Few things say the spirit of the North Country like the Aurora Borealis. Thanks to a massive solar flare activity over the last few days, the action over the northern skies was exceptional. Unlike Churchill, Manitoba, where Natural habitat runs aurora viewing trips, Homer, Alaska is pretty far south of the band of average activity. We get lucky sometimes, however. Here are a few images taken from my house around 2-3 am.
Today I am feeling the effects of no sleep, and standing out in temperatures of 3 degrees above zero, and a -20 windchill from midnight to 5:30 am. I am also quite disappointed that my 16-35 wide angle lens didn’t arrive in time for the display. My wide angle lens broke last summer while I was photographing bears on the kenai River, so I used an old 35-105 3.5, which, with the half chip on my Canon 7D, is not wide enough for big skies. We also had an almost full moon last night, which was so bright, it interfered with the brightness of the aurora. Anyway, at least I got some pretty cool shots of the lights over Kachemak Bay, and was serenaded by a pair of great horned owls.
Photographing aurora takes some special techniques, but if you have the right equipment, it is fairly simple. All you need is a camera that can be manually set to shoot exposures from 3-30 seconds (longer then 30 creates star tracking and looks funny), a tripod so that your camera is still during the long exposure, and a cable release so that you don’t shake the camera when you take an image. These exposures were shot at around 10 seconds, at an aperture of 3.5, which is as wide as this lens will open and an ISO of 200 or so. My new lens, which is a 2.8 (has a wider aperture), would be better, as it can gather the same amount of light in a shorter amount of time, so I would get better definition within the auroral light. It just arrived, and I am hoping for some more activity before the clouds move in.
Check out Steve Selden’s latest article to read tales and see images from the recent Natural Habitat Aurora trips by CLICKING HERE.