How to photograph star trails – an introduction

Now that all this fuss with the “Super Blood Moon” is over I can tackle the next project. During the last holiday in Poland the original plan was to capture the Perseides meteor shower, but that failed due to my limited equipment, which in this case means no fast wideangle lens. The other option which was available were shooting star trails.

After researching a bit online I thought I had everything sorted. Now, have a look at the outcome:


While “Point the camera at the sky and make multiple exposures” sounds quite easy, the reality is as always quite different.

There are a few mistakes which can be easily avoided if you just keep an eye on them. Here’s what went wrong and why:

  • It’s completely not sharp. We’re not talking about a bit of soft spots but simply a blurred image. In order to battle lens fog I’ve wrapped a towel around the lens, this most likely moved the focus ring a bit.
  • Light pollution is visible. This could have been avoided if I had chosen a different spot, but that was not an option. Then again this isn’t the worst thing and if it’s not too overpowering it’s also acceptable
  • Broken trails. If you look especially at the star trails on the right side, you will see that there are breaks. Those are a result from pictures I had to throw out because I cleaned the lens and in my wisdom had the headlamp on which resulted in overexposure.

With that out of the way, let’s have a look at what it takes to get an actual good result.

Read more “How to photograph star trails – an introduction”

Super blood moon 2015

For all those who don’t follow me on Twitter, deviantArt or Flickr, here’s the result of a cold night outside in the garden:


iPhotograhy: Workshop with Brendan Ó Sé (Update: Ofer’s opinion)

If you think about photography usually the picture of a well equipped studio or equipment-loaden photographers who run around with or without model. I see myself in the second category. The bagpack is usually full with filters, adapters, lenses, flash guns and remotes. And the Tripod. Now and then another tripod with an umbrella. Just in case, you never know.

If I look back at what I’ve actually used then you can cut down this list quite a bit. Even if I’m out without tripod and flash equipment I can think of at least one or two things which can be left at home.

The urge to have everything with you all the time results from the experience I (and surely many other photographers) had. At least onece you got upset because you left exactly that thing at home which you would have needed. So better bring everything.

On Twitter I saw that there’s an iPhotography workshop which focuses on photographing with the the mobile phone. Lector was a href=””>Brendan Ó Sé (his blog post for the workshop) who’s photo was selected for the Apple World Gallery. Until now I was always a bit sceptical when it comes to taking photos with the mobile phone. I’ve always been sceptical when it comes to taking photos with your phone. But I’m always happy to try new things and so I signed up together with Ofer. The main topic was the usage of apps and general tips specific to the iPhone.

The possibilities apps like Pixlr or Snapseed offer are diverse and don’t differ much from the edits I would do on the computer. You have the complete workflow on your iPhone and there’s no need to import the pictures. If you’re on the go and don’t have a laptop with you this is clearly a plus. One problem using the phone for photography is zooming. To get usable photos it’s the best not to use the digital zoom. This is the biggest drawback for me at the moment. With the improving quality of the cameras in mobile phones you can get great results if it’s not too dark. The flash usually reaches for 1-2m and there’s a general bad performance in low light situations, a problem you don’t really get with “real” cameras. The noise is just too much.

Here are a few of my pictures from the workshop:

My conclusion: I’ll definately will use the iPhone more and experiment. When I was on the way and saw an opportunity for a photo I always thoguht: If I just had my camera with me. I didn’t even think about the phone. This will change, from now on I will use my iPhone for pictures more often.

Ofer’s thoughts on the workshop:

The reaction of many people to a mobile phone photography class can generally be divided into two camps: the first and likely more vocal one would be those for whom the mobile phone is technically a camera but strictly for the purpose of “non-serious” photography. The second would be for those curious and willing to learn how to get more out of your iPhone. Martin and I fall into the second camp and we took a flyer on local photographer Brendan Ó Sé’s iPhone photography masterclass at UCC. For those scoffing at the utility of a workshop dedicated to iPhone photography, taking pictures may very well be a serious hobby, requiring professional equipment, planning shoots and all the rest of it. But iPhone photography and in particular street photography which is what Brendan shoots mostly is the antithesis of “serious” photography.

The age-old adage of “the best camera is the one that’s with you” rings true. Take a look online and anywhere you turn you can see tons of photos and videos taken by people at the right moment and the right time. After all, you can’t shoot that awesome dish you just ordered if you left your DSLR at home. And if you’re with the missus, I hope for you that you left it at home! But the iPhone is more than just a camera that’s on you (and a good one at that!). It can be your whole workflow – your camera, darkroom and editing tool and platform for sharing your snaps. Brendan’s workshop focused on the first two elements of this workflow.

Firstly we were given a small taste of the types of photos Brendan shoots and has become famous for. After a quick demo of some of the editing capabilities of some well-known photography apps, in particular the free Snapseed, we ventured outside for a stroll through the spectacularly picturesque UCC campus for our own shots. Lastly, we huddled back in the classroom and edited some of our photos as Brendan gave us all tips.

Overall, I found the workshop very enjoyable, educational and also inspiring. I think too many of us have this preconception that serious photography can only be done with serious equipment. But then again, most of us aren’t trying to shoot the world with DSLRs all the time but simply share with our friends and family what we see, do and experience in our everyday lives. Brendan’s workshop demonstrated that really great results can be achieved with just a few ingredients most of us have: a decent mobile phone camera, some cheap or free apps, and a bit of time to play around and learn. So don’t be afraid to just get out there, take some snaps, edit them and show the world. After all, everybody else is doing it!

Here are a few of my shots:

Trying out the Helios 44-2 58mm F/2

A colleague of mine recently bought a KMZ Helios 44-2 58mm F/2 lens. You can read a bit about the lens here. The lens is fully manual, meaning you have to dial in your aperture and focus manually.

It’s quite interesting in the digital age where there’s lots of technology in the lens helping you to get a good shot. It’s also very satisfying having a lens made fully out of metal.

The only little help which came with it was the “focus confirm” function of the adapter for the camera. You still have to focus manually but the focus point will flash up if something is in focus.

Here are some example pictures out of the nearly 350 shots I took. It has a very intresting bokeh, you can see it in some pictures below:

I definately will have a look out for more manual lenses and might even get a few myself.

Street photography in Cork

A few days back a friend from the Blarney Photography Club sent out an invite for a streetphotography meeting in Cork. I was never much into this, somehow this kind of photography was outside my comfort zone.

Gear wise I took my digital camera with the 50mm lens and a wideangle lens. In order to experiment a bit I also took my analog camera (150-600mm :D)

After a short introduction round we split into groups. For about two hours we walked around in Cork, here are my favorites:

I’ll get the film developed these days without knowing how the pictures turned out but those are the joys of analog photography.