Thursday, August 13, 2015

Early Riser

Early Riser

I'm not the early riser -- the Perseid meteor was. I was fast asleep when this image was captured. The annual Perseid meteor shower peaks tonight in the early morning hours, with as many as 100 per hour, but it looks as if it might be partly cloudy at the peak, so I set up my camera last night.

I've experienced some spectacular sightings over the years, but they all exist only in memory, in my mind's eye. I've seen some beauties, but I haven't photographed them. There are many different ways to photograph meteors, but ideally they require finding a really dark sky far from the city, a lot of patience, equipment that's a little more capable than mine, and a willingness to lose some sleep. I've tried a few things over the years but never captured a meteor. Until last night.

This year I decided to keep it simple. I didn't leave the city, and decided to work with what I have -- beginning with my Nikon Coolpix P7100. It has a nice feature for a compact -- a simple intervalometer, or timer to click off shots automatically (also nice for time-lapse movies). Our backyard and deck are fairly dark for the city, so I set the camera up on the deck and went to bed.

Some notes: Exposure was ISO 800 8 sec. at f/2.8 with zoom at 28 mm. This was the longest shutter speed and highest ISO the intervalometer would let me use. And I could only shoot at 1 minute intervals, so -- in effect -- my shutter was open only about 12% of the time. Still, at the peak in the early morning hours, this should give me a reasonable chance of capturing one or more. If you want to try this at home, remember to turn off your LCD -- it uses far more battery than shooting, and battery life is what will limit your shooting. Also, be sure to turn off vibration reduction, which should only be used handheld.

In the midst of all this, did I actually see any meteors myself? Yes, one very faint, underwhelming streak high in the sky a little after midnight while I was setting up. I'm glad the camera did better.

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