint stars in the photo. If you want to limit the trails to fewer stars and stronger trails, try shorter exposures but more of them. I too have a Sony a7 and have used the built-in intervalometer for such exposures.

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Hi Kent. Thanks for the feedback. I see a lot of different opinions about what time to use. I have an a7ii and its a little older, i do have an intervalometer but didnt have it with me for this shot.

I have never tried to do any stair trails so this looks pretty good to me Cameron; especially on your second try. I could see going a little darker with the sky, but that is just my personal preference. The trails give the image a nice sense of motion.

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Thanks Ed. I can see the argument for the sky. I was playing around with it. I liked how the star trails showed up at this level, but i did consider some others.

@Cameron_Wilcox , I like how you chose to shoot star trails without pointing the camera at Polaris, so you got curving lines instead of an oval. You captured nice reflections of the stars in the water, and I like the overall composition. The bottom of the image looks very dark, and I wonder what it would look like to add a linear gradient and brighten it up just a bit. I’m wondering about the color in the sky and water, and what WB you used in the capture and processing. Also, the image looks a little out of focus or blurred.

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Thanks for the feedback Patrick. The shooting location was partly out of necessity as it was what i had available. I did try to lighten the foreground some more but it ended up being very noisy so i darkened it again. I stacked all of my photos in their entirety so that may be where the slight bluriness comes from? Need more practice on my stacking.

You are welcome Cameron! I use StarStaX for star trail stacking. You might try masking in one frame of the dark areas of the foreground (create a separate layer in PS) to improve the sharpness. Also, I use the DxO Prime Raw app (version 2) for noise reduction and lens correction. LR and ACR also has much better noise reduction features than in the past, but I find they are VERY slow.

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Thanks for all the tips Patrick. I really enjoy astrophotography, but given all of the barriers - work, weather, time, I have been learning it slowly. Always nice to have some assistance. I am also trying to improve my photoshop skills. I have been using topaz for noise reduction for some of my photos as well.

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I love doing astro landscape photography but you are right about the barriers! But worth the effort!

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I missed this before! A nice effort for the limited time – the scenery more than makes up for the short trails. (Must be a typo, though – this is more than 4x3min.) I like the vignette at the bottom – it pushes my eye out to the horizon. Nice DOF too, with trees and stars both sharp - wide angle lenses are wonderful for that. The edge-to-edge sharpness of the trees shows the qualities of the lens, even wide open.

If you do another one, my easy method is to adjust one raw and sync all, then open as layers in PS and change the blend mode of all to Lighten. Noise is so good these days that even up to 6-8 minutes is a good exposure time.

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Thanks for the nice comments Diane! I’ll definitely try that. Sorry about the late reply, I’m traveling and didn’t get back to the site for a bit.