Tag Archives: Help

Chasing the Minnesota Aurora

During my trip home to Minnesota I have taken what I have learned about aurora watching in Alaska, and transferred it to conditions in the midwest. In doing so, I traded watching the aurora over snow drifts to squinting my eyes over bean fields with moderate success! A big push of energy from the sun has elevated geomagnetic energy to KP 6 or a G2-“Geomagnetic storm level 2”, which boosts the aurora to Minnesota, and even beyond. The two nights I chased the aurora brought success in both capturing the aurora in central Minnesota, and for playing with some new techniques which I will be honing in the upcoming year and are featured below. I would love to hear your feedback!

This timelapse below is fairly short and does not have a brilliant aurora, but does give a great idea of where to look for the aurora in Central Minnesota. During this G2 storm. In Alaska the aurora during a G2 storm would be far overhead and taking up the whole sky. In Minnesota it rose slightly above the horizon. Viewing would have been better if the smoke haze and moonlight could have been removed.

Moon through the clouds
The first night that I chased the aurora, a strong wing was rapidly pushing the clouds past this moon, which was fortunately setting. I really like the wind in the trees of this particular shot, as well as the long shadow cast by the moon.
Starlapse and Aurora
This star spin shot captures a 1.5 hours timelapse of star movement in the sky. Fortunately I captured the faint glow of aurora on low on the horizon, and directly below the pivotal star – the North Star.

One of the techniques I am very interested in growing is the ability to capture full panoramas of the milky way. The progression of images below shows a little bit on how that works. I learned a lot in this first attempt. A few key findings : 1) find the darkest skies possible! The light pollution shows here. 2) need to have more overlap in the shots 3 ) I tried to capture the whole galaxy in one sweep of the camera. I now know I can stitch multiple rows of shots to capture a larger area 4) keep the ISO of the camera low-ish to reduce noise. For those reading this with experience in capturing the Milky Way, please contact me, it would be great to pick your brain!

Midwest Milky Way
This image does a nice job of capturing a single image of the Milky Way. However, I would like to find darker skies. By taking multiple shots with the camera on the same plane, I can stick them together into the results below.
Milky Way Stretch
Here is one of the things I am struggling with in capturing a full panorama of the Milky Way. This image has a gorgeous amount of contrast, however, after stitching, I did not have enough horizon to create an image that can be cropped well. I would love to get feedback on the best way to straighten and correct these images.
Milky Way Panorama
This image is the best example I have of stitching the Milky Way, but is far from the entire arch. I do really like the bit of aurora that shows up here. Hopefully I can apply what I learned in my next attempt!
Aurora KP 6 Central Minnesota
This image of the aurora was taken in Rice, Minnesota during a G2 auroral storm. If it weren’t for the moon and the haze it would have been a much nicer show!

I have done a lot to curate my aurora gallery on Fine Art America. I would love if you checked it out!

 

Click here to View my professional aurora borealis gallery on Fine Art America

Colorful Seasons in Alaska

There is nothing more beautiful than a wildflower, but what about them makes them so beautiful? Surely the details in them are often astounding. Long stamens, unique petals, or colorful flowers may dazzle the eyes. Alternatively, the beauty of a wildflower may be linked to its overall surrounding. We often find them perched in rocky crags, in front of mountain vistas, at the edge of our favorite pond, or along our favorite hiking trail. Each wildflower represents a detailed, wild beauty, and that beauty grows as you consider the ecosystem and ecology that surround them.

Wildflowers excel at telling us the progression of summer. In Alaska, one of the first wildflowers of spring, pasque flowers, spring up in large purple and yellow blossoms welcoming the queen bumble bees which have just woken up from a long winter. Similarly, the early blooms of purple mountain saxifrage provide a critical nectar resource for queen bees. However, the timing, or phenology, of wildflowers in Alaska is changing with a warming climate. Changing flower timing can effect insects populations, and in turn birds by growing at different times than they have for milleniums. An example that we (I believe) have all noticed is a quickly melting snowpack. As snowpack melts earlier it has repercussions on when a flower starts to grow and bloom by moving it earlier, and buds may freeze in the still cold temperatures (Inouye 2008). This changes the plant’s fitness and also the flowers available to pollinators.  Although the genes of plants may have enough flexibility accommodate some of the effects of climate change, they may need to evolve to ultimately survive (Anderson, Jill T., et al. 2012).

This summer I’ve turned my lens to all of the wildflower blooms I can. I am actually pretty astounded by the number of species I have photographed and learned! When photographing them I both put them in their surroundings, and captured the fine details of their beauty. Some of these images are availble for purchase through my Fine Art America gallery. I hope you enjoy this extensive collection of the colorful seasons of Alaska! Photos are featured in the month that I captured them, rather than when they first start blooming.

June

July

August

 

If you’ve made it this far then I want to let you know that these images are available in a single page as well with some images that are not featured in this post:

https://ianajohnson.com/wildflowers-of-alaska/

Identification Sources:

If you are looking for Alaskan wildflower identification I cannot say enough about the utility of these two sites:

http://www.turtlepuddle.org/alaskan/wild/flowers-1.html

http://www.alaskawildflowers.us/

USDA Plant Database http://plants.usda.gov/java/

Literature

Inouye, David W. “Effects of climate change on phenology, frost damage, and floral abundance of montane wildflowers.” Ecology 89.2 (2008): 353-362.

Anderson, Jill T., et al. “Phenotypic plasticity and adaptive evolution contribute to advancing flowering phenology in response to climate change.” Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences 279.1743 (2012): 3843-3852.

The Grand Re-Opening

Hello Everyone!

I’ve been hard at it on the website in the last 2 weeks, and I am very, very excited to give you a tour of the results.  I would love to get your feedback on the site. First off, how about the color scheme? Took me awhile to settle on it, and customize it to this point! An untested piece of this site, is to see if all of the email subscriptions were transferred correctly. If you are receiving this via email and could let me know you got it, that would be great!

Videos

The days of hosting videos on my website are over. I have created a YouTube Channel (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCiqds-5iivj9DMfUWM1cRkA) which will host all new videos, and I’ll implement them into the blog. If you are on YouTube be sure to follow the channel! I am far from transitioning all video content to YouTube, so please bear with me if content is unavailable. The great thing is that YouTube videos are very easy to share, and are much easier for people to find.

Blog

In the past I have been very frustrated with how quickly content becomes buried once published. I have established a new page which features all blog posts and can be simply scrolled through. Although it is not the 100% ideal situation (which is unattainable as it involves ESP), I hope you will be able to search for and scroll through old posts much more easily here https://ianajohnson.com/posts/

Professionally Geared

This little blog of mine has grown up a lot. It was once a bit of data planted on the internet, and has transformed into a sequoia tree of information, images, and videos. Seeing as I’m proud of all the content post,  I have tailored it as a professional website/portfolio. As such you can view a short image portfolio (https://ianajohnson.com/faa/index.php/portfolio/),  and my scientific background (https://ianajohnson.com/professional-experience/).

Imagery Sales

An absolutely new realm for me and a very exciting part of this upgrade is the opportunity to sell imagery. By establishing an account through Fine Art America, some of the content featured on this site will be available for purchase. My current galleries there contain ~50 images of the >300 I would like to upload. The images exemplify all themes of this blog including wildlife, aurora, and overall natural beauty. Most galleries are updated daily as I take the time to upload the images. At this time all sales will be used to fund the purchase of a Nikon D810 (perhaps the last camera I will ever need to own). The camera comes with capabilities almost second to none, and will further enhance the products I can offer here. The sales side of my website can be found at https://ianajohnson.com/faa/. Let me know if you find the design user friendly!

In line with imagery sales, and in hopes of funding a camera, I am considering creating a calendar of seasonal images throughout Alaska. Although I have not settled on a final product, I would love to hear if you have interest. Mostly it is so I can determine if there is a market – don’t worry – your interest is a 100% non-committal agreement!

Future Content

The amount of time spent to create this new website has left me with no time to create new posts. So, here is a sneak preview! I was very fortunate to engage in Alaska’s personal-use fishery. I will be writing about my experiences at Chitina River.

The personal use fishery at Chitina River allows you to literally scoop them from the raging waters.
The personal use fishery at Chitina River allows you to literally scoop them from the raging waters.

Second, my curiosity about the diversity of mushrooms was gratified to have an awesome mycologist connection. I’m going to take you for a walk through a small section of Alaskan fungal diversity!

A short walk through the woods will yield a diversity of mushroom colors and shapes that will boggle the mind. Lots of mushrooms coming your way soon!
A short walk through the woods will yield a diversity of mushroom colors and shapes that will boggle the mind. Lots of mushrooms coming your way soon!