Here, *FINALLY* is my link about "notes on auroral photography." Here, you will find (a little!) on the science and techniques of auroral photography, and a play-by-play of each night that I was actually able to take some pics of the aurora. The aurora RULES!! :) :)
In the way of equipment, I use a Nikon D50 camera, a Tamron AF Aspherical XR DiII LD (IF) 18-200mm lens, and a tripod (a must--due to the long exposures). So---how did I know what equipment to buy? Well, I just asked our local photographic genius/specialist on the 7th floor of the GI (Geophysical institute), Poul Jensen. Poul *RuLz*!! :) :) :) :)
Pretty much all my exposures are for 30 seconds; however, if the aurora is REALLY BRIGHT (and sometimes this bright aurora can be fast moving), I use shorter exposures. I don't have any real "rules" for this---one just pretty much has to learn this from experience, I think. Don't look to this page for oodles of technical information--as I don't have it. :) I do all this (and pretty much everything else I do in my life :P :) ), pretty much holistically--intuitively.
Oh, yeah. I forgot to mention. . . . The naming scheme [for these pics, 'n stuff] is pretty much straightforward. The word "aurora" is followed by a three digit number, which specifies the order in which the "final pics" (MANY more were taken; only the best were chosen. :) ) were taken. The next bit is the date, in "American format" (sorry :P :( )---month.day.final two digits of year. (I leave it up to the intelligence of the reader to know that I have not been taking pictures since 1905---I'm not THAT old!! :) :) ) I used to have a convention of "AM" or "PM" added--to denote whether I went out in the evening or morning; I dropped this. It was cumbersome, and almost . . . well, silly. :)
11/12/06 Saturday I had just gotten my new camera the day before---and I barely knew how to use it. :) :) My only previous photographic experience had been strictly "point and shoot." (I couldn't decide what music would be best to accompany my first attempt at auroral photography (all of my various versions of "Air on a G String" were in the office). Finally I decided on "I Ran" by "Flock of Seagulls." :) Good music, BAD haircuts. :) :) ) SOO much could have gone wrong, and yet, I just went out there and did the b*gger.
Everything worked like a dream.
I went out there, took my first pic (shown), and a "fever" took me. I was out there for some time. . . . With no previous experience at this sort of thing whatsoever, I was able to take pics that numerous (to countless) people have just RAVED about. The only way to get things done--is to do them. Then, when the aurora show had ended, I went out and took my very first nighttime "inversion" pics over Fairbanks. (This was no small feat---I had to drive to where I found a spot where it was visible, park, and then go across the road to take a picture of the power plant--several miles away.) That, too, worked like a charm. :) :) :) :)
As I said, I was out there for some time. It wasn't all that cold--only 19 below (Fahrenheit, ~-28 Celcius)--and yet, I couldn't even remember ever being so cold. (And I have lived in Interior Alaska for something like 6 years.) No frostbite (Thank God!!), I was just . . . really cold. :) :)
11/13/06 Sunday Then, the following morning, I was able to take some more pics. These were taken in my "back yard," within the city of Fairbanks. The red color shown, is actually light pollution off of low-lying clouds. It still looks really cool. :) :) I got some really good pics. :) :)
12/25/06 Sunday Christmas Morning Most (sane) people were in their beds. I was out taking aurora photos. Unfortunately, due to my lack of experience, I pretty much botched these---the exposure times are (just a little) too short. . . . :( :( Still, on full resolution, and on a nice screen, they look pretty good. :)
Worth mentioning, is the fact that--while taking these pictures--I heard, and for the very first time, "wild wolfsong." They were howling in chords---the "greeting ceremony." A friend of mine was a fair amount further north (a lot closer to the source), and in his not so completely house. He wondered if he would be able to protect himself, if it came to that, in a house with (as yet) no doors and windows. :) :) -Silly, really---wolves don't attack healthy, adult humans; they treat us a *GREAT* deal better---than we treat them.
I suppose also worth mentioning, is that this Christmas was, I do believe, the best [Christmas] ever. (And I'm almost 40, 'n stuff. :P :) ) In addition to the above, I got an electric razor (which I had wanted for . . . years)---and later that day, in a quiet library, I watched "Are You Being Served? The Movie" for the very first time. That was the very last thing left to watch, on my all-time favorite TV show. Not that that all that is in the least bit relevant to some notes on auroral photography ( :) )--I just felt like mentioning it. :) :)
12/30/06 Friday The display was not all that great--and it was all pretty much over by the time I got to my "good photography spot," north of Fairbanks. I was thinking that I probably shouldn't even be going out at all---and I was probably right. :P )
In addition, the night was "teasing me." I thought, "Okay. So this display isn't all that great---but maybe I can get a picture of a 'tall ray.'" One shows up, but is fouled by light pollution from a passing car. Then, I start driving home for the evening, and the display flares up. By the time I get to somewhere where I can take pics, it has settled down again. Not much to show for the efforts this time, ladies and gentlemen.
1/23/06 Monday It was cloudy, and yet I noticed that there was some "aurora action" going on. :) So, I went out in my "back yard," and took these pics. Conditions were not . . . ideal. So, I ended up using some rather prodigious photographic skills (*John rubbing his collar with his knuckles* :) ), to take some . . . rather mediocre photographs. :P :)
2/15/06 Wednesday After taking some friends of ours home from a "Valentine's Day dinner," we noticed a (really very nice) display going on. :) :) (Of note, the last time I had seen the aurora, was when I took these two back from the airport. (!) It has been an exceptionally bad year for aurora viewing. . . . :P :P :( :( )
Truth be known, I was as sick as a dog. :P :P :P :P However, I was able to rush to the back of [UAF] campus, and get set up. I was able to get some really nice pics. :) :) There are some interesting things here, too: For the very first time, I got headlights in one of the exposures. (I thought that this would ruin the pic---but instead it just looks pretty cool. :) :) ) Also, in the final pic, there were some (rather loud, and quite possibly intoxicated ( :) ) ) peeps walking around in the exposure. If one looks really closely, one can just see their ghostly images. . . . :) :)
2/19/06 Sunday Laura was bazooka-barfing--so I went to the store to buy her some orange juice. This is the cure that the English recommend---and I trust them more than any other health care system that I have ever encountered. On the way there, I noticed a roughly overhead "quiet arc" through the clouds. (For would-be aurora watchers, this is a very good thing. :) :) ) The doggies would've gone berzerk if I hadn't've taken them to the Doggie Park on the way home, so I took them. While there, I saw some aurora that would've made for some *GREAT* pics. Aurora seen in partially cloudly skies---just the type of conditions I have been trying to photograph for some time, 'n stuff. Alas (hopefully a pretty one ;) :) ), I didn't have my camera with me. . . .
Finally, I was able to get to my "back yard." That is where I took these pics. The clouds moved visibly in a 30 second exposure. This would probably be considered "bad photography"---but I found them really neat. :) :)
2/22/06 Wednesday While driving home from the local Fred Meyers (Been tryin' vegetarianism again---had a powerful hunkerin' for MEAT :) :P ), I noticed a BRIGHT "quiet arc." I hoped that this would develop into some very nice aurora; instead, it pretty much stayed as bright "quiet arcs."
3/17/06 Friday to 3/18/06 Saturday I came out of the G.I., and noticed BRIGHT aurora overhead. With NO time to lose, I made best time to my favorite "aurora photography spot" on Ballaine Road. I exerted myself so hard that when I coughed, I tasted blood. I don't think that this was pneumonia---just a little something lettin' loose from coughing so much, recently. -Pity I don't belong to either a country or university that cares whether the people who support it are alive or dead---might've able to go see a doctor about it, otherwise.
I got to my favorite spot. I had some REAL trouble gettin' set up, for some reason. I was "swearin' up a blue streak." (Those of you that know me, know how rare THAT is. (!) ( :) :) )) Finally (in my haste (and angst :P ) getting my thumbs so badly frostbitten on the metal tripod, that they are permanently indented :P :( ), I got set up---and took some of the best pics [of the aurora] that I have ever taken. . . . They were/are GORGEOUS!! :) :) :) :) During this set, I took the best pic I have ever taken: aurora048.3.17.06PM.jpg. :) :)
Then, early the next morning, while taking the doggies :) :) to the Doggie Park, the sky "opened up again." I have always felt kinda' nervous--settin' up ~$1,500 dollars of uninsured equipment--what with two hyperactive doggies :) :) runnin' about---but we made out okay. :) -Again, we got some REALLY nice pics. :) :)
A little note, here: later yet, that morning, the sky opened up AGAIN---and we had positively *FANTASTIC* aurora. -And yet here I was, watchin' one of the most AMAZING auroral displays that I had ever seen---yet not enjoying myself one bit. Viewing aurora has been one of the high points of my life; I couldn't figure it out. Then I realized: it was the stress and strain of doing the aurora photography in almost 40 below weather. I figured I had exerted hard enough to cough blood; I had permanently damaged my thumbs. . . . I had suffered enough for "the art" for one evening. For the rest of the display, I just looked up and enjoyed it. :) :) However, for my selfishness, some of these pics of this AWESOME :) :) display are lost forever. :( :( :( :( I must most sincerely apologize to all of you for that. :( :(
3/21/06 Tuesday I was a bit late on this one. As I was coming over the hill to my favorite aurora picture taking spot ( :) ), the aurora was taking up roughly the northern third of the sky. -But by the time I got there, and got set up, things had really died down a bit. I was able to get some nice pics, though. :)
4/16/06 Sunday Easter Morning. :) :) The display wasn't all that active--and the pictures I was able to take weren't all that great--but I thought that it was really cool---that "this season," I was able to take aurora pics on both Christmas and Easter morning(s). :) :) -And the final one [pic], showing both the International Arctic Research Center and the G.I. (Geophysical Institute) has been a *HUGE* hit---in fact, it is on the wall of at least on faculty member, who has left us for warmer climes. :) :)
Thus ends the 2005-2006 aurora season. At least this was it for me---this was the last display I was to see for the earlier part of 2006.