Sunday, 13 April 2014

Northern Lights

I'm not really thrilled with my pictures of the Northern Lights last night. It was my first time using the Canon SL1 for aurora. The pictures looked good on the preview screen, but were grainy and under-exposed when I downloaded them. I did use a tripod and the timer to avoid jiggle. I should have used longer shutter exposures. I have to do a lot of processing to remove the grain and I'm not that skilled in Lightroom.

Northern Lights

That said, the experience itself was great. I belong to a Facebook group of Alberta aurora chasers. When the space weather reports showed great conditions, and the skies were clear, I hoped to be able to partner with someone. I don't like the idea of driving around the countryside by myself, as a single woman. If I couldn't partner up, my plan was to move around quickly and not stay in one place too long.

Fortunately, another woman, C, asked if anyone was going to go shoot up by Airdrie. I took a quick look at her Facebook profile to assure myself she wasn't going to be an axe murderer, then replied that I would gladly go to Airdrie. She DM'ed her cell phone #, we chatted, and agreed we would buddy up. All of my equipment was ready, so I hopped in my car and drove to her house. She had experience shooting the Northern Lights on country roads so she took the lead. I'm also glad she drove because she has a BMW with heated seats. :-)

She's nice and I think we could be friends. She is also single and has a cat. I used her bathroom just in case, before we headed out, and I blinked a little to find myself in a stranger's house - I'm really started to fail as an introvert. ;-)

We stopped in Airdrie to meet four other people. They are a group of friends from Ireland who have been working in Alberta. Seeing the Northern Lights had been on their bucket list, and it was the one item left. And they are flying back Monday morning. So they were really happy that C knew the area and had great photography tips. Especially M, because it was her birthday and getting to finally see the Northern Lights was the best gift ever.

We went to one spot and that's where the Lights were the best.

Photography tip from C - if you see a greenish haze on the horizon, take a test shot with your camera to determine if they are the Northern Lights.

The Lights grew bright enough that we didn't need a camera to see the banding and the pillars. Awesome. The temperature was between -4 and -10, which is cold enough. We kept jumping back into the vehicles to warm up. After those Lights faded, we tried another spot. They came up again but not as bright. We decided to pack it in. Some others from the Facebook group got brighter shots around 2:30 am.

So - not ideal, but it was a good learning experience, and now I know more about which country roads to drive to. I got to meet new people and not feel scared out there. The people in the Facebook group are saying I'm on the right track with my photos.

C also took a picture of everyone against the Northern Lights - so this is her wonderful photograph of my giving a cold thumbs up: bychristy


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