Normally when shooting pictures at night I don’t go beyond 15 second exposures, since my camera has a wide lens and this works great with any ambient light. Last night I was driven to experiment. I found out that I need a better camera, and that there are situations where you shouldn’t use one.
Yesterday, mumbling monkey sent out a head’s up about the Leonids meteor shower. Last night was the only possible night for good shooting, starting near 12:45 am AST and lasting about 2 hours. I decided to try to catch them, as this year was supposed to be better than average. If conditions turned out too cloudy, I could always take night shots from the area.
I went west of Halifax, since the sky looked clearer there. When I reached Peggy’s Cove it was a bit too cloudy, so I shot pictures of the harbour, the lighthouse, etc. Then about 11:30 pm I looked up. The sky was blazing with stars above and to the northwest, and there was no moon. However, to the east, where the greatest activity was expected, there was too much sky glow from Halifax, and it was still cloudy. There was also some cloud directly to the north.
After 2 seconds of considered thought, I jumped into the car and drove west to Mahone Bay. I planned to check the sky there, and if it was clearer inland I’d scoot north about 20 km to get away from the coastal communities and their Christmas lights (yes, it has started already). Otherwise, I’d try the coast and hope that I could find a dark enough area along the coast. Near Chester, the odds looked pretty favourable inland.
Driving north for about 10 minutes got me to a side-road with a view to the east, and there was almost no light in sight. There was some cloud on the horizon, but I decided to chance it. It was mostly clear , cold but calm, and a car would pass every 5-10 minutes; good enough. I set up my tripod, aimed the camera, and acclimatised to the light.
Then I looked up. I could see the Milky Way, and the stars were so numerous it was hard to pick out the Big Dipper. I was eventually able to pick out Orion’s Belt and orient myself, but in order to find the Big Dipper, I needed a bit of light to reduce the sensitivity of my eyes. Some of the stars seemed in colour, and this was verified later in a photo I took.
For the next while I sat on the car in total silence and looked up and to the east. I was miles from anyone, there were no animal noises, the air was calm and cold, and the endless detail in the moonless sky mesmerised me for over half an hour. I only saw a few streaks from meteors burning up, but the incredibly beautiful welkin and the utter stillness of the world brought me peace.
After starting to shiver so much that the stars blurred (making the Milky Way look more milky) I left and drove home along the empty road and highway. The pictures below don’t do justice to the sky, and I didn’t take many anyway.
Can you pick out Polaris using the Pointers?
a quickr pickr post