What a Gift!

“Nature’s beauty is a gift that cultivates appreciation and gratitude.” – Louie Schwartzberg, (Cinematographer and artist who’s work in nature documentaries is worth checking out – Netflix has a series called Moving Art – it’s on my ‘to watch’ list when we get home).

We had thought with the weather against us and the Aurora App indicating low activity that we may have seen all we would of the Northern Lights. We had a starry sky though and wanted to still try and take some night shots and have fun with the camera. I mean who wouldn’t want to clamber around in a dark cold forest taking photos?

There is still some snow underfoot, but as you might have seen in previous posts, there is also plenty of fallen trees, rocks and deep spongy moss and ground cover to get through. So, we sort of aimed for some high ground away from the lights of our cabin. We found a good clearing and started playing with the light and long exposures settings on the camera to catch stars and experiment. It was fun.

After an hour or so – about 9pm, we went back to the cabin to finish our packing and get ready for our early start tomorrow – we had a bus to catch.

At 10, as we were ready to go to bed with a hot drink and watch the stars through our glass roof, I just checked the app one more time. The predictor said that we were in the green zone. We turned our the cabin lights and looked out…sure enough, there was some activity and it looked strong enough and with stars still visible it was the best opportunity we’d had in days to see more of the Aurora.

We scrambled for our boots, threw jackets on over our pj’s grabbed hats, gloves and the tripod! It was below freezing out there! We didn’t care, we wanted to get a good view of THE Lights. Back into the scrambling and stumbling over trees and up rocks, tripping on the deep mossy stuff. More so now because we were rushing, looking up as we went so we didn’t miss a flicker.

We spotted a few breaks in the clouds and fired off a few snaps. We stayed out for another hour taking pics of the clouds with the green glow behind, trying to manipulate the tripod on very uneven soft ground. We also took the time to just stand and watch this phenomenon wave around above us. While I set up a shot, Andy would go and see if there was a different vantage point, and kept looking up for the break in the cloud where we might see the full spectacle. I’d here him calling me ‘here, over here’. Then upsticks, and move over to yet another cool view of the sky.

For those who might be interested in the technical side of things, the lens we are using is a Samyong f1.4 24mm manual lens on a Canon 700D body.

The settings varied as we opened the shutter for times between 2-8 seconds. I maintained the aperture on f1.4. The best shots were around the 3 second mark, with an ISO of 3200. There will be bit of ‘noise’ due to the ISO. If I had even ground and not having to move around so much I might’ve played around with the ISO and tried 1600. With such a good aperture available it might be ok.

I did struggle a bit with moving around and having to manually focus. Infinity isn’t precisely at the end of the range. Focussing a manual lens in the dark is a bit tricky. Andy would walk about 10 meters away, shine a torch to give me a focal point. Once I had that in focus I could point to the sky and shoot. I have included some out of focus shots, simply because it shows the colour in the sky…no need adjust your specs.

So the pics here are the result of a fun night, good lens, total amateur and the night sky.

We may get more opportunity as we still have a few more nights in the right region and the weekend has strong forecast. Fingers crossed for clear skies again!

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