The Perseid meteor shower will light up our sky this month with around 60-70 meteors expected per hour. If you are wanting to photograph them for the first time follow along for tips on how to get the best pictures.
When is the Perseid meteor shower?
The Perseids will be most visible from August 11-15 with the Perseid meteor shower reaching its peak on the evenings of August 11 and 12. On these nights you can expect roughly around 60-70 meteors per hour. This year the moon will also be a new moon, and it will set before the Perseid meteor shower is most visible shortly after midnight.
Where to watch the Perseid meteor shower
The Northern Hemisphere will have the best view of the Perseid meteor shower. You’ll want to head out to a dark area with as little light pollution as possible. If you live in the Lower Mainland of Vancouver some of the best spots to view the Perseids is at our Provincial Parks. In past years there has been good viewing at Chilliwack Lake, E.C. Manning & Porteau Cove Provincial Parks.
How to Photograph the Perseid Meteor Shower
This Perseid Meteor Shower Photography settings tutorial is aimed at beginners. You can use any camera with an option for Manual settings. Following these simple steps you’ll be able to capture beautiful photos of the Perseid Meteor Shower.
Step 1: Set to Manual
Set your camera to Manual.
Set your lens to Manual Focus.
Turn your Flash setting to off.
Why use the Manual settings?
Automatic camera settings work great in daylight but your cameras automatic settings don’t work properly in the dark, and the Automatic setting is useless if you are trying to photograph the Perseid Meteor Shower at night. If you leave your lens set to Automatic Focus, it will continuously zoom in and out trying to find focus in the dark which will result in blurry pictures.
Turning off your flash will ensure it doesn’t go off when taking a picture and wash out the stars and Perseids.
Step 2: Setting the ISO
ISO 1600 is a good start
What does the ISO setting do?
ISO controls the light sensitivity of your cameras sensor. Prior to digital cameras you had to choose a different ISO film for different shooting situations. Now with a digital camera you can change the ISO simply by using a button. Here’s what the different ISO values do – The higher the ISO, the less light you need to take a picture. But with higher ISO the picture is of lower quality and can appear grainy. You’ll need to do a few test shots and adjust your ISO up or down.
Step 3: Adjust the Aperture
f-2.8 or the lowest f-number you can get with your lens.
What does the aperture do?
The aperture, or f-stop on your camera adjusts how wide your lens is open and how much light will get through the lens. It may sound weird but, the lower the f-number, the bigger the aperture opening. For Perseid Meteor Shower photography you will want to use the biggest opening (the lowest f-number) possible with your lens.
The more light your lens can take in means you can set a lower shutter speed and still get enough detail in your night sky image.
Step 4: Set the Shutter speed
The shutter speed needed will really depend on the aperture of your lens and will take some experimentation to get dialed in.
20 seconds is a good start if your lens has a maximum aperture greater than f/2.8.
What does the shutter speed do?
Shutter speed = exposure time = the time your lens is open and absorbing light. You will need to adjust the shutter speed as the darkness of the night sky changes through an evening.
Take lots of photos! The more images you take, the more chance you have of capturing a meteor! Don’t wait until you see one to try to take a picture, that will already be too late! Try to keep the shutter open as much as possible.
Step 5: Use a Tripod
Since you are taking long exposures of the night sky you will need to mount your camera on a tripod.
Why do you need a tripod?
Holding your camera won’t work with long exposures. Your body will move way too much and with the long exposure you need to take will result in blurry pictures. If you need to buy you don’t need anything really expensive but I do recommend spending a few extra dollars to get a sturdy one so your camera doesn’t accidentally topple over and break the lens.
Step 6: Zoom Out & Focus
The Perseid Meteor Shower will show up best using a wide angle lens so you can get as much of the sky in the image as possible. Next, set your focus to the infinity symbol, if you have the option. To get the focus exact set it by focusing on the brightest object in the sky (usually a star or the moon).
Step 7: Press the Shutter
Now you are set to take a picture! I recommend using a remote control to avoid any camera shake when taking the picture but if you don’t have one not to worry. Your camera should have a self-timer you can set. If you just press the button without a remote or self-timer you can cause some blur in your photograph.
Get to Know Your Camera
You will want to try this tutorial BEFORE you go out at night to take pictures of the Perseid Meteor Shower. Get to know your camera and set everything up the in the warm and lit inside rather than trying for the first time in the dark night.
Once you outside ready to capture the Perseid Meteor Shower, do some test shots and adjust the settings as needed. If your image is too bright, lower your shutter speed or ISO. If your image is too dark, up your shutter speed or ISO. Just experiment and have fun!
What to Else to Bring Along
I recommend taking along a headlamp flashlight so you can make adjustments in the dark. Even if you are a pro with your camera settings a little light goes a long way trying to find some of the buttons!
You may also want to pack a couple of extra batteries for your camera along just in case.