Picture of the week

August 23, 2015

Night house

Night of the Perseids

A composition of an abandoned cabin with the backdrop of the Milky Way on the night of the Perseid meteor shower.  I visited this location on the east side of the Sierras near Conway Summit with the plan to capturing the Perseid meteor shower with a more unique foreground composition. This needed to be sufficiently remote such that there would be a minimum of light pollution.  The Rocky fire coming from the Kings Canyon area wafting over the Sierras ended up creating some haze in the night sky up through Owens Valley and further north past Mono Basin. But some light winds that evening helped to maintain some clarity. 

This picture above is a composite of 4 separate images captured with the camera fixed in the same position on a tripod and controlled with a cable release.  Cabin with a meteor trailThe camera used is a Canon EOS 5D mark III with a Samyang 14mm f/2.8 lens as set to ISO 6400.  Image #1 was captured while light painting the exterior of the building. Image #2 while light painting the interior.  Images #3 and #4 were captures of meteor trails while letting the camera run on an intervalometer with 30 second exposures.   To the right is a separate less produced single image capture earlier in the evening when the stars were just becoming visible. Note the distinctive characteristic of the meteor trail with its brighter mid-section and tapering on the end.  Exposures of aircraft or satellite traffic will have a more steady light trail without this tapering.

I continue to find capturing a high enough frequency of meteor events for such a composition to be a challenge.  Even though the Perseid shower is supposed to be the biggest of the year, at best visible meteor trails seem to occur every few minutes, and in different parts of the sky, and not all of them being as bright.  The best strategy seems to be to point the camera toward the northeast, use an intervalometer with a 30 second exposure time and let it capture 50 to 100 images, and then selecting the best from your collection.  If you expose for a longer period, then you will start getting star trails, while also reducing the sensitivity of the sensor for capturing the more faint meteor trails. Longer exposures also run the higher risk of being ruined by aircraft traffic flying across your field of view.