For my birthday this year I decided to take a vacation day from work. Most people would take this as an opportunity to sleep in. I’ve always been of the mind that if I have a day off, I really don’t want to waste any of it, and usually would like to get an early start.
This year I got an earlier start than usual. This night is the peak of the Geminid meteor shower. My plan was to head up to Bald Rock in the South Carolina foothills and watch the meteors, then catch the morning sun rising over the Piedmont. I had my bike all set up with everything I could find on Bike Hint. I was hoping to replicate this photo…
…which was taken in January of 2007.
The Geminids have always had a special place in my heart. They always occur right around my birthday. This shower usually consists of slower, brighter meteors – fireballs. One of the most amazing ones I’ve ever seen was 27 years ago when Alan and I were driving back from an REM concert in Charlotte. The bright meteor left a long-lasting, glowing trail. Since that time I’ve always tried to catch the Geminids.
I got up at 2:00, and drove up to Travelers Rest to pick up Keith Dover, who would accompany me on my excursion. Equipped with chairs, cameras, and warm clothing, we reached Bald Rock a little before 4:00 am. I figured that would give us a couple of hours of darkness for watching meteors before the sun came up.
When we arrived there were two other groups there. These folks were obviously out looking for meteors, too, and kept to themselves. We set up our chairs and started watching. I had already seen a couple driving up. Once we got set up we saw them quite frequently. While not as spectacular as the one 27 years ago, they were amazing nonetheless. Many left glowing trails, and often there were several together.
Even up on Bald Rock conditions were not ideal. Light pollution to the south from Greenville is always bad. However, the light pollution from Brevard to the north was about as bad. I can’t help but wonder what it would have been like with really dark skies.
As soon as we arrived I set up my D7000 to take time lapse. I tried several settings, but eventually left it set on a 10 second exposure, with one frame every 20 seconds. The results were a bit disappointing. Perhaps if I had a faster lens, or had left the aperture open for longer exposures, then I might have capture more. I had to boost the exposure an obscene amount, but I was able to capture at least one meteor…
I popped all of the images into LightRoom and cranked up the exposure as much as I could, then created a time-lapse at 24 fps. It’s only a few seconds long, and the jumps indicate when I moved the camera. At least it’s an indication of what could be done under the right conditions…
Of course, we would have picked the coldest night of the year so far for our adventure. We were both wrapped in layers and blankets. I had brought my sleeping bag and wrapped it around me. However, even those precautions proved insufficient. At one point Keith and I retreated to the car and cranked up the heater and seat warmer. I would pop out occasionally to check on the camera and to see if I could spot more meteors.
At about 5:30 I headed on out to watch the sun rise. I snapped photos of the early morning colors, and eventually of the sun cresting the horizon. Here are some of the shots from that session.
While I didn’t capture the same photo from 2007, that’s OK. I like what I did capture. It was a great start to a day full of adventure. Here are the rest of the photos from that set…
2 thoughts on “A Night on Bald Mountain”
Nice shots, Tom. Did you shoot any with the Lumix, or just the Nikon? I take it that the color settings for the Nikon are serving you well now. These shots look impressive.
I used a combination. The star shots and sunrise shots were done with the Nikon, but some of the others were taken with the Lumix.