Although late April in Alaska typically spells the end of the “dark days” of winter and hence the aurora borealis, we were fortunate to have an active aurora forecast (KP6) and clear skies on April 23rd. Perhaps the fates were aligning without my knowing it as spring in Southeast Alaska is known for its clouds and rain, but as I drove out to The Cannery at Icy Strait Point I was greeted by stars and a moonless night. From the parking lot my feet crunched on the gravel of the rocky beach. I walked along with the water lapping near my feet and the sea-air filled my nostrils from the swelling waters of a high tide. I was not alone out there. My headlamp lit up only a small portion of the inky-dark night, but up ahead a mink’s eyes showed brightly like two opals in the dark. Another mustelid, a River Otter, swam in the waters just offshore. He got closer to me several times, obviously trying to figure out what I was up to. All of these wonders were the precursor to the amazing show that was only be beginning.
At 12:30 AM The aurora began to intensify over the waters of Port Frederick. Soon the pulsing green, pink, and white lights turned the ocean fluorescent green and my eyes wide. I had never seen a display this active in Southeast! I worked with my camera to tether together the sea and the Northern Lights. I was fortunate enough to have the Alaska Marine Highway Ferry add some scale at about 1AM.
The aurora borealis from the cannery at Icy Strait Point
The Alaska Marine Line Ferry comes into Hoonah at under the Northern Lights.
The Alaska Marine Line Ferry comes into Hoonah at under the Northern Lights.
The aurora borealis over the pilings at Icy Strait Point
The aurora arches south over Neka Mountain.
This large panorama captures the scale of the aurora over the waters of Port Frederick.
A corona erupts overhead during a brilliant show of Aurora in Hoonah.
As good as it gets! This was the most amazing displa of northern light that I’ve seen in Southeast Alaska.
A tall aurora stretches above the waters of Port Frederick, Hoonah, Alaska.
The aurora borealis above the dock at Icy Strait Point
A brilliant band of aurora erupts over Port Frederick.
At 1:30 AM the adrenaline of the incredible show finally started to wear off. I set off down the shore to go home, staring at my feet to avoid tripping. That’s when the first small blue light in the water caught my eye. I splashed a rock into the water and blue waves of biolumintation echoed out from its crater. I stepped into the water, and my footprints erupted with light. All around me in the waters of Port Frederick, small, bio-luminescent creatures swarmed and let off burst of cerulean blue light like underwater fireflies at the slightest disturbance. It was then that I knew what I had to do! My camera began clicking 6 inches from the water’s surface as I sought together bond together the lights of the sea and the lights of the sky as its unlikely I will ever have this unique experience ever again!
Now that we are past Thanksgiving I am definitely in the Christmas Spirit. I took my festive passion into the Alaskan wilderness last night to fuse together a little Christmas Cheer and the aurora borealis. I sat in the waist deep snow and tossed Christmas ornaments into the powder as I belted Christmas carols and watched a crescendo of pink and green aurora dance over my head like the twinkling lights of a monstrous, celestial Christmas tree. Of course, there is no reason to put a star on top of this metaphorical tree, it is a tree that is covered in them, not crowned with one. There were no presents under this tree, because it was already a gift. I had a lot of fun doing this shoot last night, I hope you enjoy!
If you are interested in a one-of-a-kinda Alaskan Christmas card and before you send your greeting cards this year, consider a purchase from my Fine Art America website. To browse a selection of these images as a greeting card, framed print, phone cover, or many other products please visit my page : Ian’s Fine Art America.
I experimented with a variety of arrangements through the night, but I trended towards ones with color in front.
The aurora is reflected perfectly in this shiny Christmas Ornament
A drop of green aurora fell from the sky and landed in the snow 🙂
I took advantage of this fully covered black spruce to make a Christmas tree!
The hoar frost on top of the snow just adds to the beauty of the scene!
I love the splashes of color the Christmas Ornaments provide!
I am reflected in this stack of Christmas ornaments 🙂
A big moon shadows the ornaments, and is a brilliant aurora reflection shines from overhead.
Last night I did it again, and I enjoyed every minute of it. Yup, when I bring someone out for their first aurora and they are so excited that they can barely stand, I share in that excitement. Their grin is my grin and their joy is my passion. Their exuberance was warranted, as the aurora put on a beautiful show for us over the dogyards of Black Spruce Dog Sledding and for Alaskans across the state. It was hard not pull up one of the empty sleds that beckoned to the watcher to layback, relax, smile, and enjoy the show. It truly is a beautiful world.
If you are interested in purchasing “Take A Seat for the Aurora”. Please top by my Fine Art America Site 🙂
A Happy Trio under the Aurora!
This image of empty sleds beckons the viewer to come take a seat and enjoy a beautiful show.
The aurora creeps in over the Dog Yard of Black Spruce Dog Sledding.
A powerful flare of aurora threatens to blow out this image. Such a beautiful scene!
The aurora lights up the scene behind these snow-laden black spruces.
I never leave out the horizon in my shots, but did in this one for some reason. And you know what – I kind of like it! The milky way is showing up alongside the aurora in this shot.
Jason and Megan were visiting Black Spruce Dog Sledding, and I was more than happy to get an image of them under their aurora. A great couple!
Wide vistas over Murphy dome showing off a beautiful sky.
Well, last night was a stunner here in Alaska. I went out for the Aurora, and was yet again bowled over by just how wonderful it is/was! First things first, I need to toot my horn a bit here. Aurora Tech (http://goo.gl/9x4yk1) insulating technology worked like a charm. Coupled with a Zippo handwarmer and another hand-heater my camera operated for over 2.5 hours at -20 degrees Farenheight on one battery! That’s a tremendous improvement! I was able to shoot 2 different angles for over an hour each, results in a pretty great timelapse and some great photography. That’s at the bottom!
I thought I would do some research for myself on the Aurora and the science behind it. All information that I disseminate here can be found on Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aurora_(astronomy)) – sorry for you non-wiki-trusters. But for this instance I think it will be OK 🙂
THE BIG QUESTIONS
What causes the Aurora?
Auroras are a emissions from photons (light) which are in the Earth’s Atmosphere above 80 km (50 mile). They are excited when they collide with solar wind and the magnetospheric particles which are ‘funneled’ and sped up by the Earth’s magnetic lines.
Aurorae are classified as diffuse and discrete.
“The diffuse aurora is a featureless glow in the sky that may not be visible to the naked eye, even on a dark night. It defines the extent of the auroral zone.”
“The discrete aurorae are sharply defined features within the diffuse aurora that vary in brightness from just barely visible to the naked eye, to bright enough to read a newspaper by at night. Discrete aurorae are usually seen in only the night sky, because they are not as bright as the sunlit sky.”
Where do thecolorscome from?
RED: At high latitudes Reds come from excited oxygen.
GREEN : at lower altitudes reds are suppressed and green shines out. Green can be generated by the collision of oxygen and nitrogen.
YELLOW and PINK : Just mixes of red and green!
BLUE : At the lowest altitudes there is no more atomic oxygen and there is lots of nitrogen. It radiates at blue and red – which can give you purple!
What does the Aurora sound like?
Apparently there are records of people ‘hearing’ the aurora! Scientists actually were able to record a sound, which they describe as ‘clapping’ from the aurora. I’m not sure I agree with their analogy of the sound, but have a listen!
I have a question for you, the readers. I have created 2 timelapse videos below of the same aurora from last night. One is played slower than the other. Which do you prefer? I would love to know for future timelapse video making!
Tonight left me speechless, and if you had seen the explosive, pulsating reds and greens across the sky, you may have been too. DISCLAIMER : Poeticism, superlatives, and lists of glamorous, stunning, beautiful adjectives will abound in this post, for this was no mere night and cannot be described with just plain words :P. If this grammatical superfulism is not your style, I would not blame you for skipping straight to the images on this one.
The aurora tonight was viewed about 5 miles from Murphy Dome. It started out as small pinnacles of colorless light in the sky which reminded me of shafts of lights streaming through a window into a dusty room — the cosmos is indeed full of dusty rooms. At first I thought the northern lights were just lights from the town. But it was not so. The lights began to grow brighter and quickly showed their emerald sheen. They grew into blended columns of dark green, light green, lime-green, and moss green light that filled the northern sky. The green gave way to red, but by give-way I don’t mean they were replaced entirely. Rather. the towers of green pierced through the red back drop that saturated the sky to the north-northwest. The reds acted very differently than the greens, and seemed to never pick a form. They chose to just be the canvas for the greens to dance upon. And dance they did. Flowing curtains of green morphed and changed so rapidly that remembering what it used to look like only tore your attention away from concentrating on its new shape. Because the band of Lights split the cosmos going 180 degrees from horizon to horizon, the direction that you craned your head was important to your viewing experience. I would recommend the UP -Crane because the UP-Crane allows you to view the nucleus of the aurora. Above your head, on nights such as this was one, the core of the Aurora reaches into the depths of space. The pillars which serve to block the sky in banded patterns to your left and right seem to stretch out and lengthen as you stare directly up at them. Like balancing a pencil on your nose by its eraser and then focusing on its sharpened tip. This portal of time feels like it would lead you to another dimension if you could jump just high enough to each it. The nucleus of the aurora is often the fastest changing. It grows and contracts while sending out electric pulses which pop, undulate, and meander across this sky. The beauty of the Aurora in its complete randomness.
Getting away from some of the poetry, I’d like to talk about my next upgrade in Aurora photography. First it was know-how, second it was cold-beating insulation (still in development) and now one of the next steps in my Aurora photography is a wide angle lens. However, I’m not that versed in lenses (especially old ones) and I would love to hear opinions on wide angle lenses for Micro-four Thirds. I’m looking for anything that would give me wider than 18mm ( in 35mm equivalent) and have considered old c-mount lenses (Cosmicar 8.5mm f/1.5) as well as MFT such as the panasonic 7-14 mm f/4.0. Leave a comment if you have any thoughts!
Without further ado, here’s some pictures from the night. The images start with the low-level reds which were soon exploding across the sky. Sorry for the intrusive Watermarks on these images, but I’m being a bit more protective of these captures compared to some others. Remember, if you ever want an image, be sure to contact me!