With a title like that, I bet you're hoping or even expecting a breathtaking shot full of stunning colours along with a captivating story. Sorry, this isn't the blog you're looking for.
The other night I was at work when my phone rang. My friend quickly cut to the chase and asked if I had been watching the numbers which relate to Coronal Mass Ejections which ultimately create The Northern Lights - Something I've never seen, but want to... Desperately.
A bit of chat, and plans were made to head north. (Thank god for a good shift and lots of vac!)
A few hours of driving later, we found our spot at Torrance Barrens - An official Dark Sky Preserve as recognized by the Ontario Government. The sun had just about disappeared over the horizon and we decided to relax there and see what was going to happen. (Besides the Northern Lights, I was really hoping to catch a glimpse of Comet PANSTARRS but that was a bust due to tallish trees in our vicinity) Now came the wait. Followed by more wait, and then some waiting. We decided early that we were going to hike inside the Barrens, set up a couple of chairs and relax, but it was pretty cold, we'd both foolishly elected to wear running shoes rather than boots and the ground was snow-covered. Despite both of us wearing 2 pairs of socks, it was clearly inadequate.
We made a couple of trips back to the car to warm up and wait for the magic in the sky, but after a couple of hours, it wasn't to be.
We drove a little to see if we could score a better view from closer to the car, but that will take more researching. We did manage to find another place on the side of the road and decided to give it more time. Patience after all.
Time passed and some of the wind was starting to leave our sails. The quarter moon seemed impossibly bright. Stars in this clear sky seemed less bright than usual, but feeling like I had to talk away with something, I decided I would give a star trail a shot. For anyone who doesn't know, a star trail is what you get when you point your camera somewhere in the sky and leave the shutter open. Unless your camera is calibrated to take the earth's rotation into account, the stars will move in your photo as you see here. I like the effect.
I set up my camera behind the car, set to BULB and activated the shutter before getting in the car. I was hoping to capture lots of light so I set the ISO high. Very high. Too high. Note to self - Why did you set it to 32,000 when 800 would have been plenty. In the car we chatted, listened to some youtube (I'm amazed we still had coverage up there!) inuit throat singers and kept watching the Aurororora numbers. Yes, I say it like that. It's more fun, try it! Numbers gradually diminished and it became clear it wasn't going to happen for us.
After 45 minutes of exposure, I went back to the camera and closed the shutter. Sadly, as you can imagine if you're a camera person, the shot was way over exposed. From the preview window I was convinced it was ruined completely. Enter Photoshop! After reducing here, adding there, tinkering a little, I was able to salvage this image. It's far from perfect, but I'm glad I was able to come home with something at least. This image was at 10mm pointed directly up to the sky.
On another clear night, I will try with a slightly longer lens with hood from home and do much better, but I see here that a 45 minute exposure made for a pretty acceptable length of trail.
As far as the night goes with chasing an Aurora Borealis, I have now learned that patience along with luck are critical to catching it.
The night was still fun and it was nice to have company this time. I will be keeping watch on numbers from now on and when it's possible, I will be hopping in the car and trying again. This time, I hope there is no moon!