Quickie 4.144: Camelopardalids Meteor Shower (was a bust)

Last night I ventured out in an attempt to capture some photos of the “epic” Camelopardalids Meteor Shower that was expected to appear. Long story short, what a waste of time.¬†Could have been my latitude, could have been the light pollution, but I barely saw any meteors zip through the sky in the 1.5 hours I was out.

I gave myself a decent amount of time to scout the conservation area in the dark to find a suitable location and setup. This was a good idea because while I had a general idea of what was around, I really didn’t know my way through the park, nor any particular viewing areas. Additionally, I wasn’t entirely sure what settings to be using on my camera, I’d Googled up some guides and had some ideas, but things vary. This also gave me time to move the camera around and figure out just what it was going to capture in terms of the surrounding scenery to help frame the shots. Once I figured all this out, the rest was easy, set it and forget it. Or so I thought.

The first issue I encountered was the built in intervalometer on my D7000. It didn’t seem to work correctly. It would take a number of shots, and then eventually stop (35 the first time, and 38 the second). Despite having told it to take the maximum number of photos it allows. This meant I had to listen to make sure my camera was still taking photos, and when it stopped, start the intervalometer again. The second issue I didn’t find out until I arrived home. As it would turn out, the settings I’d chosen were great for capturing the stars, which I’d used a reference to guess the exposure settings. I was capturing even some quite faint stars, as I certainly didn’t see as many stars with my naked eyes as I captured in the photos. However the settings were poor for capturing meteors zipping across the sky. A slow f/3.5 lens at ISO2000 and 30s exposure was enough to capture the stars, because they weren’t moving quickly and were there for the entire 30s exposure. Unfortunately the few meteors I did see were way too quick for these settings. I’d made the unfortunate error of presuming they’d be relatively as bright as the stars, albeit for a short duration. What I should have done was figure out how short an exposure I required to capture the stars vs how much noise I was willing to accept from higher ISOs. That might have netted me at least a couple meteors.

quickie-4.144-02

Of course, I say that having only photographed half the expected peak duration for the shower. No, I didn’t get bored and decide to go home, I was ready to stick it out for the duration. In fact, I had plans at the end of it to take some photos of Horo and Alice stargazing, because I thought that’d be cute. Unfortunately some park rangers showed up and kicked everyone out. We’re not allowed to be in the conservation area at night, apparently. They said I could go to some other locations and mentioned them by name, but by the time I would have gotten packed up, moved to the new location, unpacked, found a decent location to shoot, re-setup my camera, and began shooting again, it would have been beyond pointless. So I went home.

I suppose I should be reasonably happy with the photos I got. They’re not horrible night sky photos, they’re kind of pretty, but because of what I was trying to capture and failed to do so, I have essentially 87 identical photos and feel like it was a waste of time. Since, all it would have taken me to get the same photo was a single 30s exposure, then gone back home where it was warm. Never the less, it was actually quite relaxing sitting under the stars next to a lake, and doing nothing but enjoying the sky. I might do more of it in the future.

-Aka

Comments

  1. Tian says:

    Ah, sorry to hear that it was a bust. But on the plus side, that’s a pretty nice sky photo.

    In your experience, is it difficult to get into parks and preserves at night? Sometimes I want to do dawn or dusk shoots, but I’m not sure how acceptable it is to be driving around those kinds of places outside the official hours.

    • Aka says:

      It’s not hard to get in if you’re just walking. But if they’re a day park and you’re required to pay to enter, they’ll generally have a gate blocking vehicles in off hours.

      I don’t however have enough experience to say definitively much of anything at all though. I would suggest calling the regulating bodies to ask what the rules are.

      Even if you’re given the impression by another source that it’s ok, it might not be. For example, I’d found the conservation area I used because well, I’d been past it before, but it was listed as an observation location for the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. They listed it saying that there’s no entrance fee for night viewing and astrophotography. And then I got kicked out for doing just that.

      More over, the park definitely wasn’t just a day use only park like they claimed, because they had camping and washrooms. So ultimately, I have no idea.