Shooting The Perseid Meteor Shower – or – Mosquito Bait

August 12, 2013 PhotographyTutorials  No comments

The most difficult thing about the Perseids meteor shower was all of the conflicting information you find online.  What I did was read a lot of articles about it and just sifted through the information that seemed to pop up over and over again in all of the articles.  Pre-dawn hours were best and look tword the northeast.  So, I got up at 4:30 am and sat outside on my deck till a little before 6am taking long exposures of meteors.

I’m not sure I would call this ‘the fireworks show of the year’ as some websites made it out to be….. more like the mosquito blood sucking event of the year with a few meteors thrown in (for Florida anyway)…. but I just went through my images and out of 5 gigs of images I did manage to get about three separate images of meteors streaking across the sky and one that was decent enough to post.  Even though we are in the boondocks and 20 miles from town I do believe that even the slightest bit of light pollution will prevent you from picking up some of the faint meteors (even though you can see the Milky Way with the naked eye out here on a dark night, we still have light pollution).  I tried all kinds of settings but what seemed to work the best was doing 15 second exposures (although I did get a meteor at 25 seconds when I first started shooting and taking some test shots), f3.5 or f4, turning long exposure noise reduction off, ISO around 3200 or less depending on how long the exposure is.  This really isn’t meant to be a tutorial, but if you’re reading this to get ideas for how you’ll shoot the meteors…remember this, if you’re turning off long exposure noise reduction…shoot RAW.  You’ll have way more power over removing noise from a RAW file than from a jpg.

This morning,  how it went for me was….

take a few shots

check LCD

image looks good but no meteors

take another shot

check the LCD

whoops have to wipe the condensation off the lens,

as I’m wiping a meteor goes by, dammit!

OK set up for more shots, no meteors

check LCD

ack! wipe condensation off again, as I’m wiping…meteor goes by.

In between all of that I did manage to catch a few.  They are cool as heck to watch…just frustrating to try and photograph when you are losing blood to mosquitoes.  Many of the articles I read mentioned ‘lay out a blanket and stare up at the sky to watch the meteors’…I’m thinking, ‘lay yourself out as a buffet to the mosquitoes’….because the person writing that article must NOT be from Florida!  These buggers can, do and will bite you through long sleeved shirts, jeans,  it doesn’t matter what you are wearing Florida mosquitoes will get through it.  I’ve watched (and not photographed) a meteor shower before, but we stayed in the car to watch it because the mosquitoes were so bad.

I hear a lot of Florida photographers mention shooting meteor showers farther south in Everglades National Park.  I can’t even imagine how bad the mosquitoes must be there if they are horrible at my house and I don’t even have any standing water around here right now (which we usually do in the summer and standing water multiplies the skeeter population by about a trillion.)

 

I have plans to get up early again tomorrow and head out to an area farther away with less light pollution and which will also give me some interesting foreground subjects (as opposed to my boring pine trees in my front yard).  Tomorrow morning is the last day for when the meteors should be at their peak.  What this morning did for me was let me know I’m on the right track with my camera settings, I know what time to be outside before dawn, I know how long I’ve got to shoot them before it starts to get light out and as long as the meteors streak by at the right time after I hit the shutter release I should get a meteor…and as long as I am covered head to toe…I shouldn’t get malaria ;-)

 

Note: I turned long exposure noise reduction off because when you have it on, however long your exposure was (for example: 15 seconds), double that because that’s how long you’ll have to wait for the camera to process the image.  If it’s off, there’s no waiting time, and as soon as one 15 second exposure is done you can take another one right away. Meaning; more shots, more chances of catching meteors.  Again, this isn’t really a tutorial per say….just a little article about how I shot meteors this morning.

 

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