Western Kazakhstan Transit | Star Trail Photography
Three nights across the western Kazakh Steppe wild-camping in glorious weather allowed me the time to try out a few ND Grad filters and test out the long exposures required for star trail photography. Our transit to Uzbekistan was quicker than anticipated as we passed by hundreds of kilometres of nothing. We stopped briefly in Atyrau to get some cash and food taking the opportunity to register while there.
The first night in the desert I tried different exposures up to 15 minutes. This was the best by far. The wind was calm so there was no movement of the truck/trailer even with Lisa asleep inside.
Encouraged by the previous night’s results I set about going for a longer exposure to see what results I got. This one is 30 minutes. However, when you’re living out of your vehicle you cannot sit behind the camera for 30 minutes so we went about our business with minimal light. This was a mistake, however, as you can see the movement within the vehicle and trailer. I also think the exposure was too long and prefer my 15 minute results.
We should have many more opportunities to try this type of photography again so hopefully I can improve things and get some foreground of interest!
Shooting is fairly straight forward. You will need an external timer as your camera will only likely stay open for a minute or two. With an external timer and tripod you have everything you need. Compose your image using a flashlight, set the camera to manual and/or BULB. Set the aperture wide open (F3.5/F4 is a good start) and manual focus just in front of Infinity. If you leave it on Auto it will probably close focus and everything will be blurry wasting about an hour of your valuable time (if you expose for 30 minutes!).
Sit back and crack open a beer… you deserve it.
Moonless nights are better and clouds are obviously a problem! Try to shoot away from any light sources far from cities and towns. If you want the circular effect you need to locate the North Star and compose around that. Give it a try, trial and error will see you right.