How to photograph a meteor Shower - tmophoto

How to Photograph a Meteor Shower

2012 Perseid Meteor Shower over Denver Colorado from the summit of Mt Evans (14,240')

Photographing a meteor shower is more like photographing a time-lapse than traditional still photos. You can never anticipate where or when a meteor is going to streak across the sky.  In order to catch them you have to set up and take as many photos as you can throughout the night with a wide angle lens on the camera. If you leave the camera in the same position you can use the resulting images for a short time-lapse clip in addition to the still images you can capture.

We are about to pass through a brand new comet tail.  Not much is known about this meteor shower. The debris was created by a comet passing through this area of space in the 1800's, The best viewing will be in the Northern Hemisphere (Southern Canada and the continental US). As with all meteor showers it could be a dud or it could be great. The meteors will be radiating from the north in the constellation Camelopardalis and should be visible all night in the northern hemisphere. Positioning the camera facing anywhere from the Northwest to the Northeast will give you the best results. I have found that positioning the camera slightly away from the radiant point of the meteor shower results in longer meteors since they are not coming straight at the camera. The position of this radiant will make for some incredible time-lapse footage spinning around the north star.


• My camera settings

I set my camera to f/1.4 with my 24mm lens and set the ISO to 2500 with a shutter speed of 25 seconds. I use the continuous drive setting so an image is taken as long as the shutter is pressed down. Once the settings are correct compose the scene and lock down the button on the remote control so the camera will take a photo as soon as the last image is finished exposing. Once the Camera is taking photos you can sit back and enjoy the meteor shower.


• Find a location that is far away from the light pollution of major cities and towns.

The further you are from light pollution the more meteors you will see. You don't have to be in a dark location to see the meteors, but it helps.

You can use this handy website to see at a glance where the dark locations are  near you

http://www.jshine.net/astronomy/dark_sky/


• Use the widest angle lowest fstop lens you have.

The best results are with lenses that have at least f/2.8 and preferably an f/1.4 lens. The lower the aperture the more light will get let into the camera. You will capture about 2x the meteors with a lens that opens to f/1.4 when compared a f2.8 lens and 4x the meteors when compared to an f/4 lens


* Focus to infinity.

This can be somewhat difficult in the dark. Find a bright star or the moon and use autofocus or zoom in with live view and manual focus on a bright object. Remember to switch off autofocus before shooting. 


Equipment needed:

• DSLR Camera with manual controls (full frame will be wider angle than crop cameras)

• Wide angle lens with a low f-stop lens (24mm or wider and f/1.4 or f/2.8)

• Wired cable release

• A good sturdy tripod

• A large memory card, 32gb or larger

• Fully charged battery or a camera with an extended battery grip with 2 batteries

• Exposure : a good starting point is f/2.8, iso 2500 and 15-25 seconds


Links for more meteor info Information on the shower coming up on the 24th of may 2014 

Earthsky.org info on May 24 Meteor shower

American Meteor Society

Farmers Almanac


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