Perseid Meteor Shower

The Perseid meteor shower takes place in 2020 between July 17 and August 24th. The peak numbers of meteors can be seen August 11-13th as the earth moves through the debris of the Swift-Tuttle comet. It’s possible to see up to 50 meteors an hour during the Perseids.

Personally, I’ve been jinxed by cloud cover, bright skies, etc., during this meteor shower but I’m going out one more time to watch and photograph.

Basic things to know and keep in mind:

  1. The meteors come from the NE but you’ll capture longer streaks if the camera is positioned a bit more toward the west.
  2. The moon comes up a bit after midnight during the peak so it will light the sky and foreground. Use that to your advantage.
  3. Camera setting are important. Get things right.
    • Camera in the Manual Mode
    • Wide-open aperture so f/2.8 or f/1.4
    • Shutter speed set so you get pinpoint stars based on your lens. The formula is 500/(mm of lens x crop factor). Remembering basic arithmetic, that would be 500/16 for a 10mm lens on a camera with a 1.6 cropped sensor or 31 seconds. I know your eyes just glazed over, I’m sorry, but if you do that wrong you’ll be 80 seconds. Same formula for a 14mm lens on a full-frame sensor camera would be 500/14=35 seconds. Do a test, though. I use 20 seconds with my 14mm lens so the stars at the edge of the frame don’t streak. There’s an example below so you can see what I mean.
    • ISO in the 800, 1600, or 2000 range. Take test shots and monitor. Once the moon rises in the sky, you might need to lower the ISO.
    • Camera on a sturdy tripod.
    • Focus on infinity. Canon lenses focus on infinity when the tiny white lines on the barrel of the lens are aligned. Nikon and other lenses focus on infinity when the line is aligned with the middle of the infinity symbol. Test this during the day to see if it hold true for your lens. Test again at night by enlarging one of your photos to make sure the stars are tightly focused.
    • Shutter release in the locked position will take photo after photo for hours. Your reflexes are not fast enough to catch the meteors. Let the shutter release do the work for you. Delete the photos that don’t have a meteor.
    • Turn off long-exposure noise reduction.
    • Make sure your batteries are charged and you have several batteries.
    • Make sure your memory card is clean when you start because you’re going to take a lot of photos during the night.
  4. Remember to have your reading glasses if you need them to set your camera.
  5. Remember to have a head lamp or flashlight. A red filter is good for your eyes but it’s hard to remove that red light from your photo if needed. I use a regular flashlight that’s not super bright.
  6. Bring a chair so you can sit down and relax.

Nice, bright meteor overhead but the camera wasn’t focused. Jinxed!!
Two meteors in the pre-dawn sky with the Milky Way.
Nice pinpoint stars in the sky with a tiny meteor at upper center. Light from nearby towns on the horizon.
Meteor from the Perseid shower in the pre-dawn sky. Notice that the stars toward the edge of the frame are nice and sharp.
Comparison of two images. Left shows streaked stars toward the edge of the frame. Shutter speed was too slow. Right shows nice pinpoint stars along the edge of the frame. Shutter speed was right for the lens.

Good luck and have fun!