Perseid Tutorial

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Hello Readers,

This is the second promised shot from the Perseid Meteor shower. I was lucky enough to get a meteor in this one. This type of photography isn’t as hard as it looks and really just takes a bit of practice. For equipment you need a camera, tripod, and a dark location. Lets talk about equipment first then the methods.

Disclaimer: There are people out there that are much better at this than me. Much, much, much better. I’m posting this as an  introduction. There are many more resources out there and google is your best friend when trying to learn this stuff on your own. 

Camera: I use a Nikon D90 dslr but I have been doing this for years on much cheaper cameras than that. The most important feature you need is the ability to set the exposure time to 20-30 seconds. This is required to get enough light into the camera to see the milky way. The aperture is next in importance and finally the noisiness of the sensor itself. I shot this at f/4 for 30 seconds ISO-3200. If you camera can’t hit this, don’t worry. You can still get great shots with a fairly cheap camera. It was not after several years of shooting on a “point-and-shoot” camera that I upgraded to my Nikon.

Tripod: This can be anything you can mount your camera on to hold it steady. I’ve actually shot with my camera propped up on a rock. The bigger and more heavy duty your tripod, the better.

Dark Skies: This is more important than anything else I say in this post. Finding great dark spots is every night sky photographer’s goal.

Method: The actual method is pretty easy once you’ve gotten yourself to a dark sky site. Set up your camera before dark so that you can see what is in your foreground and what is on the ground around you. You don’t want to be falling into holes or streams in the dark. For meteors, you’re going to need to be lucky. Set your camera to a long exposure and have the timer set. The timer will let any vibrations die off before the picture is taken. This step isn’t necessary but it makes the shots a lot clearer. Once you’re happy with your settings (Long exposure, high ISO, and wide open aperture) start taking pictures. You want to have your histogram up so that you don’t crop any signal data. Ideally, the peak will be right in the middle.

Have several locations nearby scouted out from daylight so that you can move if you get your shot. The rest is just down to endurance and tolerance of the cold. When you get home from the night, there is some post processing involved that is pretty much standard in the field but this is mostly saturation, exposure, and white balance tweaks.

Maybe someday I’ll do a tutorial on my post processing techniques but this guide should be good enough to get some of you out and taking some pretty sweet pictures. If you found this guide at all helpful, or see anything you would add, please let me know!

-Rottingham

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