The Meteor

The Meteor
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The Meteor 2011-8-21 Nightscapes
Title Exposure date Category
Probably the brightest meteor ever captured on film! This image marks a night I will always remember for I witnessed something so beautiful I will never find the proper words to describe and moreover I was able to capture a tiny part of that beauty on my star trails film exposure.

Two hours after sunset the darkness had utterly invaded the valley of Arda river. With my camera already exposing, we were laying on the cracked earth of the dry river banks. A few hours more to the moonrise! I hoped for a very long exposure that night with long star trails and moonlit canyon. The black waters of the narrow river silently flowed a few meters from my legs and behind us the vast dry land was constantly swept by the strong and cold winds. I am never able to sleep while my camera is exposing, not even for a little while, and I usually sit or lay contemplating the world around me. I’d never been closer to Nature than on these long nights when all Live was awakened and swarmed around me. I knew in a few hours, when the moon would rise, there won’t be many visible stars on the sky so I laid on my back gazing at the clearly visible Milky Way above me. Then, suddenly, from the far right of the sky, a green fire exploded! The meteor crossed the whole sky lighting it up in emerald green until it finally burst in red and orange flames. The whole display had lasted a couple of seconds but it left me gazing in awe for a while. In that moment I knew, the last path of the meteor crossed the frame of my camera.

Then the action began! After two hours, clouds quickly invaded the sky forcing me to stop the exposure. The frame had been exposed for about two hours but there was no moon to light up the canyon. I was very frustrated about it but still pretty excited that I had the meteor exposed. Then I came up with a plan: to make another exposure just for the canyon. So I made a two-hour exposure with the clouds sweeping the sky away but the canyon had been properly exposed, at least that was what I thought. During that time, I saw another opportunity - to make a time-lapse with the swiftly moving clouds and the changing light from the rising moon. And I did it - my first on-field time-lapse! Watch it at http://vimeo.com/pophristov/arda-timelapse!
Exactly as they appeared, suddenly the clouds gave away the celestial kingdom to the bright moon which had already climbed high, perfectly lighting up the canyon. And, of course, I started another exposure this time capturing star trails with the moonlit canyon.

For all of us stargazers, meteor sights are nothing unusual or extraordinary. They can be frequently seen and of course not only during meteor showers. I’ve seen bright meteors before but nothing like this! The mere fact it was exposed so well on 100 ISO film and f/5.6 makes it a very special and unique sight. Check out another meteor exposed on film in my image Alienscape II. And here are about 22 meteors captured with a digital camera ISO 3200 f/2.8. These are stacked exposures covering about 4 hours during the Perseid meteor shower. You can clearly see the difference in the brightness and length having in mind that the lens of my medium format film camera is even wider than the lens of my DSLR.

The image you see here is a combination of the first and the third exposure. Both shot on Provia 100F color reversal film with Mamiya RB67 medium format camera. The star trails exposure was 1.5 hours. Moon was about 70% illuminated.

As mentioned above, location is Arda river in the beginning of Kurdjali Dam. One of the jewels I found in the Eastern Rhodope Mountain but this spot can be reached only when the river level is quite low. Here's another image from the same location - Reflections in Blank & White.