Spending the night with Orion

Posted by @ 3:03 pm on Monday 22nd October, 2007.
Categories: Astrostuff, Camera kit

After some neat negotiating with Chris, I was allowed out to play with the camera on Saturday night/Sunday morning. As previously stated, it was my intent to get some pics of the Orionid meteors and to test some kit while I was at it.

I drove for some miles to find a quiet spot a good distance from sources of urban light pollution, and at about 11:00p.m. started to set up the camera on the new Velbon tripod. The sky was clear and the stars were beginning to appear brighter as the Moon disappeared over the western horizon. Already there were meteors showing - mostly faint and fast, but there were a couple of slower bright fireballs while I was setting up.

Ten minutes later and we were in business - camera acclimatised to the cold and set up to take RAWs on the "bulb" setting, triggered with the remote unit... me wrapped in winter-walking clothes and sat on a low chair... owls, foxes and farm dogs making a racket in the distance all around. I sat alone in the dark and watched the skies, clicking the remote and savouring the solitude.

I had rattled off about 50 shots when conditions changed. The temperature dropped from +6C to +1C in 20 minutes and everything became covered in condensation, as a knee-high mist formed all around. For the next couple of hours I was engaged in a losing battle to keep the camera lens clear and keep myself warm. Sitting in the low chair was a no-no, as the layer of mist was just too cold. The sky was getting clearer, but the images were getting worse.

At 3:00a.m. I gave up and headed home to dry out the kit and to warm up in front of the fire.

On Sunday afternoon I got around to having a look at the pics and wasn't surprised to find that a large number of them were unusable due to problems with lens condensation. I had managed to nab a couple of faint meteor trails on half-decent exposures, but the best trails were on bad pics which I've now binned. I managed to salvage about 25 images, of which three aren't too bad.

Apart from the problems caused by the conditions, all of the kit worked well. The remote unit never missed a beat, and the home-made remote-signal reflector worked a treat. The new tripod was a pleasure to use and a doddle to carry, being so small and light. The angled viewfinder saved me having to bend and twist into all sorts of unnatural poses, so that was another plus.

So, all in all it wasn't a complete disaster. Not many usable pics, but fun night out and a fair test of kit in adverse conditions.


Mars rises above the glow of Leicester, with a faint meteor trail above.

The view eastwards:
The Pleiades above Taurus, with Orion not yet fully risen above the trees.

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3 Responses to “Spending the night with Orion”

  1. BG! says:

    "i should have a pic now"

    Sorry, I don't follow, Sally. A pic of what?

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