What kind of tripod do you need? And, you will want a heavy one to keep your camera rock steady during long exposures.
Fun, right? Get one that is light enough to be portable, but heavy enough to support your gear and keep it steady. Second in the night-photography gear must-have list is the remote shutter release. Today, many cameras do not accept this type of release, but give you the option of a plug-in wired release , wireless release , or mobile application control.
A word to the wise about electronic releases for meteor hunting: Likely you will be pushing the battery capacity of all your gear while shooting in the dark; this might be a great time to use the batteries-not-required threaded release, if your camera accepts it. Some releases have interval timers and countdown timers built into their circuitry. Nighttime is generally colder—a drain for batteries.
So, head out into the field with a full charge and bring spare batteries. I promise you that the best meteors will appear immediately after your camera runs out of power. Bring plenty of memory cards. Again, you will probably be shooting continuously for hours at a time. Be cognizant of how many shots you will get on each card and be ready to switch when and if the cards get full. I promise you that the best meteors will appear immediately after your memory cards fill up. Shooting the night sky in JPEG is not the end of the world, and it might help speed your post-processing work and the search for those frames where you caught a meteor streaking overhead.
You want to set up your camera for a proper exposure of the night sky. There are three variables in play, and shutter speed is one of them. The longer the shutter is open, the more light enters the camera and the more meteor streaks you can capture in a single frame. However, the Earth spins on its axis, so the stars overhead will turn from points of lights into trails of lights in your image.
It is a dilemma. Star trails or star points? You must decide. If you want to avoid star trails and just stay with the points of light, use the Rule: for a full-frame camera, divide by the focal length of your lens and the solution is approximately the longest exposure you can make and not have the stars begin to trail noticeably.
Catch a "Shooting Star" - Sky & Telescope
If you are shooting an APS-C camera, you can convert the 35mm focal length equivalent and use the Rule formula or, without converting, use the Rule. Same formula, different numbers. Example: divided by a 21mm lens 35mm equivalent of When it comes to aperture , you either want to shoot with your lens wide open, or if you need to stop down to preserve some sharpness, somewhere within one or two stops of the wide end of your aperture range. Why open up the lens?
Meteor trails are generally faint, so you want to maximize your light-gathering abilities. You can certainly stop the aperture down and make a long exposure of the night sky, but a faint shooting star might not be bright enough to register on the frame. Therefore, shoot wide open or as close as you can while keeping your lens sharp. When you are setting your exposure, you will have selected your shutter speed based on whether you want to freeze the stars or have them streak. Now, you will adjust your ISO from its native setting, if needed, to compensate for your exposure.
Therefore, there is no predetermined ISO to share with you. Try to keep the ISO as low as possible, because digital noise is bad for your images, especially in the night sky. An image that just contains stars and sky is completely fine, but some photographers like to add foreground objects into the frame, like a mountain or trees or structure. This can enhance your overall composition and feel of the image, as well as provide some geographical context to the shot.
Having mentioned composition, there are some things that will help you maximize your chances of getting a good shooting-star photo. The constellation where the meteor shower appears to originate is called the radiant. Shooting stars originating from other parts of the sky are not part of that specific meteor shower. Even during the heaviest meteor showers, you might not see more than one shooting star per minute.
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Plan to be outside for a long time and cross your fingers that the camera is taking a photo at just the right time. Also, know that those photos you see some illustrating this article with multiple shooting stars in the frame are most likely composite images where the meteors from several different images are combined into one photo. To summarize your plan: Head out where it is dark, set up your tripod, get your camera pointed in the right direction, decide if you want to capture star points or trails, expose for the sky, and start firing your camera on continuous shooting mode as the night sky passes overhead.
With luck, you will get a few frames with the streak of a shooting star and, as a bonus, the foundations for a cool time lapse video of the night sky. And, while your camera is doing all the hard work, lie back in a lawn chair or pull up a comfortable piece of real estate, look up to the stars, and enjoy the show! What tips have you successfully employed in photographing meteor showers? Let us know in the Comments section, below! This is a great article about shooting the night sky!
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Very well written and extremely useful! Thanks a lot! I have a question though on stitching the images. The only difference is that their place in the frame will be rotated compared to image 1. Thank you! I think I understand your question, but before I answer, know that I have not attempted a composite image of multiple meteor streaks My guess is that you would only copy the meteor streaks from image 2 and image 3 onto image 1 so that you don't have to worry about the stars changing position in each frame.
Just blend the streaks Yep, that is definitely a composite! Google is your friend, my friend!
Let me know what you find! Question- How do you overcome the balance of a long exposure to gain light while the meteor is only visible for a fraction of the exposure? I've never gotten more than a tiny sliver of a very bright meteor. I was recently doing 25 second exposures rule Canon 7D, Rokinon 16mm 2. Based on your settings and gear, you should have seen the meteor trail s. How much post-processing have you done on the images?
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Have you tried to pull out some "shadow" detail? Are you in a dark part of the world? Remember, the stars are "burning" into the sensor for a whole 25 seconds while the meteor is probably only there for about 1 second. Thanks for the reply AND great tutorial! I'm a self-taught photoshop hack, so i've done some work but it didn't improve much. The images above are all from a stock photo website. I wonder how much people post-processed the image to get the bright meteors. Your shot looks pretty realistic.
I have seen a lot of shooting stars in my day, and not all are big and bright I've noticed that if there is a secret to brightening the meteors, no one is being really forthright about sharing the secrets on the web. Strange that the bright one you saw wasn't picked up at all. I certainly don't have an answer for that I had a question about writing over data on your sensor during a longer exposure. If you have a 20 sec exposure and the meteor occurs in the first 1 second, will it become dimming after writing 19 seconds of dark sky over it?
Thanks, Roger. That is a good question, but the answer, I believe, is "No. Great article and primer for night photography in general.
Catching A Shooting Star
A lowr ISO sensitivity doesn't just mean you can take a longer exposure, it also means weaker points of light won't be detected altogether. Consider raising your ISO.
I suppose you are correct, but the tradeoff is increased digital noise Thanks for posting this article, I have a vast interest of photographing the night sky, more specifically the Milky Way. This article proved to be an invaluable source of knowledge and tips I am glad you found the article helpful! Good luck catching shooting stars and thanks for reading! The thing I'm never clear about is the time it takes the buffer to load the file to the card. And how to set the intervelometer interval. I was doing fifteen second shutter openings with a 60mm Sigma. Hey, I want big meteors.
It seemed like the Sony was taking a long time to process the shots so I set the interval at ten seconds.
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I got a great blended picture of dotted lines! Kind of unique but I only want to do that once. In my experience, when set to interval timing, the camera will take the next shot either as soon as you tell it to, or as soon as it is ready. If the camera is taking a long time to write to the card, you might need faster memory cards. There is a considerable difference in delay when it comes to slower versus faster write-speed memory cards.
Also, if you are asking the camera to do noise reduction, that will delay the system being ready for the next shot. Most modern cameras can fire off many frames for second before the buffer fills. Night exposures shouldnt be bumping up against buffer limits unless your cards are really slow or you are asking the camera to do a lot of internal processing of files.
Great article and discussion.