Perseid Meteor Shower 2012 :: Mount Evans Colorado

The Perseid Meteor Shower

When I heard about the Perseid meteor shower I decided early on that I wanted to try and shoot it from the summit of Mount Evans in Arapaho National Forest. One of my main photography passions is astrophotography and the long exposure star trail; but I thought I'd try some shorter-exposure high-ISO work with the 5D3, to capture "frozen" stars with a meteor streak in the shot. I realize that getting such a shot requires a lot of luck, but I set out with this goal in mind none the less.

I spent most of yesterday getting my gear ready, charging batteries, testing speedlights, getting the color gels laid out that I would use, brewing coffee for my thermos, etc. I even got my cold weather gear out since I knew the summit would be chilly. The clear sky charts were questionable, but decent viewing was indicated between 1am - 4am, so I thought I'd go for it.

Getting to the Top

With my car packed up I set out early from Denver around 9:30pm on the night of August 11. The base of Mount Evans is about an hour drive from Denver, and then there's the summit road to tackle. I forgot how dicey the summit road is, and in the middle of the night the sheer drop-offs make for quite a white-knuckled drive. I think the 14-mile summit access road took me an hour alone!

When I got to the top, I immediately started setting up my gear and taking some shots. The sky was clear, and I didn't want to waste it. Good thing too - because within about 40 minutes heavy clouds rolled in and the rest of the night was a bust. The shot above is my favorite of about only 12 photos I took last night.

This was by far the longest day of planning, prepping, battery charging, gear loading, and driving I've ever had to come home with only one decent photo... but it was well worth it.

Perseid Meteor Shower Seen from Mount Evans | Colorado

Exposure Details

I often get questions about the settings/equipment I use for shots. Here's a breakdown of this Perseid photo:

  • Canon 5D Mark III
  • ISO 6400
  • 30 second exposure @ f/4
  • Canon 17-40 f/4L lens at 17mm
  • Lighting was a mixture of a red gelled speedlite, and car headlights in the parking lot atop Mount Evans

If I were to shoot this type of image again with "frozen" stars, I'd use a faster lens so I could make use of lower ISOs for a cleaner resultant image.