Frozen Lenses, Beer Slushies and a Meteor Show I’ll Never Forget
When the peak of the Geminid Meteor Shower coincides with a new moon and absolutely clear skies, it’s worth making the effort to at least get out and see them even if it does fall on the coldest night of the year. But I also wanted to photograph them, so I recruited a friend, Anna of AKG Inspiration to attempt it with me. Anna is a great photographer, and we’ve been talking a lot about wanting to try more night photography. She invited a friend and fellow photographer Nicole, and the three of us set up in a wide open field near my house.
I was using a wide angle lens I borrowed from a friend, but beyond that my preparation consisted of making sure I had some Sam Adams Winter Lager on hand. I didn’t know what I was doing. I tried a lot of different settings, but always came back to about the same configuration: 400 ISO, 2.8 f-stop (wide open for this lens), and between 20 and 30 second exposures.
Over the course of three or four hours, this shower produced hundreds of meteors in all areas of the sky, ranging from very faint, fleeting streaks to extremely bright fireballs that spanned huge swaths of the night sky. But because they were all around us, it was difficult to capture them with the camera! Some of the ones I did catch were much brighter than they showed on the image, it was hard to balance the ISO sensitivity with the exposure time, and I’m still not sure what the best formula is.
While I was dressed very warmly (and never even broke out the hand warmers), it was so cold that my beer was freezing faster than I could drink it. And, um, I can drink fast. And toward the end, the cameras, tripods and lenses became covered with frost — that is ultimately why we had to pack it up still hours before the predicted ‘peak’ of the shower.
But on a night like that, even with a great celestial show going on, the key ingredient was to have friends there. It would have been too easy to half-ass it. But planning it with someone else forced me to dress for the long haul, to move to a wide open location to shoot, to really put in the effort to try to capture these little grains of space dust burning up in our atmosphere. And while one good thing to come out of it is the special image at the top of this post, the true reward was to have put myself in a position to stare at the sky in these perfect conditions for hours, and to be treated to the most amazing meteor show I’ve ever seen. I saw more meteors last night than I have my entire life combined, and I’ll never forget it.