Stars and Meteors

  • December 13, 2012 · 9:00 PM
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I'm going to try and head up to Brasstown Bald on Thursday Dec 13 so that I can capture some startrails, Milky Way, and meteor shots. That date coincides with the high point of the Geminid meteor shower and new moon. The only major sticky point will be the weather.  For those of you unable to make it on Thursday, you're welcome to try it on Friday or Saturday night.  The number of meteors will be much less.  The radiant point of the meteors will be coming out of the east.

I'm going to be prepared to stay up there all night since the best viewing times will be the early morning hours.  I'll setup at least one camera to shoot startrails and another to shoot meteors coming out of the Gemini constellation.

No doubt it will be cold up there in December so come prepared.  Brasstown Bald is a national forest location and they do charge an entrance fee even when someone is not there to collect.  I think the fee is $4 but we'll check before we head up there.

Click here to access my document on how to shoot startrails and the Milky Way.  The document will explain the settings and equipment needed.  Click here to see any of my previous images shot up at Brasstown Bald.  Click EarthSky.Org for the meteor shower guide for 2012.

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  • Carl F.

    Rachel, I just ran across this image of multiple cameras capturing the entire sky. http://www.robertreeves.com/cluster.htm

    December 17, 2012

    • Richard

      Ok, that's a little more high tech than the plans I saw. The ones I saw involved regulating the temperature by the number of wire coils in the circuit. So in effect you'd be using the PWM as kind of a DC to DC regulator.

      December 17, 2012

    • Carl F.

      Cecil, I'd be interested in seeing it when you're done. In the mean time, I was thinking of two other options: 1) using a therapy back warmer pad; 2) battery operated heated socks or scarves. Given the few times, I plan to do this, I think I'd opt for the back warmers.

      December 17, 2012

  • Barb D.

    Hey Carl and all. I'm sorry I didn't find you guys Thursday night. I got up there late and didn't want to go hunting around the parking lot with my headlights on, so I just parked and started shooting. My photos were ok, not great, I had a little trouble with the fogging too but hadn't a chance to get warmers, so expected as much. It was a bit brisk for my liking, but seeing and shooting the meteors (first time for both) was definately worth the trip. Wish I hadn't had to work Frday morning so that I could have spent the night. Thanks for organizing Carl and all the information you gave us to help us prepare. Sorry again that I didn't find you all. Next time I need to attend an event in the daytime so I can meet some of you.

    December 16, 2012

    • Carl F.

      I understand Barb. You could've just walked around and asked. That was how we met up with Rachel and Kathy Gavin.

      December 16, 2012

  • Cecil C.

    It was great to finally meet you Carl. Was it worth 8 hours in 20ish degree weather and going to work today with only a few hours of sleep? Absolutely! That was the best meteor shower I have ever seen and I even saw a long super bright on going south on 400 around 3am.
    Here's one of my better star trails from the night.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/cclontz/8273246018/

    December 14, 2012

    • Carl F.

      Like wise Cecil. Glad we got to spend a few cold hours talking about photography.

      December 14, 2012

    • Kathy G.

      Hi Guys, I enjoyed meeting you at the shoot last night. I thoroughly enjoyed it and hated to leave at 2:30 a.m. but I had seen absolutely spectacular sights all night. I, too, saw some meteors on the way home. Thanks for getting everyone together. I'm very glad I made it.

      December 14, 2012

  • wendell u.

    Thanks Carl, I enjoyed the evening, next time I will heed your advise.Thanks for arranging the Event.

    December 14, 2012

    • Carl F.

      Thanks Wendell. We live and learn all the time.

      December 14, 2012

  • Emory M.

    Carl, I had a great time learning and meeting friends. I have a question. I had a lot of trouble with the lens frosting up. I left the camera and all out in the cold to prevert the lens fogging up. I used the hand heat packs on the lens when not in use. But the lens would mist over requiring me to wipe it after each picture. It worked for the 30sec shot. But within 60-90 seconds, the lens would be wet causing halows in the picture and require wiping again. So I didn't get any pictures with long exposure. Suggestions for next time?

    December 14, 2012

    • Emory M.

      So you had no condensation using the warmers?

      December 14, 2012

    • Carl F.

      Like Richard, mine worked for a little while and then I noticed the same thing that they would start to mist up. I'll need to research what others do.

      December 14, 2012

  • Carl F.

    Probably the clearest skies I've seen up there when shooting the stars. Plenty of meteors. The tough part was catching them in your frame of view. Very cold up there. Frost on the cars and even on my sleeping bag. It was nice seeing some new faces and sharing the evening with them.

    1 · December 14, 2012

  • Carl F.

    On my way. Be there around 5.

    December 13, 2012

    • victor

      I'm heading up late. Hope to find ya'll.

      December 13, 2012

    • Richard

      Be there in 15

      December 13, 2012

  • Carl F.

    I hope everyone is getting warmed up for tomorrow. Weather looks to be great, http://www.intellicast.com/Local/Weather.aspx?location=USGA0636. As of right now, I'm not sure what time I'll get there. The meteor shower will be coming out of the east.

    Remember to get your camera batteries fully charged tonight. Make sure you've got your camera(s) (don't laugh, it happened a couple years ago), tripod(s), cable release(s), food & drink, lounging chair, sleeping bag, flashlight (with red gel) and warm clothes (hat & gloves). Checmical hand warmers not only for your hands but also to place on your camera lens in order to keep dew from forming.

    Because we're shooting at night, you'll have to manually focus. If you have a Live View camera this is pretty easy to do. In LV, point to a bright star and use the magnification feature to set your focus. If you don't havenot and you're using a lens with the infinity symbol, you can get pretty close.

    December 12, 2012

    • Richard

      Cool. Thanks!

      December 12, 2012

    • Richard

      Almost forgot my batteries!

      December 13, 2012

  • Richard

    Does anyone have a spare tripod? A friend is going to lend me his Canon for a second setup Thursday night.

    December 10, 2012

    • Kathy G.

      I'd like to use one of your tripods if possible.

      December 12, 2012

    • Carl F.

      Now I just have to remember to put them in the car before leaving. They're definitely old school but should do the job.

      December 13, 2012

  • Richard

    Was able to round up a Sigma 4.5mm f2.8 lens. Going to give it a whirl for some star trails.

    December 13, 2012

    • Carl F.

      That should be interesting to see.

      December 13, 2012

  • Kathy G.

    I am new to the group but am interested in joining your group for the 12/13 meteor shower event. Please let me know if anyone is carpooling (I don't mind driving). Also, what time should I arrive? Are you staying all night? Please pass along any info you think I should need. Looking forward to meeting everyone.
    Kathy

    December 12, 2012

    • Carl F.

      I've thought that they were about the same. Someone else may think differently.

      December 12, 2012

    • victor

      most of the articles I see say that the best viewing will around 0200..

      December 12, 2012

  • wendell u.

    Thanks Carl, I look forward to good fellowship and a great night of star trails and meteors.

    1 · December 12, 2012

  • Carl F.

    Glad to see my friend Wendell from Highlands, NC is coming out with us.

    December 12, 2012

  • Russell

    Is anyone looking to carpool?

    December 12, 2012

  • Richard

    I'm going to try to make it up around 4:30pm to get some sunset photos and then maybe some shuteye for a couple of hours....

    December 10, 2012

  • Carl F.

    The weather is looking to be optimal for Thursday. Cloud coverage is forecasted to be 0%. http://www.intellicast.com/Local/Weather.aspx?location=USGA0636

    December 10, 2012

  • Ken "Max" P.

    I have an 8-16mm rectangular fisheye. Would it be wise to shoot star trails with this lens or should I use a slightly longer focal length such as an[masked]mm?

    December 1, 2012

    • Carl F.

      Probably bring both. You could test the fisheye first, maybe for 20 min or so. Then switch to the other lens. Of course, you could do both at the same time if you've got 2 bodies and 2 tripods.

      December 2, 2012

    • Ken "Max" P.

      Yep, there are two Canon 7Ds and two tripods... and let's not forget a shutter release cable with lock.

      December 10, 2012

  • Richard

    Does anyone know if AT&T has coverage up there? I would like to upload some pictures from my pc while we are there.

    December 9, 2012

    • Carl F.

      They do but very spotty. I usually tell everyone to turn off their phones until you need to use it. The battery usually gets run down when it constantly tries to find a network.

      December 9, 2012

    • Richard

      Thanks. Planning to upload a few photos during some interval photography.

      December 9, 2012

  • Carl F.

    Extended weather forecast is calling for Sunny skies Wed and partly cloudy Thu & Fri. It's looking better.

    1 · December 7, 2012

  • Carl F.

    Just a quick weather update. The long range forecast doesn't look very favorable. Keep checking back.

    December 5, 2012

  • Richard

    Will a Manfrotto[masked]D Head work OK or would a ball head be better?

    December 1, 2012

    • Carl F.

      Richard, I don't think it really matters. I like my ball heads because of the quickness to lock in a composition. Just my preference. A heavier tripod would be my only consideration.

      December 1, 2012

  • Carl F.

    Something to think about while you're out shopping around, look for some of the chemical hand warmers. Not only are they good for keeping your hands warm but also help tremendously when placed on your lens at night. As the temperature drops at night, the air's relative humidity will start to get heavy, thus creating dew. This not a good thing when you're trying to take long exposure images. The hand warmers come in packs of 2 and you can simply wrap them around the lens barrel of your camera with a rubber band. In the past, I'll set up my camera and let it run for a while then just lay a couple of the warmers on the lens.

    November 30, 2012

  • Carl F.

    I ran across this article and thought I'd share it with everyone. It helps to explain some of the basics of night sky photography. http://digital-photography-school.com/the-night-sky-in-landscape-photography

    November 30, 2012

    • A former member
      A former member

      Thank you ~ that is good information.

      November 30, 2012

  • Emory M.

    I am hoping my Son-In-Law can join me. Do I need to register for him also?

    November 26, 2012

    • Carl F.

      Not really but it gives me a better sense of how many people will be there. Just change your RSVP to +1.

      November 27, 2012

  • Richard

    I just bought a Nikon D5100. Will the 18-55 lens suffice?

    November 24, 2012

    • Carl F.

      AF doesn't help. You'll need to put the lens in manual focusing mode. The 18-55 would be better given the extra width you'll get to capture the sky. Now if you have a second body and extra tridpod, you could setup a second camera with that 35mm. I don't know if the the D5100 is an cropped sensor or not, probably is. That would mean that your focal length will be x 1.5, 35mm=52mm and 18-55mm will be 27-82mm.

      November 24, 2012

    • Richard

      Yep, it is cropped. I may also bring my old Maxxum 7000 and see what I can get on film. Looking forward to it.

      November 24, 2012

  • Ken "Max" P.

    This has to be my weakest form of photography, The last time I shot star trails was back in the early 70's, when Saturn and Jupiter were in close proximity. I'll have to do some research.

    November 12, 2012

    • Carl F.

      Ken, it's an area of photography that a lot of people are starting to get into, especially shots of the Milky Way. Just a few years ago, our cameras weren't capable of taking such a high ISO shot due to the amount of noise. With the new sensors and noise reduction software, those shots are available to anyone with a newer DSLR. Just do a search in Flickr on Milky Way and you'll see.

      November 13, 2012

  • Danny

    Hey, Carl, I tried to the 'document' you mentioned above, but it appears to be some sort of executable file. (windows)

    Could you please post an actual document, if you have it? Thanks!

    November 12, 2012

    • Carl F.

      Fixed.

      November 12, 2012

    • Danny

      Awesome! Thanks!

      November 12, 2012

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