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  • September 2020
    M T W T F S S
    « Nov    


    An aspect of photography that makes it so popular is that you don’t need the fanciest equipment to create stunning shots. Most of the time.

    Capturing the beauty of the aurora is easily the most challenging subject I’ve ever tackled. In addition to be being fairly dim, the aurora flicker and move continuously. Exposures greater than a few seconds smear out the fine structures, but short exposures are too dark. I attended an auroral conference in Fairbanks a few weeks ago, in the middle of February. That was intentional! Near the solstice, dark nights, new moon… perfect for aurora hunting. The sun cooperated and gave us the best show in years. Sadly, my now old Nikon D200, extremely noisy at high ISO, and slow lens just weren’t up for the task. The -30°F weather didn’t help things. Nor did my forgetting the base plate to my tripod.

    The first night had the most active aurora in years, but without the base plate I was forced to hold the camera against a car during the exposures – made the more complicated by my shivering hands. The next day I tracked down a camera shop in Fairbanks, bought a base plate, and was in business the rest of the week.

    I’m not content with any of my shots (except the power plant at left). Partly I suppose that’s because I’m comparing them to professionals, who can shoot with $5000 lenses and pro cameras. Google a bit and you’ll see aurora photos with beautiful colors (while mine have an overall green tint) and fine structure. And because I shot at 1600 ISO, the shots are very grainy, which distracts from the aurora. I cleaned them up the best I could, and kept the image size smaller than normal. I still haven’t figured out why, but the photos look much better small-scale. Something about the subtle contrasts that my brain isn’t able to take in fully in the larger images (if you click the link below, compare the thumbnails to the full size image to see what I mean). I’m sure there’s a lesson in there, but I’m still too frostbitten to figure it out. Still, I’m happy to have some aurora photos of my own.

    Click for aurora gallery.

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