Tue. Sep 29th, 2020

How to photograph August’s Perseids meteor shower

The Perseids meteor shower peak is just around the corner! Grab your camera, follow these guidelines from professional photographers and snap away!

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This year, despite failing miserably on several fronts, is still a skywatcher’s dream. From meteor showers to lunar and solar events, 2020 has it all. If you want to capture the moment, allow these experts to guide you.

Meteor shower and night-time photography

Dark skies, brilliant photos

Jordi Lippe-McGraw from Forbes interviewed Dakota Snider, a professional photographer from Mammoth Lakes Tourism in the United States. Snider shared a few tips and tricks for making the best of your night-time photography.

Snider said that clear and dark skies are preferred for night-time photography, saying that you’d want the sky to be as dark as possible. Well, if you’d want to view the meteor shower, you need a dark spot anyway.

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Image via Adobe Stock

Snider also suggests opting for manual focus instead of autofocus to take your night-time photography to the next level. He explains why:

“Due to the sky’s surroundings being dark with autofocus, you won’t be able to find a reference point, which blurs the focus. Using your manual focus, when you’ve found your bright spot in the sky, zoom and start adjusting the focus ring until the spot becomes sharp.”

Invest in a tripod

In addition to waiting for the optimal time and circumstance, Snider also suggests investing in a tripod as it allows one to slow down the shutter speed and dail down the ISO to minimise noise.

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Image via Adobe Stock

He explains that the quality of your night photography will depend on your shutter because the camera sensor will be “exposed to as much light as possible”. When the shutter is open, you’d preferably want to eliminate any movement.

If you don’t use a tripod and the camera moves, you could end up with a blurry photo. Snider says that “even the wind can cause an image to blur” if you’re not stabilising your camera properly.

This is especially important if you’re photographing meteor showers. Why not try out your hand at astrophotography Wednesday evening, 12 August, when the Perseid meteor shower peaks?

Watch: Astrophotography guidelines

Another professional photographer, Dave Morrow, shared a list of the minimum equipment requirements for night-time and astrophotography, and echoes what Snider said about using a tripod:

“For any type of night sky photography, a sturdy, well-built tripod is one of the most important pieces of equipment”.

Budget devices

Morrow’s suggestions, in order of importance for those on a budget, include a full-frame, or 35mm camera. Using a full-frame camera will help “to reduce the amount of noise in high ISO images”.

He suggests investing in a Nikon D810 or a Sony a7R II, but admits that the Nikon is his favourite. Morrow uses a D810 with a 14 to 24mm lens. He also recommends a f/2.8 minimum aperture.

“The smaller the number shown under the ‘f’, the wider the lens can open. This wide opening will allow your camera’s sensor to pick up as much light as possible in the shortest amount of time”.

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Image via OC Astronomy (www.ocastronomy.com)

Morrow’s full list of recommendations can be viewed here.

Snap the meteor shower with your phone

That said, you don’t necessarily need to invest in a fancy camera to get started with night-time and astrophotography. Snider says “the best camera that you own is the camera that is always with you”.

For many people, yours truly included, that would mean a smartphone camera. Thankfully, the latest iPhone and Android devices are equipped with camera technology that makes night-time photography possible.

Huawei’s P30 Pro and P40 Pro have taken photographing in low-light conditions to the next level. In fact, if you own one of these two devices, you’d be able to photograph the Moon. Here’s how.

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Image via Adobe Stock

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