Photographer’s Glorious 360° Star Trail Image With the Northern Lights

360 degree star trail image

A photographer created a stunning 360-degree star trail image with the northern lights glowing brightly.

360 photographer Christoph Simon created the unusual image after visiting a remote part of Iceland — with his final star trail panoramic image containing an incredible 834 photos. The 360 images can be viewed here.

Note: To see the star trail panoramics, select the menu button and scroll down where you will find the star trail panoramics.

star trail panoramic

Creating a 360-Degree Star Trail Panoramic Image

Simon took the photos on a Sony a7R III with an 8mm fish eye lens attached, this gives a 90-degree field of view. He took four photos covering north, west, south, and east and then a nadir shot, which is of the floor.

Photographer beneath the northern lights in Iceland
Simon shooting underneath the aurora borealis in Iceland. | Alexander Albrecht

Then to create the star trail image, Simon shot 829 photos over the course of an hour and a half which were later stacked and stiched into a single image.

Once the German photographer had the star trail image and the other five photos, he stitched them together using the PTGUI software.

“The biggest challenge was blending the base panorama with the stacked star trail sky,” Simon tells PetaPixel.

“By adding the brightness of the 829 individual shots, the stacked sky differs somewhat from the basic panorama. In order to get that right, I stitched the panorama in PTGUI and output the individual layers separately. I then masked them manually in Photoshop to create perfect transitions.”

It’s a complex image that requires a deep knowledge of 360 photography. But technicalities weren’t Simon’s only problem.

“A big challenge was actually the temperature when taking photos,” he explains.

“The night was very cold at -15 degrees Celsius (5 degrees Fahrenheit) and if you stand outside for several hours and don’t move much, it gets quite chilly.”

Simon setting up a panohead for the 360 shot. | Alexander Albrecht

Simon took the photos in Westfjords, a peninsula in northwestern Iceland, and was lucky enough to have a dazzling display of the aurora borealis when he was there.

“The footage for this project was shot on a cold, clear night in a beautiful valley,” he says.

“The aurora activity was high and so we had perfect conditions for several hours. Not only very bright but also very colorful, different colored northern lights showed up that night.”

Simon has been working as a professional 360 photographer and videographer for more than 10 years.

More of his work can be found on his website and Facebook.

Image credits: Photos by Christoph Simon unless otherwise stated.