Many night photographers who photograph the Milky Way will take a blue hour photo of the foreground. We do this so we may blend this image with a Milky Way photo later. But while waiting for the Milky Way to appear, we can still create videos and images with minimal effort!

The spectacular Milky Way over one of the many mountain lakes in the Eastern Sierra in California. This was done by carefully blending in some of the foreground from the blue hour photo to create slightly more detail in the darker foreground areas.

Giving the camera some work to do

When the stars start appearing a little after blue hour, perhaps around civil twilight, I sometimes will begin a sequence of photos with my intervalometer. Typically, I do 30-second exposures. I’ll keep the camera clicking away until it’s time to begin photographing Milky Way images. 

While your camera is working, you are not! Look up at the stars, relax, talk with others, scout other locations. When you stop the sequence, you could end up having 100 or 200 images.

What do I do with all these images?

Star trails

This is a 48-minute star trails photo, done while eating a sandwich on a picnic table nearby.

Combine all of the images, throwing them into Photoshop or StarStax. This will give you a nice long star trails photo. I’ve had photos that are one or two hours from doing this. It’s nice to be able to create another image aside from the Milky Way image. 

Time-lapse videos

This short time-lapse video was created by using the same images as the star trails photo above. The second half of the video shows cumulative star trails created in StarStax.

Create a short time-lapse video. You may use a program such as GlueMotion or even iMovie to create a quick time-lapse video. The video will be very short, especially if you choose to run the video at 24 or 30 frames per second. Sometimes, I slow the video down a little to create a slightly longer video.

More on keeping the camera busy

Many times, I will keep my camera busy when I am doing full moon photography of abandoned areas. Sometimes, I will simply keep the camera clicking away to get longer star trails while doing something else. Including, yes, eating sandwiches!  Mmmm … sandwiches …