Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Awesome Geminid Meteor Shower This Week! Here's how to get great pix!

The annual Geminid Meteor Shower is here this week.  It's the busiest one,  so get out your tripods, get a cup of coffee, and go shoot them with some friends! Here's some tips on how!

Pre-Shooting Preparation:
Charge your batteries fully before going out. It's going to be colder at night, and that can affect battery life. Wear some warm clothes, a hat, and gloves. Bring some hot beverages, some friends, and make it a fun outing! At least you'll have someone to talk to between exposures.
Also bring a flashlight or LED keychain light so you can see what you are doing when changing your settings. A headlight looks dorky, but it let's you works with both hands.

Where and When to Go and Sky Conditions:
You want to be as far away from the City/Town as possible to reduce the amount of light pollution. Find a dark road out in the country somewhere far away from street lights.
Obviously it has to be a clear night that you can see the sky. The moon won't be an issue this time around!

You can start to see them after dark, but the best time will be after midnight to 2am on December 14th/15th, when you will have a meteor or two every minute!

Finding Gemini:
Easy to find.  First find Orion in the Southern sky.  Then look to the North West for the twin bright stars. 

Do I Need A Tripod?
Yes, and the heavier the better!

Start with 400 ISO and see how much detail you can pick up. If you aren't getting enough details, try 800 ISO.

You want to use a wide(16-35mm) to normal lens(50mm) so you can get a wide range of sky area.

Shooting Mode: Has to be MANUAL as you need to set the shutter speed and aperture.

Shutter Speeds:
The longer the speed you use, the more meteors you will get. However, if you go too long, the stars will begin to form trails.
To figure out how to long to shoot the stars without getting trails, you can use this general guide.
Divide 600 by the length of your lens, and that is how many seconds you should use. For example, if you are using a 17mm lens, 600/17mm= 35 seconds.
However, if you do long exposures like 30minutes to 1 hour(or longer), you will get star trails that look neat along with the straight lines of meteors. The photo above was done for three hours(although you can see the light pollution made the sky brownish instead of black!) Note you will need a cable release or remote, and use BULB mode to do this. No way you can hold the button down for 1-3 hours...
NOTE: Many digital cameras will max out the shutter length at 30 minute to prevent overheating and damage..most likely that will be the longest you can do.

Use your widest aperture (smaller number, for example 3.5/4.5) to let in as much light as possible. If you find the meteors coming out a bit bright, you can stop down one setting. If you have a lens that has a really wide aperture(1.8/2.8) that is even better!

You have to use MANUAL focus and focus on the stars or set the focus on the lens to Infinity.

White Balance:I would suggest shooting RAW, and then playing with the white balance if needed. Had I shot the one at the top raw, I could have switched to TUNGSTEN/INCANDESCENT balance to correct for the orange. 
If you are shooting JPEG, do a test using DAYLIGHT/FULL SUN and see how it looks. If you do have things lit up by ambient light around you(like street lights, etc) you may want to use TUNGSTEN/INCANDESCENT instead, but it could make the sky go a bit too blue.

Other Shooting Tips:
-If you want to include trees, mountains, the horizon, etc they will provide an interesting silhouette shape and scale.
-You could also try using a flash during the exposure to light up the trees!
-Have an old film camera kicking around? Haul her out, throw in some ISO 400 film, and take some long exposures!(You have to have to use a cable release)

So go out there, have some fun, and send me some great shots or post them in the online student galleries if you have a login!

Hope you get clear skies!

Noel Chenier

ps-Looking to buy something for a photographer friends this Christmas? (or want to treat yourself?) Check out  my buying guide for slr cameras, lenses, accessories, and other fun stuff!

ps2-Interested in a great photography app that is completely UNIQUE?  Something that gives you IDEAS and INSPIRATION for your photography instead of just doing things to your photos?

Check out my Photography Assignment Apps on the App Store! https://itunes.apple.com/artist/noel-chenier/id566645905 
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There is a full version as well for you to try them out!  iPad version coming soon, followed by Android. For full info, including tour videos, head to www.learnphoto.ca/apps

Thanks for checking them out!  Let me know what you think! noel@noelchenier.ca


Sammy MP said...

Thanks for those tips!
It will be helpful
Good wishes from Mexico!

Hatice Coskun said...

hey thanks! I just read about the meteor shower today from National Geographic, I am going to shoot some with a group in a dark isolated place. Love and greets from Turkey!

ClickNCamera said...

Sorry I missed this shower. Thanks for sharing this great shot!