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Star Trail Photography

Philip Field shares his amazing star trail photographs…

As a photographer, my passion for the night sky came about when first touring and snowboarding at night. Whilst catching my breath midway on an ascent to Attelas, I vividly remember turning off my head torch to gaze up into the darkness.

The sight will remain etched in my mind forever – a truly breathtaking constellation of glowing stars.

My fascination with stars quickly grew and has led me to my latest photographic project – capturing star trails above Verbier in a way rarely seen. This first collection includes Pierre Avoi, Cabane du Mont-Fort, ‘Elephant Walk’ sculpture, the chairlifts of Savoleyres and forests of Verbier.
Star trail photography can be a surreal experience. Unlike taking a traditional photograph, the actual trails are not visible to the naked eye. To capture just one star trail can take up to 90 minutes and it is only after the shutter closes that you can then see the final image. In addition, results are often best achieved under a new moon (no moonlight) and with only a few ‘optimum days’ available per month, it takes meticulous planning, long hours and a few prayers to the weather Gods to achieve a successful shot.

One common question asked is “what are the characteristic circular patterns?” In summary, by positioning the camera towards the North Star, the trails are spherically formed as the earth rotates around its axis. The length of each trail is dictated by the camera’s exposure time with the colours representing the age and temperature of the individual stars. Blue stars are hot whilst yellow are cool. When combined with varying atmospheric conditions, a truly unique and authentic representation of a moment in time can be captured.

Philip Field Photography www.philipfield.com