Every year Perseids Meteor shower fills the night sky with meteors and it is such a spectacular thing to see. Perseids peaks overnight between 12-13th August this year, with up to 100 meteors per hour and is a favourite meteor shower for a lot of folk, the warm summer nights making it an enjoyable experience.
To find where they will be in the sky, you need to find the radiant, which is between Cassiopeia and Perseus in the north east of the sky.
This year, there is the unfortunate alignment of the full moon and the peak of the display, which will make seeing the shower and photographing it, a little harder! And not only that but this full moon is a super moon, so it will be bigger and brighter than most full moons.
But although it peaks this weekend, it is possible to see quite a few meteors per night through to 1st Sept from Perseids, so it is worth spending some time outside after dark into next week after the moon has started waning. Last year, I was travelling on Isle of Skye and captured this on 1st Sept - the last of Perseids and some gentle aurora borealis!
So, back to plans for this weekend, because the sky conditions look SO clear, it is worth sitting out and enjoying the night sky and adoring the full moon too.
This means one thing, it is time to get a base camp set up in the garden, with this warm evenings we are experiencing at the moment, get the chairs, fire pit, marshmallows, recline back and just gaze at the sky! I love getting a blanket out and just laying on the floor, it is so much easier to see the sky and you can take in so much more of it this way.
I remember as a kid, Dad woke us up in the middle of the night and had set up patio recliners with sleeping bags, pillows and hot drinks and we laid out in the garden staring up in amazement each time a swift flash of light saw a shooting star dazzle across the night sky. I think that night was the night I fell completely in love with the night sky.
These images were taken in 2016, I'd headed to a dark spot on the coast, or as dark as I could find because there is so much light pollution in the south of the UK. The orange glow in this image is from France! This display was timed with a new moon and so the night sky was dark which mean I was able to capture several meteors.
There is no art to this, you just have to keep taking photos because by the time you've seen them, you're reflex response wouldn't even be anywhere near close enough to closing the shutter, so I leave the camera to click away continuously!
If you were to try and shoot Perseids, here are a few hints and tips of how to set up your camera.
Tripod: so your camera has time to get a lot of the light onto its sensor, you’re going to need your shutter to be open for a few seconds, taking a long exposure. Hand held would lead to blurring, so you need a tripod to offer a stable surface and allow you to angle and choose the direction you’re shooting.
Remote shutter trigger: when shooting long exposures, pressing the shutter on a tripod can induce enough movement to create blur in the final image.
Wide lens: the wider your lens the better as you’ll get more of the sky in frame. I shoot with the Tamron 15-35mm f2.8 and Sigma Art 24mm f1.4
Fast lens: the wider the aperture the better as it allows you to collect more light, again a lens that has f1.4-2.8 is idea. A lot of entry level SLRs come with a 18-55mm f3.5, so you will want to use this lens.
Manual mode: being in control of all of your settings is vital for capturing the aurora and I suggest the following settingsShutter – 8 seconds (or poss up to 30 seconds)
Aperture – lowest possible, I shoot at f2.8 with my Tamron at 15mm
ISO – 2500 – 5000 – depending on how your camera performs at high ISO depends on how far you will push this, too high and you’ll see grain in the image.
Manual focus: if your camera has live view, select it, compose your shot, find the brightest star in the sky and use it to focus on, making sure it is sharp
Infinity focus: if you haven’t got much to focus on, use the infinity focus on your lens and you can read here about how to do this. http://www.slrphotographyguide.com/camera/settings/focus-infinity.shtml
Take a shot: see how it is looking: Are the stars sharp? Is it exposed correctly? Can you improve the composition?
Remember to watch it with your eyes! I use a remote trigger so once I know my camera is set and it is all manually set and focused I can just keep pressing the trigger while I watch it with my adoring eyes!
Shooting with mobile phones: it is now possible to capture the night sky on a mobile phone! I have the iPhone 12 and many other phones that were created in the last couple of years will have an option to capture the night sky. The process is very similar to the steps above, you’ll want to get a little grip tripod as you can’t shoot long shutters handheld or lay it on something flat pointing up to the sky.
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