August Meteors
We got excited when we heard the Perseid meteor shower was supposed to be good this year. In addition to making plans to be at a favorable viewing spot the morning the meteor shower would be at its peak, I wanted to be prepared to take some pictures. It had been over two years since I’d taken any meteor pictures, and I’d learned a few more “do’s and don’ts” about photography since then. Cliff went with me to Cove Lake the evening of August 8 to try out some new camera settings.
As we approached the boat launch, the headlights shone on a huge bullfrog hanging out underneath a streetlight. Cliff got out and tried to sneak up on it but the frog leaped away when Cliff made his move.
We found a flat, grassy spot nearby and I set up the camera. I was a bit ticked because a gas well tower loaded with bright lights had been erected in the mountains beyond the lake, and was in the general direction I had wanted to point the camera.
Cliff saw quite a few meteors, but then he got bored during a slow spell. I loaned him my flashlight and he headed off to try and catch that frog.
None of my pictures turned out any good; they all had too much “noise” in them. I didn’t capture any meteors either. One of my test shots (above) was a bit interesting though. I was using a multiple-exposure technique that was making star trails. There was a lapse between exposures that resulted in a gap in the star trails.
Next we made the short drive up to Mount Magazine to check out another viewing location, and Cove Lake was immediately disqualified. Up on the mountain the air was much cooler and the sky was surprisingly clear. The Milky Way in the south was brighter than I’d ever seen it.
I got up at an insanely early time the following Saturday morning and drove back up to Mount Magazine and try a new batch of camera settings. My “new” camera - a Canon Digital Rebel XTi - did not support the fancy remote timer I’d used with my previous rig, so I had to manually start and stop each long exposure. I used my iPod as a stopwatch.
I tried two different types of pictures - long exposures that yielded star trails, and exposures so short that the stars would appear as “points” like we normally see them. I didn’t see very many meteors, but I managed to catch one with the camera... that picture is at the top of this page. On the drive back I pulled off the highway in the river bottoms just outside Roseville. I guessed correctly that the thick summer haze would make for a spectacular sunrise.
Monday morning, August 13 , I got the boys up and we made the drive down to our viewing spot for the Perseid meteor shower, and we weren’t disappointed. I spread out a couple of sleeping bags and pillows in the back of the truck for the boys, and while I tried to take pictures a short distance away, the boys let out a yell every time they saw a meteor, which was over 60 times.
I blew it big time with the picture taking! I neglected to check my camera’s aperture, and during the height of the meteor shower I took a bunch of totally black pictures. Then when I switched to short star “point” pictures I had a run of bad luck and it seems like the shooting stars waited until the camera was between exposures to streak across the sky. Even before there was a hint of twilight, I had to start reducing my exposures times as the sky grew lighter. I kept on shooting, hoping to catch a big one, but I came up empty. I didn’t photograph a single shooting star.
I pulled off in the bottoms so the boys could see the sun come up. Cliff squawked about it because we had a bet going over whether or not Stacey would call the cell phone to check up on us (if we made it home before she called, he’d win). We hadn’t been stopped half a minute and the top of the sun appeared above the distant horizon as if on cue.