Perseid Meteor Shower

Despite the name of this post, there aren't any actual Perseid meteor photos that follow. But we did have a lot of fun stargazing and capturing some images of the Arizona night sky. On a peak night of the August Perseid shower, we headed down the Apache Trail toward Canyon Lake, to escape the glow of Phoenix's city lights. After finding what looked like a very well-graded dirt road, we turned off in search of a clear space to set up. It wasn't long before we encountered a very ambiguous yet threatening sign that read "Go No Further," with a bunch of legalese about criminal prosecution at the state and federal level. Not wanting to risk torture in a secret government facility, we turned around and headed further down the Apache Trail, past Canyon Lake, settling on a clearing just past Tortilla flat.

From our vantage point we saw about 15 Perseids streak by over the course of a couple hours--none bright enough to show up in camera, but still quite beautiful. The exposures that follow are 10 seconds and 25 minutes respectively, which created the curving star trails that look like the surface of a record.

A couple of things we learned about photographing stars: 1) Bring lawnchairs to sit up off the ground. We had brought a blanket, and were surprised to discover a scorpion and other bugs roaming around within a minute of parking. 2) Bring bug spray. A flashlight in the desert night is a magnet for biting mosquitoes. 3) Open up the aperture (f-stop) on your camera to the widest available, such as 2.8. Since the distance of stars are essentially at infinity, you won't need any depth of field. 4) Keep your exposure under 10 seconds, or less if you are using a telephoto lens. This is the minimum duration of time that won't capture any movement or blur of the stars due to the earth's rotation. (Unless you want to photograph star trails).

All in all we had a great time. I can't wait to try some more star shots!