Archive for the ‘Northern Lights’ Category
With a host of people heading north this winter/spring to photograph the aurora, I thought it might be of some interest to talk a little about the process of shooting photography at night; I know a lot of people have little experience with that, and it really can be a challenge at times. Particularly on a cold frozen night in Alaska when the northern lights start going crazy overhead.
So, the first thing I’d suggest, if you haven’t already, is read over my 3 part article on shooting the northern lights. There’s a downloadable PDF at the end of that article you can keep for future reference.
So, now that you’re prepared, consider the moment. It’s dark. It’s cold, maybe minus 20 degrees F; cold enough that your hands start to really feel it after a few minutes. It’s dark. You have a headlamp on, and that gives you a little bit of vision out to maybe 30-50 yards or so. After that, you can’t see too much at all. The aurora starts to fire up, and you want to shoot it.
You can’t see your foreground and composition. Its dark. You don’t even know if the foreground is worth shooting. It’s dark. You can’t walk around all over and use your headlamp to see, because (a) there isn’t time, (b) there are other people trying to shoot, (c) you don’t want to track up all the snow by stomping around in it. So setup your test shots. This is probably the most important part of the process. Set up and do your test shots. (more…)
Apologies for the long delays in getting back to the blog. I’ve been busy working on a new website (details coming soon enough, I hope), and then the last couple of weeks over in Wrangell – St. Elias National Park for a snowshoe trip, and then a week in central Alaska looking for the aurora borealis.
Now I’m back for a couple of brief days before heading out again to the park for another trip, snowshoeing and photographing. So I won’t be around much at least for another week or so.
This shot was from last night in the White Mountains, just north of Fairbanks. The aurora rocked all night long. We got back in the cabin at a little after 5, then up at 9, breakfast, and on the road back to Anchorage. I was hoping to go back out tonight, but I don’t see that happening at this point. I’m tired.
People tend to underestimate how difficult it can be to shoot the aurora. It means long nights, and often little sleep. And very often, very little good photographic fortune. But sometimes we get lucky.
Hope you enjoy this image of the aurora.
Here’s another image from a recent sojourn to Wrangell – St. Elias National Park to see and photograph the northern lights, or Aurora borealis. It was a treat to have a moonlit night to shoot by, providing plenty of ambient light to capture the fall colors as well as the northern lights.
This trip was a wild ride. A mad run from Anchorage to the Glennallen area (more…)
From the recent trip to shoot the northern lights in Wrangell – St. Elias National Park. I’ve never seen clouds move in quite so quickly as they did this particular evening. I’d se up to shoot over in the Glennallen area, and before long, high clouds rolled in from the southwest. In order to keep shooting, I had to figure which would be the best direction to head.
I chose north and east, toward the Nabesna Road, partly because I wanted to be in that area for sunrise. So I spent the evening trying to stay ahead of the lights and catch what images I could along the way. Finally, I made it to where I wanted to be, and then set off to find a composition I wanted.
For any Alaskans out there, or anyone else who’s hiked over muskeg before, you’ll appreciate this one.; try setting out at night time to hike over the muskeg for your photos. I guarantee that WILL kick your a$$.
Then I spent the rest of the evening waiting for the lights to turn on. They popped out a few times, but never really strongly, though they were pretty active. The full moon made for plenty of light for the foreground. I wish I could’ve gotten a little closer to the water’s edge here, but all that long grass in the foreground sits in about 10 inches of water. If the lights had offered something really dazzling, I might have ventured out, but for staying dry and warm seemed a better option given the circumstances.
Finally I fell asleep under a spruce tree, woke up to a clouded sky, and stumbled my way backward camp and my superwarm, absolutely amazing, Western Mountaineering Lynx sleeping bag. life was good. I didn’t get up for sunrise.
One topic I’ve often heard discussed relating to nature and outdoor photography pertains to the value of the experience itself. Does photography “get in the way”, and limit the photographers’ realization of the experience itself, or does it add to it?
I have friends, for example, that don’t like to bring a camera on a backpacking trip because they feel it hinders how they are able to soak up the actual experience. They’d rather sit and watch that glorious sunrise than fiddle with the camera and try to get a good composition. They’d rather sit back and stare in awe at the Aurora borealis do its thing over Denali than take their gloves off and tweak camera settings. (more…)
Just a quick shot from last night’s Aurora. It wasn’t the greatest Aurora, but any aurora is a treat to witness. Here I managed to capture the slowly sinking moon, in the Waxing Crescent phase, before it disappeared beneath the horizon.
One piece of advice I’ll offer folks visiting Alaska to see/photograph the aurora – don’t drive around Alaska at night with under a half a tank of gas. And remember to bring a warm sleeping bag and sleeping pad in your vehicle.
My friend Guy Tal posted (as usual) another great read on his blog; “Photography and the Environment”. I urge you to read his treatise; it’s a solid piece. Guy has a great knack for writing on particular topics without seeming to offend those who disagree with him, which makes his a powerful voice. At the same time, he’s not wishy-washy. that’s a hard line to toe.
One question Guy asks in the article is “Will another photograph on a web site in a stock library truly change public opinion? How about another thousand? Another million?”
I’d suggest, however, that this is the wrong question to consider. (more…)