Shooting The Perseid Meteor Shower – Part 2

August 16, 2013 PhotographyTutorials  No comments

Once I figured I had a good handle on shooting the meteors at my house (see previous post HERE) I figured the next step was to find a place with better foreground images to really make my shots look a lot more interesting.  When my buddy Greg Matthews told me he was going to go shoot the meteors at one of my favorite spots, Dinner Island Wildlife Management Area, without hesitation I met him out there.  At 3:30am.  Yes, you read that right, 3:30am.

Our first choice for a location was an old molasses tank (it used to house molasses that they would feed to the cattle).  Shooting at this location meant disrupting a huge herd of cows that were using that spot for their personal poop location.  But hey, they were there first, it’s where they live so how much could we really complain, right? We didn’t exactly have the right angle for the meteors as they were firing off all around us EXCEPT over the old tank, but we shot it anyway.  The first thing we did was Greg lit up the tank with some portable lights he had brought and we exposed for that and took a few photos of the tank (end resulting image was bright tank, dark sky behind it).  Then, we turned off the lights and exposed for the sky, leaving the tripods where they were (end result was dark tank and stars exposed…perfect!).  Like I said, I didn’t get any meteors but after seeing how awesome that tank looked lit up at night I HAD to stack my star images to create star trails (something I’d never done before).  I already had a free software program that will stack the images for you so I used that (you can find the free program HERE to download) and after I had a stacked image of the star trails, I layered it on top of the image of the tank lit up and chose the layer blending mode ‘lighten’ and viola’….here’s what I ended up with….

IMG_6347stacked copy

 

Now, you can see how the star trails are ‘dotted’, this is due to the fact that I do not own an intervalometer and was triggering the shutter manually so there were lags in the star images as  I’d run back to the jeep for something, or would get distracted by something moving in the woods, or seeing spooky cow eyes staring at me in the darkness, walking around was a delicate task as we had to watch for big, fresh cow pies, or swatting mosquitoes…well, you get the idea.  I have seen where people purposely do dotted star trails so I’m going with that….lol….Of course, after processing that image I’m now HOOKED on doing star trails and have a intervalometer on my wish list.

Our next location choice was on a road we call, “Sunrise Road”…I’m sure it has a proper name (Dinner Island Grade or something like that)  but because 90% of the photographers that head out to Dinner Island shoot sunrise from that road since it faces east and has some lovely trees on it.

This time, we were able to set up with some cypress trees framing the exact area where the meteors SHOULD shoot through.  Then, the shooting (and mosquito swatting) began.  Again I was firing the shutter manually (90% of my settings on all of the long exposures were f3.5, ISO3200 and 15 seconds), so I did miss several meteors but I was beyond thrilled when our cameras were shooting right at the moment a FIREBALL meteor shot right through our perfectly frame scene!  Fireballs are what you want when you’re trying photograph meteors as they are super bright.

I had my fireball image but to me, it lacked a little ‘punch’ so what I did was stack ALL of the images from that location, including the fireball, into one image and here is the end result… (the fireball is in the lower middle shooting to the right)

IMG_6527 stacked copy

 

Here’s a few other images I took that day as well….

Before the stars went to bed and before the sun came up….

IMG_6576 copy

 

Sunrise…

IMG_6707_HDR copy

And a cute little buck we saw that day as well…

IMG_6827 copy

And a larger buck that was out too…

IMG_6780 copy

 

All in all it was a great day, I learned more about shooting stars and even though I ended up with a ton of cow poop on my Jeep (hey, Jeeps are supposed to be dirty, right?) I had an awesome time.  I think that I may leave shooting any more long exposures at night until it cools off and the mosquitoes aren’t as bad ;-)

 

Update:  I wanted to add a few long exposure links for you to read up on if you’re interested in trying this yourself…

The Twilight Hour

Star Trails Photography Tips

Photographing Star Trails

Dark Clear Skies – The Rule Of 600 

Landscape Astrophotography Tutorial – First Night Out from Ben Canales on Vimeo.

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