A few people asked me recently how I created my Startrail image which is below. It's easier than you think and all you really need is some time and a sturdy tripod. Scroll down to see my workflow and how to process the images together.
First your going to need to find Polaris assuming you are in the northern hemisphere. First, find the Big Dipper, and then from the end of the scoop, follow an imaginary line away from the dipper, not parallel to it and about a palms width and you'll find a fairly bright star. That is the North Star commonly known as Polaris. Now, if your in the Southern Hemisphere you'll need to find Ocatans which is between the Magellanic Clouds and the Carina Nebula. (below)
Once you have found the pole in your hemisphere you need to set your tripod up and make a few test exposures to see what is best for the lighting conditions your in. What usually works for me if I'm in a very dark location and the moon isn't up is: 100 seconds, ISO 400, and f5 or so. If the moon is up and there is some light pollution you will want to do shorter exposures. For example ISO800, f4, and 40 seconds.
Once you've made some test shots and everything is looking properly exposed lock down your tripod so it doesn't move at all for the next couple hours. Set your camera on timer mode and take at least 100 pictures at the settings mentioned above. Once it starts don't touch it and don't interrupt it or you will have gaps in your trails.
Now that you've got the images captured your probably wondering what to do with all these fragmented pieces. A free program called StarStaX works wonders but you can process them together just as well in Photoshop.
You'll need to set the either program to the "Lighten" blend mode and then start opening each file and adding it to your stack. Every time a file is added your trails should grow by the smallest amount. After adding up so many images you get the effect of the whole sky blurring together as it rotates.
After you have the effect you want you'll need to flatten your images together into one single file so that it can be shared, printed or worked on again in another program. I usually play with the curves and color balance in Lightroom or photoshop to get the effect I want. Now wasn't that easier than you thought?
Any questions please comment below and share if you found this helpful. Later this summer I will be offering Astrophotography classes around Northern Arizona so if you are interested contact me above as the limited space will go fast.