Aug 13

Knowing the Perseid meteor shower was peaking this weekend, I have been thinking about trying to use my “new” camera to try to capture some of it.  I had purchased an inexpensive intervelometer, which is a timer that allows you to set up timed exposures and can control repeated shots, it literally is a interval controller with an exposure timer built in as well as a long duration timer.  I had one that would work on the T6i and T3i, but not one that would work on the 6D and 5D III, so it was a toy I just had to have… LOL

Last night, I decided it was the best “shot” I would have, pun intended.  The clouds had cleared very nicely, it feels like we have been having intermittent and heavy clouds for weeks, so the clearing trend the last few days has been very welcome.  And the moon was not supposed to rise until around midnight, which meant after 11 would be prime time for catching some meteors.

Mama Bear had to shoot an event in the morning, so she wasn’t up to going with me since I would be out late and we had a full day planned for today, so she needed to recuperate and prep for today.

As the sun was setting I headed off, seeking a reasonably close, but still somewhat dark sky area, not an easy challenge in our part of Ohio.  I had been doing some research using the dark sky map from Dark Site Finder (http://darksitefinder.com/), and while I could have gotten into better darkness with a little more driving, I settled on going to the Caesars Creek park area.  There was a camp out planned in the park for the Perseid’s, and it is only around 35 minutes away.

I initially thought about trying to shoot from near the marina in the park, thinking if I could get out by the lake I could shoot over the lake and use two camera’s to shoot both the meteor shower, and do some playing with light and reflections from the lake.  Unfortunately the marina area was well lit, and in high use as other people apparently decided watching the meteor shower and partying on boats was a good idea.  I don’t fault their thinking, it could have been fun, but for me shooting with all the lights and distractions wasn’t going to be good for me…

After circling the marina I decided to head off to some of the overflow camping areas.  I don’t know what the total attendance in the park might have been last night, but I can tell you that the park was packed.  The area I was in had to have at least 350-400 cars, trucks and RVs, parked along the roads and among the tents and trailers set up everywhere, as well as vehicles streaming in and out.  I found a curve behind some trees that hid me from the main entrance, trying to hide in the shadows from all the cars and trucks that flowed in and out of the camping area the entire evening, but still afforded me a view of the North-North East sky.

I want to make a side comment here about astronomical events and people’s behavior.  There were a lot of people there, who like me were looking to enjoy the meteor shower, whether to take pictures or just lay on the ground and watch the streaks of light burning across the heavens.  But there were also a lot of people who apparently had no concept of “light” pollution or “light” politeness… not to mention just general politeness in some cases.  There were people who were flashing lights all round, with not care that they were highlighting other people like me who were going about their own business.  I even saw numerous people using strobes, and I can tell you that getting hit with a strobe light at 11:30 at night in a “dark” area really sucks, not to mention destroys timed exposures on a camera.  There were stereos that were blaring, people watching movies (if you can believe someone would go to an astronomical event and then sit and stare at a TV screen), I saw people in cars that actually turned their high beams on in their car as they were pointing at me (and other people), apparently to see what I was doing…

I actually had one couple pull up into the grass right in front of me pointing their minivan right at me with the high beams on, then sit for a minute or two, back out and turn to park pointing slightly away from me, but left their lights on for another 5 minutes while they got out and opened various doors getting blankets and what not out.  I actually heard someone ask them as they left their car if they didn’t forget to turn out their lights, but they ignored them and wondered off.  Fortunately their lights shut off automatically after another minute or two, but I think a couple other people had the same thought I had, it was a good thing I didn’t have a hammer handy or I might have turned them off for them after they had left.

That is definitely not to say everyone was being bad neighbors, so to speak.  I had one couple that stopped by as they were walking on the road.  They were curious about my photographing the sky and I had a great time talking to them and even teaching them a little, as they were not really sure how and when to “see” the meteor shower or how someone could photograph it.  I’m not an expert, but I do like to teach people, learning new things is always a good thing, and I have found that I enjoy being an educator.

There were people who turned their headlights off and drove slowly through using only marker lights or driving/fog lights that were less illuminating, or walked through the area using hooded flashlights, or at least kept their flashlights pointed down.  I appreciated those people thought about where they were and what everyone around them was doing.

OK, enough soapbox.

The bottom line, I did not get a single picture of a meteor…  I’m OK with that.  I saw 5 or 6, but I was learning and that meant that I was not expecting to have a wealth of front page shots.  I am a little disappointing I didn’t get one on camera, but I enjoyed the experience and I did get to see some.

That being said I did get some cool shots of the sky, and even just a half hour away from home the quality of the night sky was an amazingly better, although not as good as I used to get in Wyoming, and I learned a lot, as well as took some lessons home for the next time.

Wide open sky

Wide open sky

One thing I did capture that I had hoped to, was the galactic plane of our Milky Way galaxy.  It is faint in this picture, but definitely recognizable.

The Milky Way

The Milky Way

Around midnight the moon came over the horizon.  While it was almost 90 degrees off the source area for the meteors and was not full, it was still enough to start washing out some of them I figured, so I decided it was time to start packing up and heading for home.  The moon was quite beautiful rising, one of the lessons learned was that I need to bring more lenses with me.  I didn’t have a long lens with me because I had only been thinking about the meteors, so the moon was not very impressive when shot with a 50mm lens in the wide open sky.

Moon rise

Moon rise

But when I got home I decided it was definitely worth a few minutes to grab the 70-200mm with the 2X extender and set up out front for a quick series of shots.

The moon on the eve of the Perseid's

The moon on the eve of the Perseid’s

I was considering going again tonight, hoping the crowds would be much less given tomorrow is a work day, but the clouds returned this evening and I don’t really think it would be a good trip.  But we have a few days left of the meteor show and the moon should continue to be less of an influence, so maybe next weekend I can try for one more shoot of the Perseid’s, if not then maybe for a better shot of the Milky Way, and there are always things to see if the sky is clear. 🙂

Categories: Astronomy ,photography ,weather


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