2012 Meteor Shower Photo Tours now up!!

Tree of the Desert, August 2011.

Tree of the Desert, August 2011.

Hi Everyone!

I have just released my first two nighttime / meteor shower workshops for 2012. The First is the annual Lyrid Meteor Shower, our destination is Shenandoah Naitonal Park, in Virginia. The second, is the Orionid Meteor Shower in October 2012  at Acadia National Park, in Maine. 

More information can be found at my website                  www.jeffberkesphotography.com


Combining Seasons – An October Nor’Easter 2011

Here are a couple of pictures I took while out Saturday during the 100 year storm.  I have always wanted to combine the seasons of Fall and Winter into one photograph, but conditions never worked out no matter where I was during the fall.  It could not have been any better than this past weekend.  The fall foliage was at it’s peak when this storm hit. Six inches of heavy wet  snow gave tremendous contrast to the vibrant colors in Autumn.

Chester Creek, Pennsylvania.

The yellow leaves on this tree stand out from the monochromatic landscape.

 The combination of the heavy wet snow on trees that are still bearing leaves made for dangerous and deadly conditions. This tree had just split across the road as we pulled up.  While standing out there I heard four seperate trees cracking and falling to the ground.  Needless to say, we couldn’t enter the state park because the road was littered in trees. A park ranger and I continued north under the tree to the enterance of the park. If I was going to continue it was going to have to be on foot.

I have driven 100 miles in a full blown Nor’Eatser, i’ve camped in 60mph wind gusts and 30″ of snowfall. I was more scared of this storm than any other winter storm I have documented over the last 10 years.

Sadly, at least 18 people have lost their lives in this historic storm.  Many of  them could have been avoided and some of them were just bad luck. You should now prep yourself on what you need to do to stay safe this winter. It could be a long one, and it’s still 6 weeks away from the starting line.


Halloween Weekend Snowstorm Headed for the Northeast?

OCTOBER NOREASTER UPDATE: 10.29.2011 – 11:59pm


We have received 6-10″ of snow from this powerful October Nor’easter. It has pulled out of the region leaving us with many downed trees and powerlines. 


SNOWSTORM UPDATE:   10.28.201  –  4:30pm



Urgent – Winter Weather Message
National Weather Service Mount Holly NJ
352 PM EDT Fri Oct 28 2011

Including The Cities Of, Flemington, Somerville,
West Chester, Norristown, Doylestown

, Winter Storm Warning In Effect From 8 AM Saturday To 2 AM Edt

The National Weather Service In Mount Holly Has Issued A Winter
Storm Warning For Heavy Wet Snow, Which Is In Effect From 8 Am
Saturday To 2 AM EDT Sunday.

* Accumulations, 3 To 6 Inches. The Highest Amounts Mainly Across
The Higher Elevations And On Non-Paved Surfaces. Snow could exceed these totals depending on the track.

* Timing, Rain Will Develop After Midnight Tonight, Then Mix With
And Change To Wet Snow During Saturday Morning.

* Impacts, Hazardous Travel Developing, And The Heavy Wet Snow
Will Likely Weigh Down Trees Which Still Have Leaves On Them.
This Will Lead To Some Downed Trees And Power Outages. The Wet
Snow May Fall Heavy At Times During The Height Of The Storm,
Locally Increasing The Accumulation Rate.

* Winds, North 15 To 25 Mph With Gusts Up To 30 Mph.

* Temperatures, In The Upper 30s To Lower 40s, But Then Dropping
To Near Freezing Saturday Night.

* Visibilities, Reduced To Well Under A Mile At Times.

Precautionary/Preparedness Actions,

A Winter Storm Warning Means Significant Amounts Of Snow Are
Expected. Strong Winds Are Also Possible. This Will Make Travel
Very Hazardous.

Snowfall totals now predicted to be around 3-8″for central Chester County, Pa and 6-10″ for northern Chester County,PA. Keep an eye on the weather.:00:00 AM



SNOWSTORM UPDATE : 10.28.2011 –

The possibility of a snowstorm impacting the Philadelphia region with more than 6″ of snow is more likely now than it has been. As of now Philadlephia could see between 3 6″, West Chester 4-8″ , French Creek 6-10″ and then North and east into the Poconos could see over a 12″ of snow when all said and done….

Time to clean out my car and charge my batteries.. It could be a long weekend.

Documenting the strong winds and beach erosion associated with the Christmas Storm of 2010. Barnegat Light, NJ

Are you ready for another long winter in the mid-atlantic and northeast ?  This photo is from February 2010 when we received two Nor’easters in four days, each dumping 3 feet of snow.

Snowmageddon 2010

 The potential snowstorm could start by early Saturday morning and last through the day, that is if it even develops. Either way, I will be keeping a close eye on the weather to see what my chances are at chasing the  fall colors covered in our first snow. The possiblity of up to 3″ is forecasted for my area, but if I travel to the north (25-60miles) I could potentially see snow totals near 8″+ , but with less foliage on the trees. I’m going to stay further south and hope for a fresh snow on the colors of autumn during peak conditions right in my area.. You do not  need to travel far to find great photo ops sometimes.

Snowmageddon 2010

“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 Space.com

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  (  http://photoblog.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2011/10/24/8470300-catch-a-falling-star-and-fall-colors ).   

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! http://photoblog.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2011/10/25/8474218-northern-lights-go-way-way-south

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.

Super Storms Drop Hail and Deadly Lightning!

Monday night, October 11th 2010: Severe Weather pushes across PA along a front coming out of the Great Lakes. This storm was born in Lancaster County, Pa and moved East towards Philly.  Amazing Structure throughout the storm! Kind of resembles my “Midnight Lightning” photo that is currently in a National Geographic Photo Contest with Energizer Batteries.

Colors of Autumn are Coming!


As August fades, and September’s cooler temperatures settle in, the leaves begin the final stages of their lives. We are all often in awe when the leaves change from a  lush green to a vibrant yellow, orange or red. It often raises questions such as, “Why do leaves change color in autumn?  Why do some trees turn yellow, orange and others red? How come the color varies in intensity from year to year?” Well what if I said the leaves are always yellow and orange and the green just covers it all up? It is true, these colors exist in the leaves all year and are covered up by the green chlorophyll.


The Fall Leaf Cycle starts at the end of summer with the shortening of the days and cooler nights. At that point, the trees do not receive enough light to produce food for themselves, and the production of chlorophyll is haulted.  Some trees that turn fire engine red, like a Maple ,

have glucose trapped inside it. A combination of sunlight, shade, and the cold nights help turn the glucose into this red color we see.  I have seen some of the most spectacular colors of my life in New England and along the Appalachian Trail. Shenandoah National Park offers some of the best vistas and hiking trails in the East! 

This picture was published in Popular Photography and Imaging Magazine October 2008. Itwas taken in Shenandoah National Park during a weekend camping expedition.


During the Winter, the tree will loose  it’s leaves so it can survive the harsh season ahead. My Autumn usually begins around the second week of September. The weather patterns seem to change and cooler air is filtered down like clockwork making beautiful fog-filled scenes at sunrise and sunset. Like this..

or this…

or this…

Even this morning, I was blessed with some nice low-lying fog and a beautiful  morning sun halo.

You are not just limited to photographing leaves and trees, you can also photograph activities that take place during this season, or incorporate them into your shot.

Riding Harley Davidson’s in New England.

 or fishing in Vermont..

Maybe all you need is a little good luck this fall!

I love taking hikes through Ricketts Glenn State Park in Pennsylvania! You can see so many beautiful waterfalls and thick forests filled with photo ops!

Check out the Green Mountains of Vermont!