How to Create ‘Vortex Star Trails’ in Nightsky Astrophotography Time-Lapses

A common technique used in still astrophotography is the creation of startrails, a method by which a photographer overlays multiple long-exposure shots of the stars to create a weaving of constellations. But, as time-lapse photograph and astrophotography have merged in a fairly recent trend, a number of artists have been bringing the idea of startrails to motion-picture, creating what many refer to as ‘vortex startrails.’

If you’ve ever wondered how these motion startrails are created, Matthew Vandeputte has shared the above video – his first ever tutorial – to explain how this look can be achieved in post through the use of Lightroom, After Effects and a common astrophotography program, Startax.

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There are many ways to achieve this look and Vandeputte’s is just one of them, but the workflow seems fairly straightforward once you have the logistics of it locked down. As to why he decided to attempt this sort of effect in the first place and subsequently share it, he shared the following in the video’s description:

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As the timelapse community is very saturated with a lot of the same techniques, coming up with a new workflow to achieve something visually interesting is very thrilling!

At just over three minutes, it’s a quick watch and something fun to possibly try next time you’re out grabbing some nighttime shots of the sky. Be sure to subscribe to Vandeputte on YouTube and Vimeo to keep up with his future pieces.

(via Planet 5D)

  • 4dmaze

    LOL. That sounds like at least 40 steps using at least 3 different programs. Digital should make things simpler. I used to do this in the early 80’s using film.

    Pretty much 3 steps, Point at Polaris (if you are in the northern hemisphere) with wide angle zoom on a stable tripod, lock shutter open for about an hour or so and every few minutes slowly (carefully!) move the zoom a couple mms (check the full play of your zoom and divide). Any longer than 1.5 hours and you would begin to have light reciprocity start to creep in and diminish the galaxy glow. I have never seen anyone else do it. Kind of cool to see it again.

  • Matthew Vandeputte

    Your photo/sequence will only be useable for one purpose: a spiral startrail. With this (long, I know) workflow you achieve the spiral effect with a static setup, that’s why i thought it was innovative and worth creating the tutorial :) You can still use the separate stills to create normal astrophotography stacks or timelapse video! Thanks for your input.