Quick tips on capturing the stars and possible a meteor or two in the upcoming Perseid’s Meteor Shower. I have seen estimates of 80-100 meteors an hour for those with clear/dark skies.
When taking star photos you can end up with star trails or no star trails. It all depends on your focal length and shutter speed and whether or not you follow the 500 rule.
500 Rule for Star-trail-less Photos
The 500 rule states that your shutter speed needs to be faster than your focal length divided by 500. Some places you see 600 used but safer is 500. So if you are shooting at 50mm you take 500/50 and get 10 seconds. BUT that only applies to folks shooting with full frame cameras, if you have a crop sensor camera like the Canon Rebel Series of the Nikon Dxxx series you need to multiple your crop factor times your focal length and then divide that by 500. Nikon crop factor is 1.5 and Canon is 1.6.
Here is a handy chart to use as a starting guide
Columns B through D give you the number of seconds before you will probably start seeing star trails. You can of course go shorter, longer and you will start to see star trails
When photographing meteors you want to avoid any star trails, you want the little streaks left by the meteors to stand out so follow the chart.
First task is to find a suitable location with a clear view of the source or radiant. In the case of the Perseids you want a dark sky to your north east, in the direction of the Perseids meteor shower. I intent to use the the Google Sky App on Android | iOS options. You really want to make sure the sky is dark, these longer exposures quickly pick up any light pollution and are going to blow out the bottom of your image.
Picking a focal length and focusing – You want to go fairly wide here, under 50mm but not really wide as that will likely give you puny little streaks that take up a very small percentage of your image. Focusing is tricking. If you have a light tower or something contrasting against the sky, like a mountain, in the far distance you can use that. If you have a distance scale on your lens you can set it just shy of the infinity mark. Neither of those work for you? Raise your ISO to the highest possible and take a few shots, a very high ISO will allow you to take a shorter longer exposure so you aren’t sitting around for 30 seconds wondering if you have focus. Take a series of test photos until you are sure you have nailed focus.
Camera settings – You have your shutter speed from the chart above, your aperture should be close to wide open and your ISO should be as low as possible. You might be better off with even shorter exposures, longer exposures will dim any streaks you get. I hope to use my Triggertrap long exposure (star trail) feature to automatically take photo after photo, their star trail feature lets me specify a long exposure and the gap between images. You can use a standard intervalometer too but that isn’t quite as elegant. You could also use a remote and have the camera set for the desired shutter speed and least desirable you push the shutter button – if you use this method make sure you use the 2 second delay so that you pressing the button doesn’t jiggle the camera creating blurry images.
Your Camera must be sitting on a sturdy tripod.
Sit back and enjoy the show.(this is one reason I am going to let Triggertrap do the work, I want to be looking at the sky, not the back of my camera all night.
What am I forgetting? Share your thoughts, tips and comments below.
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