Photographing The Perseid Meteor Shower
Hello fellow photographers and stargazers.
Next weekend will be a great time to photograph meteors. The Perseid Meteor Shower will be taking place next weekend. I figured that many of my friends will be going out to try their hand at it. Because I have been able to get a shot of them I figured that I would share what I have learned in my own pursuit.
In August of 2010 I was determined to photograph them so I headed out to Cloud Cap on the north face of Mount Hood. I was seeing a bunch of them but whenever I had my camera pointed in one direction a meteor would fall in the other. I then would reposition my camera only to have one fall where the camera was previously pointed. I went home a little frustrated with hardly a photo to show for my time. Not only that but all I was taking a photo of was the sky. Mount Hood was behind me.
The next day I decided to change my plan.
The Perseid's originate near the part of the sky that the constellation Persius is located, thus their name. My first decision was to shoot north from Trillium Lake which allowed Mount Hood to be in the shot. I also decided that I was going to shoot wide and leave the tripod alone for about three hours. I didn’t move the camera. I then set my programmed my cable release to take 360 - 30 second exposures, which is 3 hours of time lapse. Turn your on camera noise reduction off to eliminate a delay between shots. If you don’t have a cable release, just click the shutter when the last one is through. It’s the same thing it just makes it harder to sit in your lawn chair and enjoy your preferred beverage while watching the falling stars undisturbed.
When I was through I went home and downloaded all of the photos and separated each shot that had a meteor and combined them all as separate layers over the top of a base photo of the scene in Photoshop. I then went about the painstaking task of masking out each meteor so the background base photo would show through. The meteor was all that was represented in each layer.
This gave me a chaotic array of meteors that seemed to be coming from all directions. I sat thinking about that and it occurred to me that during that during the three hours the Earth had rotated. I figured that I needed to figure out how to get them all to come from the same point of origin, the galaxy Persius. To do that I located the axis of rotation at the North Star and then went about rotating each layer using Andromeda (?) as a reference point of location. I rotated each layer according to how much movement had taken place since the start of the series.
After I had each meteor coming from the proper point of origin I merged them into one transparent layer and brightened them up and merged that layer down onto the bottom layer.
And this is the result.
Even if you don’t create a composite image like this one, if you use this technique you will catch meteors in your shot. You will essentially capture every one that falls during that three hours of time.
I hope that this helps. Please leave a comment if you have a question. After you have your chance to shoot the Perseids please leave a link to your shot. I’d love to see them.
Camera - Nikon D90
Exposure - 30
Aperture - f/2.8
Focal Length - 11 mm
ISO Speed - 2000
Noise Reduction - OFF