Meteor shower nightscape photography tips

The night sky is very beautiful here in Sedona, Arizona. I look for almost any excuse these days to point my cameras skyward. The last “excuse” was the Geminids on December 13th. Here is the story of taking and processing this image.

how do you know?

How did you learn about astronomical events? The best information I find in the sky for photography is through the APP Photopills. It lists all meteor showers and the expected number of hits, also known as the best time to shoot. It also tells you where most showers originate from. Add to that a Night AR view where you can overlay night sky events over your scene and you have an amazing mapping tool. This is not a Photopills tutorial but let me tell you that it will be the best 10 bucks and ninety-nine cents you can spend on a tip for photographing the night sky!

Red rocks and snow prep Sedona for photos of the meteor shower
The primary image is directly from the camera. Note the aircraft tracks on the left.


I couldn’t get where I wanted to go because of the ice and wet muddy trails. These images were taken from the parking lot view of Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte in Sedona at the Bell Rock Pathway Trailhead. I set up two cameras, both Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III. The lenses were a 7-14mm f/2.8 M. Zukio Pro and an 8mm fisheye f/1.8 Pro M. Zukio. I will share more about archery equipment and setting it up in another article.

camera settings

The cameras are set to 20 seconds at ISO 6400 with 1 second between exposures. When setting up your timings, make sure all of your settings are correct. I couldn’t figure out why one of my cameras didn’t fire immediately after the previous exposure. The interval was accidentally set to 1 minute 1 second between exposures. You may have lost forty-five minutes of frames due to this error.

Manual exposure with consistent white balance is important. Check your histogram with a test shot to make sure you’re not underexposing the scene. If you’re too underexposed, which is easy, you’ll get a lot of noise as you try to open up the shadows.

A great feature of the Olympus camera is the Starry Autofocus. In this mode when the camera indicates that it is in focus, you don’t have to worry about your stars being in focus. This has always been a problem. He used to hate coming home from night photography and being a little out of focus!

Any automatic settings that allow the camera to make decisions can result in changes that will appear as blinking if you decide to convert the frame sequence to a time-lapse. More on that in another article.

Post production

You have selected all frames. Opened in Adobe Camera RAW and made general adjustments. I went to the “Masks” area of ​​the ACR and enhanced the Milky Way that was arcing over the scene and also used Linear Gradients to adjust the sky and foreground separately.

Meteor Palette Photoshop Layers
Layers panel before adjusting the fisheye curvature. Base layer plus three layers with meteorites masks and to remove the effects of jet light. Adjustment layers to modify the final tone and color.

Back in Adobe Bridge, select the images containing the meteorites. Not a handful in this case but the story works. I opened my main photo and the meteor photo. Align the background with the images of the meteor and the masks used to allow the meteors to appear.

Added some adjustment layers with masks for color correction and tones. It almost ends.

Gemini meteorite falls over the red rocks of Sedona, Arizona
Final image after using Photoshop’s Transform Tool in Warp Mode to straighten the fish-eye effect.

Since this set of images was created with a fisheye lens, I used the Transform Tool to straighten the horizon.

Now it’s over.

Yours in Creative Photography, Bob