Best Höfn Aurora (Link to gallery, so you can skip the narrative).
Following the success of St. Patrick’s Day storm ‘photoshoot’, I would have been happy to leave Iceland without seeing any further aurora. But Mother Nature wanted to send us out with a bang, and delivered another incredible display two nights later.
As you might expect, following the excitement of St. Patty’s Day, I spent the next day flipping through the photos to see what I captured. A couple of things stood out, as items I needed to correct:
- Focusing. I knew in the moment that I was having difficulty keeping sharp focus, and far too many images were slightly blurred.
- High ISO noise. I had experimented with high ISO, going up to 6400, and although this brought out the sharp details of the aurora, the photos lacked ‘punch’, through a combination of the resultant low contrast and high noise.
So two days later, when the aurora were starting to spin up, I went out and practiced. Since I knew I had good shots ‘in the can’ (or ‘on the card’, as it were), I allowed myself a little experimentation: I fiddled with ISO, f/stop and exposure, and wandered around the area quite a bit to change the foreground. If I missed an arc, so what. I was previously so intent on making sure I didn’t miss an opportunity, that I had neglected the immortal words of John Wooden: Be quick, but don’t hurry.
With a few hours of practice, I was dialed in and ready.
I had been out for several hours in sub freezing, windy conditions, so I went back into the cottage to warm up and wait for the big display… and almost missed it! By the time I had thrown on my coat and gloves the aurora were directly overhead. I snapped a few shots (here, here and here) then ran around the area like a mad man looking for good foreground material. By this time I was more experienced, and was able to quickly set up, reframe, refocus, and shoot. And because of that, the photos from this night are some of my favorite of the entire trip.
There are three groups of photos from the night:
- ‘Practice time’. These turned out to be some of the best. The sun was slowly setting, leaving the sky a beautiful purple. A series of slowly drifting arcs appeared, and the green on purple contrast is wonderful. That comet PanSTARRS was also in the picture was completely by luck. Completely.
- Auroral Expansion. Active aurora all over the sky, including some beautiful, strong arcs over the mountains.
- Quiet time. This was the most interesting of all. After the auroral substorm, a large belt of aurora set up south of us. It changed slowly, and had immense structuring.
All in all, a perfect way to end the trip. You can tell I was dialed in, because this time I posted only 20 photos from that night – I took shots I knew would be good, and didn’t shoot willy-nilly. The comet is in some of them, as are the Pleiades, the Orion Nebula, and the Andromeda galaxy. You can view them here:
Best Höfn Aurora