How to catch a shooting star

To catch a shooting star with your camera, you need one thing more than anything else -apart from a camera of course- you need patience.

This image was shot on August 13th 2015 at 0:22am. The peak of Perseids was forecasted for August 13th, but during a daytime with too much light to see them. So the night into August 13th was the best chance to observe the phenomena as well. At that time I lived on the countryside of Saxony-Anhalt, close to the border to Thuringia, so I naturally had a good position without too many distracting lights.

I have no special equipment to do something like this, I used a (fairly old) Canon 50D and my favourite wide angle lens (Canon EF 10-22mm) for it. A wide angle lens completely makes sense for this endeavour, because you can cover the whole sky and not just a small part, while maybe in another part something is happening. The lens was set to 10mm. I used a very high ISO setting here (3500), which required some post processing work on the image, to reduce the resulting noise. I always shoot .raw-files, because I feel that any post-processing on a jpg is like beating a dead horse. A good image should not require much post-processing at all, but having the option sometimes adds a little extra to make the image even more special.

(Speaking about .raw-files, I want to add a little sidenote. If you are learning to become a photographer, or a better photographer, use this option! You might sigh about the thought of post-processing if you have never done this before, but if you seriously want to take good pictures, you will turn to .raw-files sooner or later anyway. And you will find yourself angry, when you realise that years of photography have passed by and you’re stuck with a ton of .jpg-files from those days. Most digital cameras have the option to do both, so if you’re not ready for .raw, consider to archive the files anyway. I will write more about this in another post some time.)

But back to the camera settings. As the ISO setting was still not enough to get a decent picture in a fairly dark environment, I had to open my shutter much more than I intended to. Usually I would recommend to use the highest value possible in this case, but I had to use the smallest (3,5 on this lens) to make this work with the equipment I had. I switched off the autofocus of the lens and focussed manually, attached a remote-control release to the camera and mounted it on a tripod. I used the remote to avoid shaking the camera during the process of bulb exposure. Bulb exposure, because the secret to catch a falling star with your camera is, to push the trigger before it happens. Also, it gives you the option to end the exposure at any given time you see fit. Because if you catch one shooting star really well, it is wise to end the exposure shortly after, or you end up “overwriting” the phenomena with an image of the normal sky.

One more problem are airplanes. It is hard to find a place where non passes, in most locations they will ruin a larger percentage of your images. Alltogether it took me about two and a half hour to get the shot I wanted. I used an exposure time of 33 seconds. The shooting star I caught was much more intense than a lot of others, actually there is more than one pictured in this image, but the other one is not visible at first sight. As you can see, the night was not completely clear, but had a few small clouds coming up. I went home feeling quite lucky nevertheless. If you are going to try this yourself, I wish you good luck… and a lot of patience.

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This image is available in the Ateliershop. Like most of my images it is limited to 23 copies and you can choose between two different photo papers, a silk matte paper and a metallic photo paper. Personally, I prefer the later one for this shot. Just click on the image to go directly to the offer.

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