Skip to main content

How to locate the Polaris for star trail DSLR photography?

For the stargazers and DSLR photographers out there, Polaris (Polestar) is a really interesting astronomical body. Also known as polaris the north star, the attractive feature of this star is its fixed position in the sky. Okay, let's say it appears to be fixed as I do not want to start a technical discussion about astronomy here. While all the other stars appear to move in the sky due to earth's rotation, this star is a bit stubborn and never leaves. 
The hot topic for today is how to locate or find this star in a sky full of stars? The best and easiest way is to find the big dipper first which is also known by names such as a spoon, ladle, plough, etc. As a kid, I always used to call it a spoon. This seven-star asterism can easily be spotted on a clear night in a lesser light pollution area. It is a part of Ursa Major constellation. Once you know where the big dipper is, it will be easy to find polaris after that. The outer arms of this ladle or spoon point to the Polaris as shown in the image below. I took this image using my Tokina DSLR lens having 25 second exposure time, F2.8, ISO 800, auto white balance and a focal length of 11 mm.

Starbtrail dslr photography pole star
How to locate Polaris in the sky
One other possible and easy way to locate the Polaris is to use a smartphone app. There are so many smartphone apps on the market available for free. To use these apps, just launch them and point your smartphone towards the sky. It will give you an approximate idea of where the pole star is located. The super cool thing about smartphone apps is they are free and user navigation is much better. One of my personal favourites would be Night Sky from iCandi apps. A couple of other good ones are Sky Safari and Star walk, both of them are paid though.
Photos for star trail astrophotography can be taken on any clear sky night pointing the DSLR at any part of the sky. It can either be a single long duration shot or multiple photographs stacked using Star Stax. But why do we need Polaris for astrophotography? The simple answer would be to get more creative and unique images. Polaris (Pole Star or North Star) helps to form a circular spiral of star trails which tend to end at Pole Star. This gives a sense of depth to the image and is catchy to the eye. Other ways to capture creative star trails using your DSLR can be having a foreground like a tree, tower, house, etc.
I will talk in depth about doing star trail photography using a DSLR in my next post.
If you know of any other ways to locate the pole star, I would be happy to hear. Share the photography love:)


  1. Interesting read about the difference. I don't own a nice camera but think that it is a good investment!


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Canon CR3 raw format guide

A raw image file is like a digital negative without any lossy compression and minimal processing applied to it. A digital camera shooting images in raw format provides output in the best possible quality, which means files are larger in size and take more space. The benefits offered by shooting raw format overpowers the slight storage hassle though. Few of the well known raw formats include CR2, NEF, RW2, RAF, PEF, ARW, etc.  In this post, we will talk about the new compressed raw format introduced by Canon starting with its mirrorless series of cameras.

History of Canon raw formats
Back in the early 2000s, Canon cameras produced raw photos in CRW format. Example of cameras shooting in CRW include Canon D60, Canon D30, Canon 10D, and Canon EOS 300D. Most of the cameras released after the year 2004 shoot raw photos in CR2 format. Examples of CR2 format Canon cameras include 350D, 6D, 7D, 5D, 5D Mark II and many more.
In 2018, Canon introduced its new mirrorless camera known as the EOS …

Relation between ISO, shutter speed, aperture and light in photography

Photography is a word having Greek roots, which basically means "drawing with light". When I started doing digital photography a few years ago, this did not make sense to me at all. How can you make a picture just using light? Only light matters? My pictures were either black or completely washed out all the time, but I didn't feel like giving up. It took me a fair amount of time to understand controls such as shutter speed, aperture and ISO which was the outcome of non-stop reading and a lot of mistakes. Coming back to the concept of light, it started to make sense after attending a film photography workshop. The dark room with very dim or near to zero red lights was a whole new point of interest. My partner and I made a pinhole camera out of a pumpkin. 
The workshop made me understand how important light is when taking pictures, and the rules apply to both film and digital photography. Basically, the value of shutter speed and aperture directly affect the amount of li…

F2.8 vs F3.5 vs F4 lens aperture comparison with examples

I started the exciting journey of digital photography with 18-55 mm kit lens as my first glass. Being a variable aperture lens, it has a minimum aperture of F3.5 at 18 mm. The lens saw its fair share of adventures and ultimately was replaced with a fixed aperture lens.   Value of aperture is a part of the exposure triangle, which means it affects the amount of light hitting DSLR camera sensor. In addition to light, it also affects the amount of area in focus which is often referred to as Depth of Field. An image taken at F8 will have almost everything in focus when compared to an image taken at F2.8. Before someone jumps on me with their DOF vocabulary, this post is not about depth of field (DOF) in detail discussion. It is a simple comparison post for beginners to understand how lens aperture impacts background blur and low light performance. 
DSLR used: Canon 6D Lens used: Tamron 24-70 mm F2.8 DI VC USD
Bokeh (background blur) comparison:

Comparison animation in the above photo show…