Thursday, 1 August 2013

Photographing the Perseid Meteor Shower - Including Post Processing

Photographing the Perseid Meteor Shower
Best day is August 12, 2013



Perseids - associated with the comet Swift-Tuttle, the Perseids are one of the best meteor showers of the year.  They are named the Perseids due to the fact that they radiate from the constellation of Perseus.  Simply stated Perseids are “those born of Perseus”

Perseus was the first of the heroes of Greek mythology whose exploits in defeating various monsters provided the founding myths of the Twelve Olympians.

Here is where to look in the night sky for the meteor shower
Made with the aid of Stellarium
Stellarium - is one of the best (free) tools to aid in astrophotography.  There are many things it is capable of which are explained in my blog post hereThe nice thing about stellarium is that it works on several different platforms.

Back in November 2012 is when I made the original guide to photographing meteor showers so follow the links and you should be good to go!


Photographing meteors

“Guidelines”

1. Wide fast lens
More light = more stars (and shooting stars).

2.  High (but workable) ISO
Look at number 1.  Make sure it’s not too “Noisy”

3. Long Exposure (will vary depending on several things)
You will be exposing your image anywhere from a few seconds to perhaps even an hour depending on the style you’re going for. 
*see below for two styles explained*

4. Dress for the weather
There is nothing worse than being cold or wet when trying to capture that perfect shot.  Remember that you can always take clothes off if you are too hot.


5. Pre Scout location during day (safety reasons)
Fumbling around in the dark will get you injured or even worse.  Don’t take chances!  Know your surroundings and set up in the light.

6. Know the sky (where meteors will come from)
Any photographer (or hack with a camera) worth their salt will tell you that knowing your subject is one of the most important things about photography.  This also holds true for shooting celestial events.  The nice thing about the night sky is that once you know it, it doesn’t really change that much.

7. Focus manually using “live view” or pre focus(turn off auto focus)
Auto focus will not work at night.  If you have live view it will help you to get that perfect focus on the stars.

8. Have patience
You may fail!

9. Have fun
Do not let number 8 get you down, it happens!

10. Know your equipment and conditions.
Depending on the atmosphere and weather, you may find things going on that you aren’t use to happening.  Your lens may fog up (this can be prevented using hand warmers and an elastic band to hold it in place).  You may find your camera getting wet from rain (plastic bags help here).  There are many tricks that you can use, and many of them can be found online.

If you follow these 10 guidelines you will increase your odds of having a successful session.

*Shooting Styles*

Pinpoint Stars

This is where you’ll see the stars as they appear to you when you look up in the night sky.  Depending on your preference, this is the style that you may choose.
You may choose to have a single meteor streaking from the radiant, or you may choose to use a method that I will explain in a later post that will use several images to form a composite showing several meteors streaking from the radiant of the shower.  If done well, it will be a very striking image.

Settings for shooting these images are identical to shooting the Milky Way.
Remember the 600 rule.  And perhaps even take a few test shots to make sure you got it right in camera first.  It will be a much better image if you have framed an interesting shot with a good foreground interest.

Set the intervalometer if you have one, to take several photos in succession.
You will most likely have to move the camera once in a while to keep the radiant of the shower framed how you want it (the earth rotates, which will move the stars in your framing).  Shoot like this until you have (hopefully) a few images of “shooting stars”.



























Star Trails

You can follow my tutorial on star trails to capture an image this way.

This too can produce a stunning image so really it’s up to you how you choose.
If you have any questions feel free to ask.