Perseid Meteor Selfie - "Standing in Awe"
Behind the Shot
(As seen on PetaPixel)
With a little bit of patience and a whole lot of luck, I was able to capture this photograph of myself perched on a rock above the Pacific Ocean. When I set out to photograph the annual famed Perseids Meteor Shower in 2015, I had a specific goal of capturing a "selfie" photograph with myself in frame and hopefully a meteor streaking overhead, along with a variety of other images throughout the evening. My hope turned into reality in the wee hours of the peak morning.
Where to Look?
Capturing a meteor in frame requires a bit of luck, regardless of technical skill. Meteors will fall all across the sky at random during a shower, and there is no practical way to predict where exactly to point your camera or your eyes. Aiming for the constellation radiant, in this case Perseus, does not necessarily increase your chances of capturing a meteor, although your chances of witnessing one do increase once the constellation has breached your horizon.
Composing the Shot
Because of the erratic and unpredictable nature of the meteors, I decided to choose my camera configuration based solely on my desired composition. I'm a sucker for Milky Way photographs, so I decided to frame my shot with the Milky Way centered, and positioned my camera so this rock, and eventually myself, would be directly below the galactic core. I also setup a second camera with a wider angle lens off to the side to capture a second perspective.
Camera Settings and Method
I set my camera settings to ISO 6400, f/1.4, and chose a 15 second exposure time which is optimal for my Sigma 35mm Art lens on a full frame camera and minimizes unwanted star trails. Using a shutter release cable, I pressed the button, sliding it up to lock it into a continuous capture mode, and took my place on the rock. While I was on the rock, I did my best to hold still and struck a variety of poses, keeping my eyes on the heavens. Every time I saw a big meteor, I would hold that pose for as long as possible, to make sure both cameras had a chance to complete the current exposure before starting a new one.
With meteors, it is very easy to get distracted from the purpose of creating a meaningful image, and focus on the act of capturing a meteor. When starting out, we just want to capture one, and I totally get that. But this isn't Pokemon and you don't gotta catch 'em all - you just need a few awesome ones with an interesting composition to back it up. What separates a plain-old meteor photo from a great one is having compelling subject matter.
It took no more than 30 minutes after setting up, for this extremely bright meteor to streak across the sky. I knew immediately I had captured something special. My heart skipped a beat and I threw my hands up into the air. The exposure must have stopped just after I threw my hands up, because the photo shows my hands down, and if you were to zoom in you can see a faint silhouette of my hands in the air (like I just don't care.)
If you're interested in capturing photos of the night sky, check out my astrophotography workshops!
Time Lapse Compilation
Below is a short time lapse assembled from select images captured during the meteor shower. Enjoy!
Keep scrolling for more images from the same night.