What the heck was I doing out in the middle of the night, around 3:00 am (EST) this morning, in 30* F temperatures, at our local park? Why, trying to shoot the #Geminid #MeteorShower, of course. Let’s just say, it was a good learning experience!
I live in the Philly suburbs where there is a lot of light pollution. I thought I’d go to our local park, where it was darker, but realized I probably needed police permission to do that. So, my husband, Ashton, and I did a re-con stop there last night, and I actually started to see the meteors. Soon, as I had anticipated, a police officer stopped by, to check what we were up to. He was probably surprised when I told him that I was hoping he’d stop by! We spoke a bit, he had seen one of the meteors already, and called in, and I got official police permission to be at the park. Even though I live in a very safe area I was also relieved to hear they would be patrolling the park, since I would be going back alone. Soon, another car full of meteor spectators showed up! It may have turned out to be a busier night for the police, than they had anticipated!
I went back home and organized my gear in my Tamrac backpack: Nikon D90, 18-70mm lens, remote cord, extra cards, extra battery. In addition, I always carry ‘safety’ gear, especially in the winter (like an emergency space blanket–don’t laugh)! Then, I waited for a couple of hours and prepared myself. It was 30 *F outside so I bundled up & looked like the Michelin woman. I made myself some hot tea, as I knew I would be out there for a while. I also brought a headlamp, my reading glasses (without which I would be lost), and cell phone (which goes without saying).
I drove to the park and realized I was going to be the only one crazy enough to be out there! I set up my tripod, camera, remote, started testing, and…nothing! Nada! Zilch! My camera was…frozen! I kept getting an error message which I did not understand, because I had not brought my manual with me. Maybe it was just cold. I was cold. My breath was visible and the tips of my fingers were getting numb. I started to think this was crazy! What to do? I basically re-booted. I changed the battery, the memory card, warmed it up, and asked the camera to be nice to me, tried again, and it worked! I had all of my settings on manual, including the focus which I switched to infinity, and I basically left it on f/8, ISO 400, and tried various times using the bulb function with the remote cord.
While, I saw various amazing meteors, capturing them was a different story. I’ve photographed the night sky before, but have not attempted to photograph a meteor shower. I now realize the challenges posed trying to photograph a high speed object, moving across the sky, possibly coming from any direction. In addition, I still had the problem of too much light pollution, which I could do nothing about.
Here’s what I learned:
1. Get out there and photograph the night sky more often, so that I am more familiar with the settings I will need to use, and the night sky itself.
2. It was the correct thing to do, to get permission from the police, before going to the park. They did indeed, check on me twice while I was there.
3. Do more research about the meteor shower before going out to shoot it.
4. Go to Colorado when there’s a meteor shower on the way!
5. I need a second camera!!
So, I’m glad I did go out there and attempt to shoot the meteor shower. Even though, I was unsuccessful, it was a good practice run for next year!