Behind the Shot - How To Take A Selfie With A Meteor

August 14, 2015  •  7 Comments

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.

IMG_0003IMG_0003Back of Camera Preview Standing In AweStanding In AweFinal Edited Version

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.

Gear

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.

Tips for Capturing Meteors

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. 

  • Find a subject that is interesting to you. 
  • Make sure you are able to focus on the subject and the stars
  • Scoot back away from your subject to help accomplish acceptable focus of subject and stars. 
  • Use a longer lens. I know this seems counter-intuitive, but with a longer lens (35mm on a full frame is near perfect) the meteors will appears larger and more spectacular in frame, than say, a 14mm lens.) 
  • Use a remote shutter release that has a locking button so you can take sequential photos until the battery dies or the memory card fills. 
  • Watch the sky for meteors that may have entered your frame, and check your camera afterward if you plan on working with different compositions. 
  • Once you have your shot with a big meteor, move on to your next composition.
  • Consider renting a second camera and piggyback your exposures so you can always be shooting even if you are setting up the other camera.
  • Enjoy and be patient. Let the meteors come to you. 

The Results

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!

This image is available for print purchase in a variety of sizes and formats. Click here to purchase. Please contact me if you are interested in a commercial license.

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.

Standing In Awe - The Other AngleStanding In Awe - The Other Angle 4 Meteors4 Meteors Morro Bay MeteorMorro Bay Meteor

Perseid WindmillPerseid Windmill Meteor DuelMeteor Duel IMG_9335IMG_9335


Comments

Brady(non-registered)
Thank you so much for taking a look Myra!
Myra Hencher(non-registered)
Wow! Incredible photos in incredible places. Thanks for sharing your info and the time lapse sets.
Brady Cabe(non-registered)
Hello Don,

That sounds about right, but as long as the camera isn't actively buffering, it just keeps shooting with no noticeable gap in time - just click-click. Interested in hear more about your device sometime or seeing it in person - sounds neat! Thanks for taking the time to read through.
Brady Cabe Photographer Central California photography
Thank you so much for taking a look Mike!
Mike McGee(non-registered)
Estero Bay, Cayucos Pier and Morro Rock. You have captured one of my favorite spots in beautiful starlight. Well done and a great article too.
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