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Chasing de Perseids

Saturday, 2:30 am. The moment the alarm goes of I heartily curse my notion to go out to see and hopefully photograph the Perseids. For one moment I hope that the weather conditions have suddenly changed, that there is now cloud cover, and that I can go back to bed. A quick look out of the window shows it is not to be. I’m awake now anyway, so let’s do this!

According to the internet, the meteor shower called the Perseids would be on its peak on the night of thursday august 12. Heavy cloud cover and rain ruined any plans for a nightly expedition, but now, 24 hours later, all clouds have disappeared and conditions are much more favourable. A table I found showed that around 3-4 am the meteors would be highest in the sky at around 55 degrees east.

Even at 3 am, the night was pleasantly warm. In the region around Leiden, light pollution is always a major problem for night time photography, so I decided to go to the nearby lake in the hope that light pollution would be minimal there. I was pleasantly surprised that I could see some stars, but not near the horizon, where light was indeed an issue.

During the time I was there I saw perhaps 5, maybe 6, falling stars. It was pretty impressive. Capturing them on a photograph was another matter unfortunately. As this was the night before our holiday, my trusty XT-1 and 12 mm Samyang lens, which I would normally use, were already on the way to northern Spain. So I decided to try out my new Fuji X100..

After some experimentation, I decided to set the camera to around 25 seconds, f/4 at 5000 iso. This did result in star movement, but as I was interested in falling stars I considered this not to be a problem. After setting it to continuous, I could sit back and enjoythe stars.
In all, the camera performed very well. Even in the dark (I did have a red flashlight) I could find most settings fast, and the camera reacted quickly. However, the 35 mm lens is obviously not the best focal distance for astrophotography. Pointing the camera to a section in the sky where the last falling star was seen, did not result in succes, as the next star always fell in another section.

As early next morning I would follow my XT-1 to Spain, after an hour or so, I decides to call it a night and get some leftover sleep. One final shot from a light polluted windmill became the hotshot of the night. In all, it was a useful night to get to know the Fuji X100; not so useful for the photography of falling stars. Let’s try some more in Spain, where there are bound to be more stars visible!

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Light pollution can be a beautiful thing

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