Missing the Perseids

Missing the Perseids

I missed the peak of the Perseids because I live in western Pennsylvania where we apparently have a cloud generator hidden away in the hills. Actually, this time around, it was storming. I decided to try my hand at taking some shots of lightning — Something I had never done before, but I figured I know my camera and my settings well enough to give it a shot. I always say there’s no magic setting that just works, and there’s a fair amount of trial and error in everything. However, with lightning, there’s also a bit of luck to it. It happens so fast that you wonder, "was the shutter open for that or did I miss it?"

Turns out that, out of 2073 images taken, six had lightning and five were usable. My mistake was using my intervalometer instead of using a lockable remote and letting the camera operate at its maximum frame rate, which is advertised at five frames per second. I was shooting ¼ second exposures, so I would have only gotten four frames per second. However, with my intervalometer, the minimum interval is one second. So, I wasted a full second between every ¼ second exposure. It was a positive experience, though. Even though the site is themed towards astrophotography, I may incorporate some of the weather-related stuff because we all need something to do when the skies aren’t clear.

 "Wrath of God"

The lightning put on an incredible show. There was one particular bolt that was so bright it left me feeling like I had been staring at the sun. The thunder crack that followed was so loud that I could feel the vibration through the concrete slab of my front porch where I was sitting. As luck would have it, I managed to capture that flash, but it was so bright that I was mostly all washed out. I decided to call this particular image “Wrath of God” because of the sheer power of the thunder, and the lightning looks as if the heavens opened up and just unleashed unbelievable power. This particular bolt and the accompanying thunder were so awesome, I would not have been surprised to see Thor himself standing wherever it may have stuck.

 "Wrath of God" by Brian Merkel

Having missed the peak of the Perseids, I had hoped that maybe the weekend would bring clear skies and let me capture some stragglers. Saturday night was looking promising, and I already had plans to visit my girlfriend up in the Allegheny National Forest area, which has far better skies than I get in my backyard.

Upon returning to the house after our Saturday night plans, I noticed a few meteors passing over. I quickly set up my camera and called her to come out to see the remnants of the show that we had missed days earlier. I captured 670 four-second exposures and turned them into a time lapse. I did manage to capture a few meteors.



I then decided that I would stack the images into a star trail picture. I’ve always done star trails by setting to the lowest ISO and leaving the shutter open for however long I wanted to do trails for, 10 minutes being the longest I had tried in my Trails around Polaris image. This time, I used Sequator to do the stacking because it offers an option to create a trail image instead of lining up the stars. I did not use any calibration frames. I just used the 670 images and stacked them just to see the result. I left the power lines in the frame just to show that it was a static camera angle. I think Sequator did a nice job. I will test it out more in the future and give a full write up when I have more experience with the program.