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silhouette of trees during nighttime

The Perseids Peaked, I saw them, but I have nothing to show for it

Since moving to Georgia, when the Perseids Meteor Shower starts in July till it ends at the end of August, it’s been near impossible to get out and see it. I understand the underlying issue, living next to Atlanta makes any cosmic events impossible to see. I have a special filter for my camera to help tamper down the noise pollution a little, but whenever I would get out during the peak, mother nature would just slap me down.

This year, I decided to go for broke, I didn’t want to have just a semi-neat shot of the sky with some streaks from the meteorites doing their thing. I wanted to really go for it.

With this in mind, I started doing some e-scouting (I’m going to do an article on that eventually, it’s a huge time saver). I found 5 spots that I wanted to try, 3 I found on my own, 2 I found from crowdsourcing nature loving people in the area I befriended on social media.

My first location was on the shores of Lake Lanier. I was thinking to myself, “Near Full Moon to the south, it was 100% full the night before, but the sky was 100% full of clouds, however tonight is almost crystal clear, so if I can’t see anything from the perseids to roughly north, I could flip around and get a great shot of the lake and the moon being ever present.”

Before we move on, that is the abbreviated thought I had, with ADHD you don’t want to see the spiderweb of connections and correlations that go on. It looks like this basically:

Charlie Day in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

Anyway, back to the adventure.

I had started heading north on GA400, a main artery that goes into the perimeter of Atlanta and eventually directly downtown. However, when you head north, you head away from the giant metropolis of Atlanta, into the unknown of the north.

The first stop, like I said, was Lake Lanier, which is known for a lot of things. It’s where they filmed amazing things like Ozark, Blended, Hall Pass, and underrated, completely amazing Strip Club Massacre…(Sarcasm is really hard to convey in text)

Remember, Atlanta is the “Hollywood of the South” so even really crappy movies get made here just like real Hollywood, it’s not all Marvel Movies, Hunger Games, and Fast and Furious Movies here.

Lake Lanier can be an absolute beautiful place though and I had an idea for this great shot of at least SOMETHING on the water at night.

silhouette of mountain under starry night
Something like this would have been great (even though this is noisy and low quality, there is sky, a meteorite, and a lake… nailed it Kathrine! Photo by Kathrine Birch on Pexels.com

What I got was about 20 kids in pickup trucks, lights on, and having a great time… Hard Pass. It was ok, I had a few more spots to go to, and I checked them out and were not open or had poor visibility of the north sky due to new construction in the area. (That is a drawback of doing E-Scouting).

But, I had one place that was recommended, and I knew it was about an hour away. It was far north, out by a little town called Dawsonville. There is a lot of nothing up that way besides mountains, rivers, a giant race track luxury experience, and at least 3-4 on the Bortle Scale. Remember the Bortle scale from that other post?

It’s the Bortle Scale! Every night photographers friend on finding a quiet and dark place to work out amazing photos!

Anyway, this place was about a 3 to maybe 4, even with the Full Moon, it was probably around a 5, which is still great considering if I go outside my front door and look up, I get a 7. Which means I can see the Moon, Planets if they shine bright enough, and Sun during the day.

Setting up for night photography isn’t exactly “easy” in terms of gear for me. I have a tripod and a camera (duh), a remote trigger, a monitor (a small 7 inch monitor helps when I zoom into the moon or some sort of heavenly body, so I can really focus tight), and a few little side things like a secondary tripod to use my phone to record timelapse of me or do astro timelapse photography.

Moon photo of moon being the moon moon MOON
This is the moon, it’s on my little monitor, zoomed in digitally 10 times so I can focus tightly on the details of the giant satellite.
This is a time lapse of random stars, taken from my phone. It was the first time I tried it, kind of neat right?

All in all, it can take upwards of 15 minutes to get everything set up, 5 minutes to get dialed in with focus, settings, and such. Then I will, depending on the type of shot, take a LOT of photos. Sometimes it’s short exposures like for the moon (it’s bright enough that 1/400th or faster works for that depending on what I’m doing), but sometimes, when doing deep space and meteor showers, I have to take into account that it might be a while and I run at 1 – 24 SECOND exposures, at 100 shots in a block. I do this because I want to make sure that I capture the streaks of light flying across the sky.

This wasn’t the Perseids, this was the Lyrids, where I got a few shots of sky rocks doing their things. This one had a small piece of galaxy below it.

So if you do the math (I hate math), I can spend a few hours in a spot, late at night, shooting hundreds, if not thousands of photos.

So, when I find this beautiful spot that has this wonderful treeline that is bathed in moonlight to frame an open area of sky to show off the stars and possible fire balls and streaks in the sky… I get excited.

It was in the middle of nowhere off a rural highway, in the mountains, it was a trailhead, but I was about 11 miles from any town at all. I was excited, I got out of my vehicle, set up my equipment and took a couple test shots.

I was ready, it was getting close to 1am, I was about an hour and a half away from home, I was ready to fall into my meditation of night photography, where the whole world of nonsense disappears and all that is left is me, my camera, and the entire universe to look at.

So I rattled off that first shot of the series… and then it happened.

Headlights coming down the highway. That wouldn’t normally bother me, but this night it did, because it was 1am, I was in the middle of nowhere, and what I heard was loud country music and giant tires… slowing down from going 55+ MPH.

They were stopping.

Great.

They turned into the trailhead parking lot, as you can see with the headlights in the bottom right corner spilling into the scene.

I can’t believe they are stopping here at the trailhead… where I am sitting with all this gear pointed into the sky.

As it rolled passed me to the back of the lot towards the entrance of the trail, the smell of booze wafted by. Instincts kick in at that point, because I just don’t want to be bothered with people during my alone time.

I start packing up gear, and tossing it in the back of the Subaru. I hear 2 of them arguing, one guy yelling out “Whatcha doin there with the camera?” and one woman saying really loud, “I have to pee or throw up, I can’t tell”.

I just don’t want any part of it, and before they close the 100 feet between us, I’m already in the car and gone.

I was bummed, because It was already late, and I would have to find another place… which I couldn’t that late at night, and started the drive back home. Through winding backroads of nothing, until coming down a small mountain, and into another forest, I passed a couple houses, then it was dark forest.

I drove up a small hill and as I crested the hill, I saw lights.

“Hmm, maybe it’s a town or gas station”, I thought, seeing there was a roundabout coming up on the GPS.

Nope…

It was a roundabout… and as I drove through it… and headed home, I noticed something even sillier.

75 feet of road after my exit of the roundabout… there was.

A roundabout.

And it too was lit like the daytime.

None of it made sense, but I had to stop and take a photo, because I had noticed something at this weird double roundabout.

Tractor Trailers. 2 of them when I was driving through it. I thought that was weird, so I stopped, and looked at the map and saw NOTHING near the spot for miles.

Technically it was HWY 9, which if I took it all the way south would take me home to Alpharetta, just a lot slower and longer than getting back to 400.

But even though it was a major Highway, I had nothing on the map that would warrant traffic here, let alone large trucks. Let alone 2 Roundabouts in succession.

So I stopped and setup for a quick long exposure shot, which are my bread and butter shots, so the setup is easy to me. Within 3 minutes, I had my first truck come through!

I love the lights on big rigs, because they put an extra layer of light in the photo.

So, the light was a little obscuring the second roundabout that they came through but it was still great to get a shot I enjoyed (though it would have been so much better if he drove around past me for a complete S light bend).

And then, I heard another truck coming!

I was so excited.

I set up for a wider shot to really get both roundabouts in frame, and looking really nice in camera. And then I heard the tires slow up, and stop.

I turned and looked…

No, it wasn’t the same drunk people from earlier (Thank God)… but… it was… an inebriated individual or just tired, as it was getting close to 230am at this point. But, while he wasn’t annoying, he was interrupting my zen lol. He was perplexed at first until he realized I was taking photos.

That is why he stopped, he was an amateur photographer too after telling me his name, which I don’t remember (I never remember names, my brain has a real hard time with them). He mentioned that he was up early to go watch the Perseids peak before he had to go to work (so he was probably tired), which was neat, but I just didn’t have it in me.

I mentioned I was wrapping up and headed home as I had been out for a few hours already, and he got back in his truck and went on his way.

I got back home and was in shock really. Sure, it was Friday Night, but I was miles from a town that had a population of maybe a couple thousand max. Where even the gas stations closed at 9pm, on a friday. People just wandering in the night drunk on country roads (next time I’m calling the cops, because if I could SMELL the booze as they drove by, who knows how drunk they were). And eerily friendly people at 230am who stop when they see a stranger (mind you, I’m a giant dude, slightly muscular build, have resting serial killer face when I’m doing something I like, and was dressed in a sleeveless shirt and old ratty gym shorts… because I wanted to be comfortable.)

Another year and I have missed the Perseids, but at least I did get to see something this year, and I have a weird tale of drunk people in the woods of northern georgia.

Stefan Glazer
Stefan Glazer

Author, Photographer, Artist, Pug Dad, Podcast Host, Teacher, Friend

Articles: 210

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