A dream which has been constantly with me for the last 4 years was one of making an image of a meteor shower at night. Images of this sort are hard to come-by and I have seen very few landscape images depicting a meteor shower in its full glory. With no such images from the Indian Subcontinent I knew it would not be easy making my image. I spent countless hours planning my shots and working out the correct technique, but most of these ended in failures. However with each failed attempt I learned something new, and this knowledge eventually helped me draw up my strategy. My goal here was to showcase the beauty of a meteor shower and also present it in a way as it was not seen before.
Defining the variables involved in making this image evolved over time, and some of the key variables were:
● Location – It had to be far from human habitation to avoid light pollution, but also be easily accessible to enable easy co-ordination of the logistics
● Season – Meteor showers happen throughout the year, but not all are optimum for viewing as we have cloud cover for 10 months in a year in my part of the world
● Lunar phase – Having a full moon can be detrimental to viewing and photographing a meteor shower as the bright moonlight can washout faint meteors
● Equipment – Having a “fast wide angle” lens coupled with a high ISO performing camera, to capture all available light and generate minimum noise while doing so
The hunt to find the perfect location started after I zeroed in on the Geminids Meteor showers, which happens in December each year. The shower in 2012 was slated to happen during a new moon, and also since it was in December there was a greater probability of having clear nights. This meant I would have perfect shooting conditions if the weather co-operated. I chose the Jodigere APC deep inside BRT Tiger Reserve for my shoot site, as during my earlier visits I noticed the potential of the place. It had good visibility to the east, allowing me to see the showers radiating from the constellation Gemini as it rised. It was also far from human habitation to minimise light pollution. Best of all it had interesting foregrounds in the form of rocks to anchor the shot for a perfect composition.
With all these in mind and with the necessary permissions in place, I set out with my wife Siri to fulfil the quest for my meteor shower image. To my relief I found all the conditions at the shoot sight ideal except for the bone chilling gale force winds which I did not anticipate. All that was now required was a good warm jacket and for the fire balls to put on a show. And they did! On the two nights I spent in Jodigere photographing the event, I could see several meteors streaking through the sky. They came in a multitude of colours and brightness, and it was the most spectacular fire work display I have ever seen! The winds through the night were however a major deterrent and we had to restrict our viewing to a few minutes every time we went out of our camp. Luckily the camera was set on a rock solid tripod and it kept the setup from flying off.
Luckily I achieved what I went for, and the dream I had been chasing for four years was finally accomplished. The support from the department was indispensable and in particular I would like to call out our Driver Ramu and the Forest watcher Vishwanath from the Jodigere camp who were forever obliging and supportive of my needs. Mr Vijay Mohan Raj, Director of BRT was kind enough to ensure all my permits and logistics were taken care of. Apart from the nasty tick bites and a charging Gaur bull which had us diving for cover, BRT has left me with a lot pleasant memories and I shall treasure this assignment all my life.
Below is a Timelapse of the shower showing the meteors striking through the night sky. A sight worth all the effort!