Photography 1001 : How to capture Meteor Shower

Now that the supermoon has passed, it’s time to go for the meteor shower again! There’s no need to worry that the North Taurids are almost all gone, for the Leonid meteor shower has come. Though, the moon light may still be a bit too bright for watching shooting stars, the Leonids are known to have produced some of the greatest meteor storms in history, so it isn’t too bad. You may count it as practice shoots for the moon-free meteor showers coming in 2017. (Yes, the Geminids in December is coinciding with the full moon…)

Gear
1 A full frame DSLR
2 A good fast wide angle lens
3 An empty 16GB or 32GB memory card
4 A cable release (for shake control)
5 A tall and sturdy tripod
6 Fully charged extra batteries

We reccommend the use of DSLR instead of Mirrorless Camera, for DSLR will be able to give you images with less noise. For we need to set ISO higher to get more sensitivity for the light of the meteor, it’s natural that the noise in the image will increase; that is why we want to get a camera that will produce the least image noise.

As we want to capture the shooting star’s “tail”, we need to use a long exposure time, such as about a minute. In order to keep the surroundings stable, we need to get a tripod and release so that the image won’t be blurred because we cannot keep our hands stable enough or that the camera shake slightly why we press the shutter.

It would be even better if you have a portable equatorial mounted on your tripod; it helpes you in taking pictures for the same set of stars or constellations. If you are doing a stacking of photo in post-processing, you will understand how valuable the equatorial actually is; the image will come up much clearer and beautiful.

One of the more annoying aspects of Night Sky Photography is dealing with dew. Particularly in moist climates on a cold night, moisture in the air can condense onto the cold front surface of your lens quite quickly. This can bring a night of winter photography to a rapid close and can rule out long star trail exposures or timelapse sequences.

Extra gear
Dew heaters – to prevent moisture in the air condensing onto your lens
Warm clothes – for people who lives in places that is Autumn now
Beach mat – for lying down
Insect repellent – for you will be staying outdoors for quite some time

 

Settings
1 Camera Mode: Manual
2 Focus: infinity (opposite of macro)
3 White Balance: 3800°–4200° Kelvin (fixed it)
4 ISO: 800-3200
5 Aperture: f/2.8 (widest possible)
6 Shutter Speed: 30″
7 Image Format: RAW Image Format, so that you can do post-processing
8 Use a tripod on a steady surface
9 Use a cable release for shake-proof

If you want to tweak the settings, you can follow these guidelines – Take a test shot with Shutter speed set to 30″. If it’s too dark, increase the Exposure time, vice versa. You can also lower the ISO slightly if it’s too bright, but keep the minimum ISO at 800.

Once you get the right settings, you can take more pictures. Some DSLRs may come with noise reduction settings, turn it off for this time. If there’s no option for turning it off, make sure you set it to weakest possible, or else, it may mistake the shooting stars as noise and even cancel them out.

For we don’t know when exactly the meteor and fireballs are coming, keep on shooting non-stop until your battery ran out. You can check and find the ones that have captured the shooting star afterwards.

Most important, you must not forget that to watch meteors, you need a dark sky. It’s possible to catch a meteor or two or even more from the suburbs. But, to experience a true meteor shower – where you might see several meteor each minute – avoid city lights. It’s ok even if there’s some clouds in the night sky. You can try to catch the shooting stars in between the clouds, and it gives a different feeling than the usual images of shooting stars in clear sky. Have fun and enjoy your night photography experience!

Looking for tips on how to take pictures like the below?

This is in fact not a photo of meteor shower, but rather, a Star Trail Photography. So we will discuss about it in another article.

(Photo Credits: KAGAYA – a Japanese digital artist who is known for painting elaborately detailed and spectacularly colored images, with astronomy as one of his favourite subjects.)

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