As I am always on the go, be it hiking, travelling or out and about, it is never practical to always carry around a system camera or DSLR. That means, especially for impromptu social media photos or for photos here on BaldHiker, I am continuously making sure that I have a great camera phone in my pocket. The camera that is always on my person. Therefore it is the most important camera decision I ever make. All smartphones are phones with all the apps but there are only so many with great cameras.
My current smartphone of choice then is the Huawei P20 Pro. An amazing camera for a phone, that has features upon features that I am still learning myself.
Today I will be showing how I got some of my latest star trails photography by using just the mobile phone and how I edited them quickly to send out on social media.
Don’t get me wrong, these pics are not for winning awards nor for printing out at A4 size. But for the net and sharing your world it means that night and star photography is now ever more accessible to the masses rather than a dark art for those of us using system cameras. Huawei really have thought about this a lot, credit to them.
OK, the first thing you need is a tripod.
For just a few pounds each, I have a couple of these gorilla tripods (with smartphone holder attachment) conveniently placed. One at home for the backpack plus one in the car. They are small, robust and not only stand your phone still, but can wrap around a tree branch etc whenever you need a steady shot.
The night mode in the P20 Pro is a wonder of AI technology and allows you to take 5 second exposures hand held without blur. But for star trails you need to head into camera mode ‘more’ then choose ‘Light Painting’.
A whole new world opens up in here, ready settings for traffic trails, silky water, light graffiti and for us here, ‘Star Trails’
What happens here is it sets the camera ready with best settings for star trails. set up your shot and carefully press the take picture button. Off it goes taking a long, long, long photo. Basically it seems to be taking continuous long exposure photos but only adding new light as it goes along. Static items like my car in the main photo above and the trees don’t blow out yet as the stars move across the sky this light gets added.
The picture builds before your very eyes, a bit like bulb mode on a dslr. The phone screen shows the photo as an exposure timer runs. The photo with the car I left for around 20 minutes only. then all you do is carefully press the button again and the pic is saved.
This is what it comes out like.
It is ok, in fact great as it is for a smartphone to be sure. Not many can even do this. But of course it is a bit dark for me personally.
I used lightroom (I never use Photoshop as I am not into ultra manipulation), but the basic settings I used can be found on most smartphone photo apps these days, for example Snapseed. Brightness, contrast, warmth etc.
Be careful you do not go crazy with editing. You have used a small sensor as mobile phones have so go OTT and you get way too much noise. Plus it is a very subjective thing, your photography, your style 🙂
But basically within a few minutes after taking the pic you have a photo like on the top of this article.
Will a pixel counter or professional astro-photographer like it? Maybe not, but for you and I who want to share our world and go even further without a weight load of ‘very’ expensive kit, the Huawei P20 Pro is perfect for everyday people to take magical and different photos.
In future articles I will be showing some more of the ‘many’ modes on this phone!