Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Northern Lights!!

I am a collector of experiences. I love adventures and as my profile says, it is about the journey as much as the photo itself. So, when I heard about the chance to see and photograph the Northern Lights near me I jumped at the chance! I never thought I would be able to see them this far south. They have been on my bucket list forever, but I thought a trip to Alaska, Iceland or Norway was the only way to catch a glimpse. When a friend of mine, Melissa, said it was possible 2 hours from where I live, I knew I had to go despite it making for a long night! Melissa let a group of us know that a show was possible and I made the trek up to Anacortes, WA to join her and a group of fellow photographers. You can see Melissa's shots from the night here!

As my eyes adjusted to the darkness and I took a few test shots, I began to see green in the camera. As the show became stronger I was able to see lighter gray sections of the sky and streaks moving upward as well as pink along with the green in my camera. It was a thrilling experience and something I am so glad I did despite the limited sleep that night. I cannot wait to go again!

And because this was such a learning experience for me (only had a few usuable shots) I share some tips at the bottom of this post. 

Settings: ISO 400, 16mm, f/4.0, ss30.0sec
Taken around 9:30pm on April 15th, 2015 at Washington Park

Settings: ISO 3200, 35mm, f/11, ss30.0sec
Taken around 10:20pm on April 15th, 2015 at Washington Park

Settings: ISO 500, 33mm, f/4.5, ss30.0sec
Taken around 10:30pm on April 15th, 2015 at Washington Park

Settings: ISO 640, 33mm, f/4.5, ss25.0sec
Taken around 10:40pm on April 15th, 2015 at Washington Park
"The north! the north! from out the north
What founts of light are breaking forth,
And streaming up these evening skies,
A glorious wonder to our eyes!"
Hannah Flagg Gould, "The Aurora Borealis"

A few things I learned about shooting the Aurora Borealis:
1. You can see them much farther south than you think, you just need a place that is as dark as possible (away from light pollution) and north facing with a good view of the horizon.

2. There are a TON of groups on Facebook, websites and apps for knowing when a storm is coming. Facebook - Aurora Alerts by Soft Serve and Aurora Borealis Notifications
Website - Soft Serve News and Space Weather Prediction Center
App - Aurora Forecast (free for iPhone)

3. A tripod is a MUST and a remote is extremely helpful. You have to have a very long exposure, a wide open aperture and a higher ISO so you need to do everything you can to minimize movement.

4. Manual focus to infinity. In the pitch dark there is nothing to see focus on so you have to set manual focus for your camera. This is what I need to work on for next time!

5. Limit exposure of your eyes to light. Use a red filter on your flashlight, don't check your phone, etc. This is the only way you can see anything with the naked eye.

As I said, I have a ton to learn and I can't wait to try again. I hope you find these tips helpful and I would love to know what you think of my first attempt at shooting this epic natural phonemeon!

Weekly Top Shot #173   P52 Sweet Shot Tuesday with Kent Weakley


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