October 08, 2016 1 Comment
I had been keen to put up the tent, take a beer or two, go have a mid week chill out and shoot. So with the news of the meteor shower happening, it provided the perfect opportunity to do just that.
The meteor shower happens every August. I’m not sure why, but this august the show was extra good with up to 200 meteors every hour instead of the usual 80-100. You can find out more about why this happens every year at space.com . The short of it is; There is a comet circling through our solar system leaving behind a dust trail, and every year at the same time, earth’s orbit enters into this dust trail where low and behold, the night sky erupts.
I had my eye on a location above our town for a while. There is a large rock face that still holds a sheet of ice and snow, currently melting away during summer it gives birth to several water falls that run down the face. I thought this would make a dramatic foreground to the meteor shower. With a bit of research I discovered I was going to face the wrong direction so I decided to add a little extra effort, and hiked above the rock face to camp and shoot the view looking over the town, and a magic view it was.
“The Perseid Meteor shower: Embracing the Everyday Adventure”
The shooting-star event is called the Perseid meteor shower because the shooting stars appear to come from the Perseid star. If you are any good at astrology and finding constellations (I am definitely not) you can point your camera at the star and capture amazing images with the start trails leading to a centre point. Otherwise, just look north.
Find a good location
Head out of the city and away from light pollution. The less light pollution the clearer the night sky will be, so take a drive out of town. Find a spot that allows you to capture a wide portion of the sky but still has an element you can include in the foreground. Think about your composition and add something into the foreground that can add perspective to your image and not just an image filled with stars.
Shootwith a wide-angle lens
Shooting ultra-wide allows you to capture as much of the sky as possible, plus you can and leave your shutter open longer before all the stars start to leave trails.
Shoot with a fast aperture
Drop down to as low as you can F2.8 or lower. The wider you can go the more light you can let in and the more shooting stars you will capture.
Crank up the ISO
Bump your iso up to around 1600, most cameras should be able to handle this without drastically increasing the noise.
Use a long exposure / slow shutter speed
To capture the long trails left behind with of the meteors as well as just getting enough light onto the sensor for a properly exposed image, you will need to use long shutter speed. Something between 10-30 seconds.
Use a tripod
Long shutter speeds means having your camera super still and stable, Thus a tripod is necessary. When choosing a tripod, look for something that is sturdy and stable that will keep your camera still if a gust of wind comes up. I personally use the Manfrotto 190XPRO but there are dozens of great brands out there for every price range.
You can also opt for a bag of rice, set it down on a rock or something solid, this allows you to keep your camera still and adjust the angle. Of course, a tripod is the better option but a bag of rice still works.
Shoot with an intervalometer :
The meteors happen so fast you need to just keep shooting. Nikon has an intervalometer set into the menu, or otherwise, you need an external intervalometer and shutter release to keep your camera shooting away without you pushing the shutter every 20 seconds.
Compose with Interest.
Frame your shot and think about composition. Add interest to your foreground so that the image has a reference and not just stars in the sky.
Focus to infinity
Depending on your lens, you may just be able to turn your focus ring all the way to the end. However, some lenses go beyond infinity to accommodate for temperature changes in your lens, so a great way to ensure you are focused correctly and going to get sharp stars is to use your LCD screen. Zoom in digitally to a light in the distance (a couple hundred meters away) and manually focus until the light is a perfect dot and nice and sharp.
For the shot I took. I had a foreground element, I had the city in the mid-ground and the stars in the background. In order to get the whole shot in focus, I had to take a separate shot of each element in focus then stack them in photoshop afterwards. This is otherwise known as focus stacking and if you are interested in this approach there is a great tutorial from Improve Photography.
There are a lot of great photographers giving in-depth guides including what gear to use for capturing meteor showers.
In the end, the meteor shower provided some inspiration to get out there and just go shoot, hopefully this inspires you to do the same.
Till next time,
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