Friday, January 3, 2014

Hunting Quadrantid Meteors with a Frosty Lens

I woke up and looked at the weather on my phone. To my surprise it looked "mostly clear" at about 2:00am ET here in Indiana. I took Katie out to pee and noticed that indeed the sky looked very clear (especially compared to the weeks of clouds this December). I had already planned on photographing the Quadrantid meteor shower tomorrow night, but then learned that this shower has a notoriously short peak window. Turns out the shower peaked several hours ago, and that I probably wouldn't see any tomorrow night, so I better give it a go right now!

DSLR hunting quadrantid meteors
Leaving my T5i out on the balcony until the cold air kills the battery, or the memory card fills up, whichever comes first. At 6°F my money is on the cold.

I went out onto my West-facing snow-covered balcony and aimed my camera to the NW above the light pollution as much as I could. The radiant point is behind the roof line to the East, but I should be in good shape since I'm within 30 degrees of the radiant point - and maybe I'll even get some longer trails this way! Here's hoping, you can't bag any meteors if you don't try.

I used the same camera settings that produced two Geminid meteors last month, ISO 800 because the light pollution is too great any higher (kind of a waste now that my ISO max is 12800 on the T5i). I'm shooting at 18MP now instead of 8MP so anything I do catch should cover more pixels, and I should have even cleaner images at ISO 800. Because my files are larger, I am shooting in JPEG instead of RAW, which raises my max images from 150 to 495 on my memory card. A 64GB memory card is on its way in the mail, but I'm doing what I can with 4GB for now.

I left my camera out overnight in the cold, and when I got it at 7am in the morning it looked like this...

canon camera covered in frost

camera lens covered in frost

Yep the camera and lens got a little frosty! I let them air dry on the mantle and tested everything out afterward and seems to be working fine. Could have been a lot worse!

As for the meteors, well I didn't see any in the hundreds of pictures that I took. I'm surprised the battery held up as well as it did! I think I had around 600 images to sift through. They did make for one nice star trail though - with an interesting twist thanks to the frost on the lens. Looks so bizarre!

long exposure with frosty lens
Single frame at ISO 800, 15 sec, f/4.0, 18mm

star trails with lens flare
Stack of 651 frames
bokeh and rainbow from frost on lens
With some slight contrast and white balance adjustment, this picture looks quite ethereal.

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