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How to Take Stunning Photos of the Perseid Meteor Shower

Aug 12, 2016 05:46 AM EDT
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CCTV footage captures meteor flying over Canada

Tonight's Perseid meteor shower will make the night sky a visually stunning canopy of up to 200 shooting stars per hour.

The meteor shower is composed of the debris from comet Swift-Tuttle's tail as they burst into the Earth's atmosphere.

The meteor shower occurs annually, but this year's meteor shower will be special, as the meteors appear double the usual rate for the first time since 2009.

While it could be thrilling to witness the spectacle live, some would want to document the meteor display through photographs or videos.

Here are some tips on how to capture stunning photographs of the Perseid meteor shower.

1.    Get a good camera and/or lens.

 You could get a good quality DSLR camera, lenses and accessories at a reasonable cost these days. Some shops offer the basic equipment for meteor shower photography for about $1,000. Although there are some who prefer to splurge, spending a thousand dollars for a lens alone. According to the American Meteor Society, the camera lens is the "single most important investment" you have to make. A wide-angle camera lens is more suitable for meteor photography.

2.    If you can, get a tripod.

It could be difficult to keep a good hold of the camera while looking up at the night sky. So a good, sturdy tripod could be helpful.

3.    Find a location

Meteor photographers recommend looking for an observing site that is darker, away from light pollution. The Atlas of Night Sky Brightness could help you find a good location.

4.    Set the aperture

Recording meteors is all about the lens aperture. According to SkyAndTelescope.com, you need to use the widest aperture. An ideal range is f/2.0 to f/2.8. If you go above f/3.0, it could be difficult to catch the meteors.

5.    Set a comfortable ISO

According to PetaPixel, a good starting point is ISO 2000, f/2.8. A lower lens speed, f/1.8 for instance, could be better as this will allow you to shoot at a lower ISO.

6.    Set lens focus.

Turn off the camera's auto focus and set the lens focus to infinity. Some photographers adjust the lens focus early on and support them with duct tape to keep it in place while you move around.

7.    Camera position.

Meteor photographers at PetaPixel recommend facing from the Northwest to the Northeast.

8.    File format.

Photographers at SkyAndTelescope.com recommend using Raw file format so you can adjust the color balance than the automatic JPEG settings.

9.    Take several frames.

The more you take, the more chances you have of capturing a beautiful meteor photograph.

10. It's OK to go technical.

Consider the composition of your photos. Think foreground elements, such as trees or mountains. But remember to take in as much sky as possible.

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