I’m always open to trying something new and when it comes to something new at night, I’m pretty much all over it. Over the past year or so, I’ve been gaining some momentum toward shooting meteor showers and in this case, shooting them in a time-lapse video.
It took some planning (and practice) to get there - first with the technique, then the gear and of course, the cool locations. But to be honest, I didn’t do much of the work in leading the way on this one... So to give some credit where it’s due, I just followed in the footsteps of some other great artists: Tom Lowe, Randy Halverson, Brad Goldpaint, Gary Randall, and Michael Mennefee (to name just a few). On this trip however, David Kingham deserves all the credit.
First, he posted an article showing how he was able to extend battery life for shooting long-exposures with his article on powering a Nikon D700 with an external power source at http://www.davidkinghamphotography.com/blog/2012/10/external-power-for-a-nikon-d700. Then, he came up with the idea for a location for the Geminids being this spot deep in the heart of the Needles of South Dakota - an idea that sounded intriguing from the start. In looking at some of the pictures I was able to find, I knew right away that I should trust his instincts. So with the chance to join David Kingham and Jason Hatfield on an overnight adventure shooting the Geminids Meteor Shower from The Needles, I knew not to hesitate.
The long route to the Needles was filled with doubt as we drove under ugly cloudy weather most of the way. And after the weather finally cleared, we ran into a closed road that forced us to hike the rest of the way. Fortunately after driving some 380 miles, we only had to hike the last mile... :-) So after some setup time and some light painting, we let the cameras’ interval timers take the reigns in shooting for the rest of the night.
This 1 minute video comes from close to a thousand images captured overnight with my Nikon D800 and Nikon 16mm Fisheye Lens from the Needles Eye in Custer State Park, South Dakota. Each image was captured at ISO 3200, f/2.8 for 30 seconds with each image appearing in the final time-lapse video for just 1/30th of a second. When I viewed the images individually, I found over 30 meteors, but it’s admittedly a lot harder to pick them out when they fly by so fast in the video. That aside, I really enjoyed seeing the motion of the stars moving against the flow of the clouds. The way that caused the brighter stars to flare as they danced in and out of the clouds really made this video come to life. And with one quick meteor appearing from inside the Needles Eye, I figured the door was open to using the title “Threading The Needle”.
I wanted to give some more credit for helping to make this video possible - the first being Jason Hatfield’s saving us from disaster from a curious Deer. Jason was getting ready to sleep nearby after David and I headed back down to sleep in our vehicles when he saw a Deer getting very interested in our gear. So at a point 21 seconds in, you’ll see red headlamp streaks from Jason’s shooing the Deer away - which I thought was much better than seeing the cameras getting knocked over. So, big thanks to Jason Hatfield!
Beyond that, I also wanted to give a special note of thanks to musician, Rob Tognoni for granting permission to use his song, “Product Of A Southern Land” in this video. I’m a firm believer that the music can really make a video shine (or not) and in this case, I felt this particular song... well, I think it speaks for itself. So as a long-time fan of Rob Tognoni’s blues music from Australia, I wanted to share his website (http://www.robtog.com) and the live video that features the whole song, “Product Of A Southern Land” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zUn50B0JanI). Just as the guitar work on this song is something very special (to my ears), so is the man behind it and a lot more of his music. So big thanks to Rob Tognoni! _______________________________
During the time-lapse video, there are lots of things worth mentioning so I thought I’d give a bit of a tour of the night skies as they pass overhead.
As the video begins, we see Pleiades (The Seven Sisters) and Jupiter as the brightest objects dominating our view of the sky. Right below Jupiter is Taurus (The Bull) which is easiest to spot thanks to the V shaped grouping of stars that makes up the head of the bull. Then as Jupiter shows flares from passing in and out of the clouds, Orion (The Hunter) begins to come into view with the three starred belt and the big sword that features the Orion Nebula.
Then Sirius (the brightest star in the night sky) comes into view as part of Canis Major (aka Orion’s Big Dog). And with the stars appearing to pass in and out of the clouds, Sirius (in the bottom left) and Jupiter (in the top right) seem to dance with each other for a bit getting much bigger in appearance from the diffused light. Then the winter Milky Way appears above Canis Major and Orion as a faint thick column of stars that leans to the right.
In my opinion, this is the prettiest part of the sky. With Sirius dancing across the clouds and the Milky Way appearing above, meteors join in on the action. The constellation Leo appears from the top left and then Virgo from the bottom left. And when Sirius goes into hiding behind the trees, the grand finale gets set to begin.
Before the finale, I’ll admit that I was impressed after Leo passed that I could make out the faint constellation Coma Berenices (Berenice’s Hair) coming into view from the top left corner. Then, the final rush of meteors takes place (at times, too fast for the eye to see) before twilight begins to hide the stars from sight. Arcturus is the last visible star that fades from view as twilight yields to sunrise which brings an end to the overnight time-lapse video.