Photo and Video of the Night Sky Over Birubi Beach Dunes

When you’re on a family holiday over christmas, it’s 10pm at night and the skies are clear and you feel the need to do some photography, what better option than to head into the sand dunes at Birubi Beach and take some star trail photos.

So there I was, sitting in the sand dunes while the camera clicked away with 1-minute exposures, feeling like I was in the middle of nowhere but still connected as I browsed my favourite websites on my laptop with the NextG wireless modem until my laptop battery went flat.

I was able to grab about 60 x 1-minute exposures until the camera battery went flat, and resulting star trails photo is below.

Birubi Beach Star Trails

Birubi Beach Star Trails

Click the image to see it on RedBubbleClick this link to see the 1200px wide version it at my gallery.

Continue reading to see a video showing the beautiful parts of our southern sky rising over the Birubi Beach Sand Dunes (as well as the cars, and the cargo ship!). You’ll also find more information including capture and processing details and why I took so long to post this image live.

Click the video below to watch the 8 second movie of the night sky rising over the Birubi Beach Sand Dunes.

This one has been sitting on the hard drive since early in the new year, and I figured it’s time I finally got around to processing and posting it. The delay was mainly caused by 3 things:

  1. Unhappy with the terrible compression applied to it when uploading to YouTube. SOLVED – I used Vimeo instead.
  2. Finding the right video embedding plugin for WordPress. SOLVED – I found a plugin called Video Embedder which fits my purposes for now.
  3. Overall I just wasn’t thrilled with how the image and the video turned out so I wasn’t inspired to spend much time on it.

I haven’t really been able to solve #3 though. I wasn’t overly happy with the foreground, it didn’t turn out as I was hoping for when I planned the shot in the my head.

The foreground is an average of some of the frames that didn’t have bright headlights in them and had to be blended in using Photoshop. It was a tricky task made worse by the awful glare from some headlights up near the surf club on the left. You can see them when watching the video. The last quarter or so of the frames in the video also suffered from the lens fogging up.

In any case I figured it couldn’t sit around unpublished for any longer. We all have images we’re not entirely happy with. Given that it was an impromptu decision without the ideal equipment, I guess I can be fairly happy with the result. In any case, it’s just a way of inspiring me to try for a better shot in the future and I’ve learnt from the process. Next time:

  • More charged batteries
  • Check to make sure the lens isn’t fogging up!
  • Less gap between exposures (there’s a slight visible gap in the full-size version)
  • Pick a location without the stream of 4WD’s coming back from their day driving along Stockton Beach
  • More exposure at a lower ISO for the foreground

Onto the capture details. I used my Canon 350D with Sigma 17-70mm lens on a fixed tripod. I used a generic ebay timer remote to program in 1 minute exposures (with a 3-second delay between each), and it just kept taking them until the battery was flat. No noise reduction was used. The lens was set at 17mm, f/3.5 and the images were captured at ISO800 as I wanted to capture the knots and star clouds in the Milky Way as Crux (the Southern Cross), the Pointers and the Coal Sack rose over the south-east sky.

Each RAW frame was converted to Jpeg and loaded in startrails.de, which created the star trail image and the movie. An average of a selection of the frames (the ones without bright headlights in them) was used as the foreground and the two were blended in Photoshop, where further levels adjustments and noise reduction were applied.

Have you had similar experiences out in the field? Shots you weren’t happy with that sat in the reject pile for a while? What happened to you and what did you change for the next time? I’d love for you to use the comments area below to let us know.

Thanks for reading.

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