Six Tips For Photographing The Leonid Meteor Shower

This week the Leonid meteor shower will grace our skies. A scattering of bright meteors will appear to radiate from the Leo constellation and will be visible right across Australia. The meteor shower activity will peak on the morning of November 18 in the form of a meteor storm. If you're keen to capture the moment on camera we have a few tips from award-winning photographer Phil Hart to help you take the best shots.

Photo: Flickr, jason jenkins

Hart is a David Malin Astrophotography Award winner so he knows a thing or two about taking good photos of meteor showers. He shared six tips with Lifehacker Australia for would-be photographers of the Leonid meteor shower this week:

  1. In the southern hemisphere the Leonids are only active from around 4am till dawn, peaking on the morning of 18th November. It’s also worth a try a day either side of that to capture amazing shots.
  2. Set your camera up — I use a Canon 5D Mark II — somewhere with a good view of the sky to the north or east or even overhead. The darker the sky the better but you can still have a crack from the suburbs.
  3. Use the widest and fastest lens that you can get your hands on. I typically use a Canon EF 24mm f1.4L lens wide open but anything in the range EF 14-35mm and up to f3.5 can work.
  4. Set the ISO set to at least 1600. Expose each image for around 10-20 seconds, less if there is light pollution increasing the brightness of the sky. Using a higher ISO will amplify the brightness of any meteors you capture but you'll need to use a correspondingly shorter exposure time to keep the background sky brightness down.
  5. The final key is to set the drive mode on your camera to ‘sports’ mode or ‘continuous shooting’ so that the camera takes one image after another as long as the shutter is pressed. Then lock the shutter down with a cable release and walk away for a few hours while your camera takes a continuous sequence of images.
  6. Scan carefully through the images to see if you got lucky! You may need to shoot straight to JPG files (or smaller RAW resolutions) unless you have big memory cards and are prepared to deal with the huge amount of data generated in a few hours of continuous shooting.

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