Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Life vs. Photography and My Faux Perseid Picture

Life vs. Photography and My Faux Perseid Picture

We found a dark place and took another shot at checking out the Perseids Monday night and after a lot of fiddling with my D90 and the 10-20mm Sigma for maximum sky coverage all I got was this fake meteor track. Meanwhile, my astronomical companions T and M lounged back in their folding chairs, wrapped in blankets against the night chill and enjoyed the light show in the night sky. While I stomped around my camera and tripod swearing, they exclaimed at the beauty of more than a half dozen meteor tracks, some quite spectacular. Once they were following the tiny lights of an airplane high above slowly crawling across the sky when a meteor blazed right across its path and broke up into two separate tracks, a truly spectacular sight. I, of course, saw nothing. I was adjusting the camera for the umpteenth time, trying to get the best exposure I could given the glow of the city lights. The closest I came to the experience was hearing their excited exclamations.

Served me right. There are times when photographers need to let go of their compulsive picture-making and just experience life directly. All too often, we're left with memories, not of an event, but of the process of photographing it. Next time I'll set up my camera with an intervalometer -- my Coolpix P7100 has one built in, while the D90 does not -- and let it do its own thing while I join the audience.

PS: There was a brief flurry of excitement when I got home and downloaded my pictures. When I looked at them frame by frame, I saw one that had this track that looked like a faint meteor. Aha, I thought, got one after all! Then I looked more closely. There were two faint tracks side by side, greenish-blue and reddish (everything was shifted to the blue by my white balance, set to compensate for the glow of sodium vapor lights in the sky). At first I tried to tell myself that the meteor had left a trail of reddish ionized air in its wake, but I knew that was nonsense. It was clearly the twin tracks of the airplane lights that had led T and M to their best sighting of the night, the one I missed and only heard about.

Lesson learned. Next time I'll relax and enjoy the show and let the intervalometer do its work. If nothing else, I'll end up with a nice little movie of the stars moving across the sky. And maybe there will be a meteor track as an added bonus. Or not.

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