Astrophotography is something I’ve dabbled in before. ( Not that it’s a taboo or anything.)
Let’s be honest: We’ve all dabbled in it, even if it’s just trying to capture a full moon on your smart phone whilst walking home from the pub. #guilty
Despite not having the best equipment, I’ve sometimes managed to get some good results:
Eclipses, Certain phases of the Moon, the night sky in general; anything to do with astrology in fact, are all thing I know nothing about. Absolutely zilch. But they do intrigue me. The night sky is a beautiful thing.
The Perseid Meteor Shower which happens every year in August also falls into that category of things about the night sky that I know nothing about yet intrigue me.
I missed it last, but as you can see above I did try and capture it the year before.
Since getting an allotment, I’ve always wanted to go up and have a look at night; I imagined there’d be a much better view of the stars than in the middle of a light polluted estate and since the weatherman said on the local news that the Meteor Shower was going to be the best show in years, I finally had an excuse.
Only later, the same Weatherman was telling me there was a chance of being clouded out for it. It was an umming and ahhing situation. But finally at about 9 last night, and seeing several breaks in the clouds, I decided I’d go up. Still light I set up my camera and taking some test shots, I wasn’t enthusiastic, the clouds were getting thicker:
Camera set up on it’s tripod, chair dug out of the greenhouse, all I could do now was wait for darkness to fall. It dragged out; and very quickly I decided that I didn’t want to be here; the allotments, surrounded by woodland, are a very scary place at night I’ve found: I’ve never seen or heard as many ghosts, this got worse as it got darker. At one point I thought I heard the sound of a spade cutting into the earth. The ghost of an old Gardener who once had a plot here. Endlessly digging. It had to be. There’s no other explanation. I turned on my radio for comfort. It didn’t help much.
It was still cloudy by the time It got dark. But there were enough breaks to still come out with interesting results. Setting the camera to its longest shutter speed (30 seconds) and locking it in with a remote shutter I left it to do its thing: taking one 30 second exposure after another for around 20 minute to half an hour each time. I’d normally set my shutter speed to around 8 seconds for this sort of thing as at 30 seconds the stars start to trail ( something to do with the speed of the earths orbit) , but in this case it was what I wanted. Here’s some of the results:
This last one I prefer without the star-trail as it’s the only one in which I captured an actual meteor:
As I said above, these were certainly never going to be professional quality;but I’m happy with them. Light pollution in most places is unavoidable. Clouds can’t be controlled and you have to have decent, expensive equipment if your hoping for something that NASA may want to buy off you.
Anyone who wants to give astrophotography a go can. All you need is a camera that has the ability to shoot in manual mode; it doesn’t have to be a DSLR. You’ll need a tripod or a steady surface though. I use a remote shutter control to avoid shaking the camera but if you don’t have one of these you can just set a 5 second delay so that you don’t wobble the camera when taking the picture.
The star trail effect is made by ‘ glueing’ lots of photos on top of each other. The last one shows half an hour in one image. Lots of free programmes will do this for you. I use starstax for windows.
You might not want to photograph them either. Just watch them. Your cameras almost always facing the wrong way anyway. But simply Seeing the meteors is a breathtaking experience. They’re a bit like them fireworks that go up silently and then just fizzle away. What are they called? Look out for falling stars too.
You might not be interested what so ever. That’s okay too. At the end of the day, they’re just stars.