Jeff Berkes Photography just got a drastic overhaul on the website! New and improved galleries make viewing all  galleries faster and more enjoyable!

Whats new with the website?

Well, just about everything! The entire format has changed, litterally. The “image collection” has a brand new format with large thumbnails. Click on any thumbnail to enlarge it, see captions and descriptions for each image, click on that image again to return to the thumbnail gallery, simple right?

 The “Photo Tours” page has up to date information on 2012 workshops! As of now there are two (2) Nighttime / Meteor Shower Workshops planned for 2012, with others being added in this Spring. The “Exploring America”  Photo Tour page  has two (2) Adventures planned for August and September, one visiting Arches, Canyonlands National Parks, as well as Deadhorse State Park.  The other Tour will be in Yellowstone National Park – Geysers, Landscape and Wildlife.

Hope you enjoy the new design!  If you happen to find any errors please inform us, so we can fix any issue asap! Thanks in advance.. Feedback is always much appreciated!


Leonid Meteor Shower 2011 – “A Look Back”

A storm system sitting over the eastern US finally started to pull out as the sun began to set. After a 2 hour drive to a darker location, we were greeted by a two rounds of light pillars! I haven’t seen them in such a long time, so it was such a blessing. We counted many Leonids, a few Orionids and some random meteors. I also saw a Leonid Fireball around 4:20am that lit up the sky creating shadows and a smoke trail which lasted close to 45 seconds. It was an incredible night!

Pillars of Light

Light Pillars can easily be confused with the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights), I think we can all see why.  A light pillar is an atmospheric phenomenon created by the reflection of light from fine ice crystals. The conditions on the ground and in the sky need to be in harmony for this to happen. I rarely get a opportunity to photograph these wonders and it was really neat.  Light Pollution is an enemy of mine, but here it kind of did me a photographic favor.

Leonid Meteor Shower 2011

As the front cleared the temperatures dropped into the 20’s! Winds were gusting to 30mph at times creating wind chills in the teens. We were out from 6pm until 6:30am attempting to capture some Leonids on camera. We succeeded too! Everyone got meteor shots! Todd got his first meteor within the first 10 minutes! It took me a little longer to get my first meteor and I’m fine with that :).  We counted a decent amount of meteors Thursday into Friday morning, but it was certainly lower than I thought it would be. The place I decided on worked out perfectly, the skies were crystal clear and we captured a few meteors on with our camera. With those three things working out I would call this year’s Leonid Meteor Shower Workshop a great success!

Below: The first time I saw this meteor was when I came home and looked through my photos. Surprise!!

Leonid Meteor at 5:43am - November 18th, 2011

“Islands in Autumn” – Orionid Meteor Shower 2011

The meteor shower was a sucess! The clouds gave way granting me a grand view of the night sky. The Photo I took here “Islands in Autumn”

Orionid Meteor Shower 2011. As Seen on MSN, Spaceweather and

has been making it’s way around town lately.

Here is what I wrote Alan Doyle  @ MSN:

I also gave Alan Doyle some information about the picture  at MSN  ( ).   

Update for 11:30 p.m. ET: In an email, Jeff Berkes provides further details about how he captured that amazing image:

“I left my house in West Chester, Pa., shortly after midnight and arrived at French Creek State Park in southeastern Pennsylvania around 1 a.m. on October 22. Upon arrival, I was greeted by a crystal clear sky and a moody fog rolling off the lake. I was outside for only a couple of minutes before I saw my first Orionid meteor. I knew right then it was going to be a great night. The moon beginning its ascent around 2:15 a.m. worried me a bit, but the Orionids were flying high and bright. It was 3:27 a.m. when I captured this image, my first Orionid shot of the morning. I stayed up all night while taking over 500 photos and counted close to 30 meteors. I even had enough energy from a Wawa blueberry muffin to continue shooting through sunrise, before taking the 45-minute drive home at 9 a.m.

“I used a technique called ‘light painting’ to illuminate the foreground subjects in this shot. This is where I use a high-powered flashlight to light up objects up to 1,000 feet away. I spent the first 30 minutes checking out different angles before settling on this location. I usually do not like shooting directly into the moon when shooting meteors; however, with it being very low and behind the trees, it was not a problem for this bright meteor to burn itself into my sensor. Light pollution for once actually helped me out here by adding some flavor to the horizon and separating the trees from the sky. Around 2 a.m., I anchored my tripod along the water’s edge facing out over the lake, while the constellation Orion was rising higher off my right shoulder in the southeastern sky. I fixed the exposure time for the flashlight and then started popping off shots until I eventually captured one of these majestic meteors.”

Berkes used a Nikon D3 camera with a 17mm lens. ISO: 800. Exposure: 25 seconds at f/2.8.””


Now some will say “better the camera,  better the pictures”.  Well, in some respect maybee, but it’s combination of lens choice, camera settings and exposure times, not to mention the composition and thought process put into a single photograph. I planned to shoot there one month in advance. I actually found FIVE  locations with 150 miles just in case weather was an issue, so there was lots of planning and researching involved. I have been shooting at night since I was teenager in the mid- 90’s, so I have had a good amount of experience with using ligting techniques at night like “light painting” which I used to illuminate the foreground. The #1 thing I had here was lucky and some patience. The best meteors I saw that night never crossed my lens.. or my lense was processing the last image and I could shoot. (I need a back-up)

I find a great deal of peace at night. Maybee it’s the beauty of the stars shinning overhead or the the sound of night. I’m not sure, I just have something in me that wants get out capture nature at it’s most exciting moment. Tornado, lightning, blizzard , wildfire or the center of our galaxy…  photographing landscapes at night is my blank canvas as a photographer, I can create almost anything I want.

Here is another photo from that morning.

Orionid Meteor over French Creek State Park

 I also photographed the Nothern Lights the night MSN published the article about my “falling star” and was published 2 times in one day on MSN. In case you didn’t see the great pictures from everywhere, check them out here!

Here is the only shot I could really get.. I was in such a rush to leave that I left my tripod mount on my 70-200mm lens at home! I used my sweatshirt as a “nest”  for my camera and I took shots from on top of the basket on my SUV!  Hey it worked!  Thanks Drew, for giving me the “I forgot my tripod for a nighttime assignment” in class.

Northern Lights in Chester County, PA!


Annual Orionid Meteor Shower Arrives Next Week!

The Orionids are a fairly dependable shower to go check out. As long as the Moon has minumal impact on the night sky. This years moon will be at 24%  (waning crescent) and the moon will set around 2:15am EST. Just in time for the show! As you see below the radiant will be high in the sky by 2am and this is when the most meteors will be seen. The radiant is the point where the meteor seem to originate from. So this would be from the constellation Orion.. Hence Orionids. You can also see them earlier in the evening, but the moon may block out the faint ones.  See the spec. chart below.

Meteor Shower: Orionids  (Appear to trace back to the constellation, Orion)

Peak: October 21/22nd

Hourly Rate: 20-30/hr

Direction: South 2am to 4am  

Speed: Swift Streak

During the peak.. (The morning of the 22nd)  find a nice place away from city lights and lights in general.. Even if you drive a few miles down the street, that can help you out a lot. Make sure you have warm clothes, a blanket, camping chair and some patience.! Let your eyes adjust to the low light for about 15 minutes and you will see a lot more stars as well as more shooting stars.

Most people don’t live in the middle of  the desert (the photo above). I took this photo  in July 2011 during the Perseid Meteor Shower. The orange dots are small town and thunderstorms over 150miles away.

Most meteor showers last for weeks. The above photo was taken July 31st, 2011.. The peak for the Perseids isn’t until August 12th, so that doesn’t mean you can’t see them before or after the “peak” date.

If you try to photograph a Orionid meteor: Try 800-1600 ISO and adjust your exposure from there. F/1. 4 to f/2.8 lens are the best.. But I usually shoot a minimum of f/4 all the time, If you think you need a 2.8 lens to capture a meteor then you need to think again.. you don’t need to waste your money, it won’t do much if anything for you anyway.. There are way more factors that come into play.

I’m planning on taking a 2 hour drive to view the Orionids this year.. Even though conditions will be favorable for my area. I’d like to get it darker, the meteors are just so much brighter against a dark sky.  If you see any let me know and share any photos you may get!

Let’s just hope the weather is good.. example: no clouds.


Space Shuttle Discovery’s Last Transit Over the United States

Photo of the Day: 3.10.2011

Discovery’s Final Transit  

3.8.2011  –  7:23:24pm to 7:25:49pm EDT.  Chester County, PA

It’s was upsetting to know that Tuesday night would be the last time to see the Space Shuttle Discovery in the night skies over my town. I was 4 years old when Discovery first launched in 1984 and it’s sad to see something I’ve known for so many years retire. I have only seen it once in person when I was very young, but yet there was something about that visit to the Kennedy Space Center that inspired me. I can still picture clearly the Discovery being slowly rolled out to the launch site as a kid in the 80’s and I feel very fortunate to be able to photograph its final transit last night. The clouds parted briefly allowing me the two minutes I needed for this shot. I think the clouds added some interesting colors to the image and the crescent moon was a special bonus on a special night. The space shuttle Discovery and the ISS sweeping by the Pleiades with the hanging crescent moon and moon corona setting in the west. You can’t beat that for a farewell to almost three decades of service and 39 missions under the belt. Hope you enjoy this image as much as I enjoy creating it.

 Thanks Discovery! You will be missed!


Photo of the Day: 2.9.2011 – Stormy Sunrise – St.Thomas, USVI. August 2006


Photo of the Day: 2.9.2011 – Stormy Sunrise –  St.Thomas, 2006

I woke up around 4am and was extremely pleased to see thunderstorm activity over the ocean. I anticipated a super sunrise so I left the resort and headed to the beautiful beaches on St. Thomas’ southeastern coast. I started off with lightning shots before dawn started to make its presence known, but It wasn’t until the storm passed less than two miles south of my position that things started getting interesting. The isolated thunderstorm became illuminated by the light of dawn, and was accompanied by lightning once again pouring out of the now glowing yellow, red, orange, purple and pink storm. The only problem was the pain and agony I was experiencing while taking these photos. I was being attacked by what is locally called No-Se-Um or Vampire Bugs. The bite of a sand flea really feels like the sting of a bee. It will leave big red dots and whitish welts wherever you have been hit. I had hundreds of welts on my legs, so please enjoy this picture!


Ultra Rare Lunar Eclipse Tonight!

At approx 2:40am EST Tuesday morning you will witness something that hasn’t been seen in 372 years… a Lunar Eclipse on the Winter Solstice.  The Moon officially turns Full in the Northern Hemisphere at 3:13am EST on the 21st, at that time we will be in Mid-Eclipse. We won’t officially turn to winter until 6:38pm EST (Thanks John!).  Dating back to year 1, yes, the last 2000 years this has only happen one time, in the 1600’s and it won’t happen again until a closer 2094. The eclipse will last 1 hour and 10 minutes or until 3:51am EST. Watch the Full Moon turn red tonight with me!

Here are some photos from previous eclipses.

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