These are some notes that compliment my Third Aurora Picture Gallery. Here--as in the first (and second ( :) )) "Notes on Auroral Photography"--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). (I also use a new lens---I can't remember what that is called, at the moment. . . .) 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. (I have learned--by hard (and sometimes painful :P ) experience--that one pretty much always wants to over-estimate the required exposure. (What one sees on the camera "screen," isn't always what one sees on a computer screen. . . .)) 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. (Um, like, my exposures are a LOT shorter now, 'n stuff. -I have this new lens, and Poul set my aperture setting correctly. . . . :) ;) )
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. :) (Please note that I seem to have adopted some form of this convention, again. :) ;) )
8/22/07 Wednesday Towards the end of summer, when one is going outside later in the day, there will be a point where one feels an implacable (and yet unfocused) sense of unease. One can't quite figure it out. What is it? -What's wrong? Then, it comes to one: It's dark---I can't see as far as I want to. It's been light for 3 & 1/2 MONTHS. (!!) This always takes one by surprise. . . .
Well, today was the day I first felt this unease . . . and realized why. Then, riding my bike home, I started looking for aurora. Towards the end . . . THERE! -The FIRST AURORA OF THE SEASON!! The joy and wonder that overcomes me . . . every time. I can't even express the joy and wonder that the aurora evokes in me . . . even after all this time. . . . :) :)
I hurriedly got my camera and tripod out. "Bubbles" was running around like a lunatic. (I had some . . . trepidation about taking him out, when his leash got tangled in his spastic jublilation(s). :P :P So, I just let him run free for a while; he ran until out of breath. ~:) ) I got these pictures in just after the peak. Hearing the autofocus whining, I realized I'd forgotten to set it to "manual" (BIG problem for nighttime photos (!)). Getting a blank picture, I realized I'd left the lens cap on. (D'OH!) :) :) But after that, they just came out GREAT. -Enjoy! I know I did. :) :) :) :)
8/28/07 Tuesday Waiting for the lunar eclipse, a beautiful auroral display broke out. :)
8/31/07 Friday I went out and took some pics. The aurora . . . wasn't all that great. However, I was able to predict what the aurora was going to do with startling accuracy. "Now it's going to brighten slightly. Now it's going to 'crinkle.'" Hm. -Maybe I should start working with the aurora for a living.
Oh, wait. . . .
(Funny---I had an alert out for that night. It said that the aurora [in Interior Alaska] was going to be "SPECTACULAR. . . ." :) ;) )
9/6/07 Thursday to 9/7/07 Friday I went out; the aurora wasn't all that . . . great. I took comfort, however, from a smallish bottle of "Canadian Mist." (I won one at a democratic rally---when I was all of . . . something like ?12?. I've been almost hooked on the stuff--ever since. ( ;) )
(LATER) Looking out of my bedroom window, I saw a green glow to the north. (It is GREAT---to have a window that I can actually view aurora from. (!!) :) :) :) :) ) So, I went out, and took some . . . interesting pictures of the aurora.
9/21/08 Friday to 9/22/08 Saturday While walking the dog, or something (It's been so long 'til I got these posted that I'm honestly not sure I remember correctly. :P :) ), I saw this ENORMOUS auroral "tree"---sprouting over the gravel yard behind the apartment complex where I live, 'n stuff. Fearing I wouldn't be able to catch the display in time, I rushed in and got my camera and stand. A GORGEOUS display ensued. :) :)
Some pics deserve, I believe ( :) ), special attention:
-I didn't realize it at the time, but I had caught a shooting star in an exposure. (!!)
-I particularly like the "red-topped rays" towards the lower center of this one (very rare at this (magnetic) latitude). . . .
-The last one (of this set) has a very nice shot of the Pleiades---off to the upper right.
For something like the third time in my life, I filled up the memory in the camera. I s'ppose I could've gone in and emptied it onto the laptop---but I decided instead to just watch the display and enjoy it. (It's been a while since I've gotten to do only that. :) :) )
9/29/07 Saturday The aurora in these pics was really quite dim---thus, I had to take REALLY long exposures, 'n stuff. So, the "background" (for lack of a better thing to call it :) ) turned out really bright, 'n stuff.
For this picture (in fact, for all the ones in this "set"---this being the only one I posted), I think we are actually looking at the "diffuse aurora" (as opposed to the--generally pretty much universally considered more interesting--discrete aurora)---which, as you can see, does hold quite a bit of structure. . . .
10/2/07 Tuesday The wonder of this display was . . . the aurora wasn't really all that bright at all. (!) However, through the "magic of longer exposures," they came out GREAT. :) :) There was one, in particular:
. . . That looked like a chain of DNA, in the sky. . . . (Both while I was taking the pictures---and while I looked at them on the [computer] screen. -They're not always the same (at least, in appearance), you know. :) )
11/2/07 Friday I don't really remember much about this dislay. . . . I think I just some aurora to the north---and just went out and started taking pictures of it. :) :)
1/29/08 Tuesday Coming out of the GI, I saw a "substorm-type arc"---to the right of the building [facing north]. It had been a long time since I had seen any aurora (It's been a BAD year for it (even here)---"solar minimum," and all that. . . .), so I was excited about the prospect of taking some shots. When I got to the "new-new-new-new place" (After living in the same apartment for over 5 years (a record for my pathologically peripatetic academic life), I've moved 4 times in the last few months. :P ), there was little left of the display. These were the first aurora pics I was able to take there, though. :)
2/12/08 Tuesday I had visions of "beautiful aurora; through the clouds; over Fairbanks." What I got though, was the pic(s) (I took a grand total of two. I only bothered posting the one. :P :) ) ya' see, 'n stuff. ;)
2/27/08 Wed-nes-day :) :) Leaving my advisor's house, we noticed some aurora in the sky. (I can't remember ever seeing aurora at his place, before. (. . .)) Driving back to the "new-new-new-new place" (I've got to quit saying that. . . .), the display became . . . REMARKABLE. I didn't know it at the time, but it even warranted a mention in the "Daily News - Miner".
Unfortunately, by the time we got to . . . the apartment ( :) :) ), the display was pretty much . . . over. -And here I had visions of *FINALLY* capturing "aurora over Fairbanks." (. . .)
2/28/08 Thursday to 2/29/08 Friday I was out in the backyard, taking some pictures of a display that I didn't think was "going anywhere." Then, taking a friend with German roots to the airport (for possibly his last time in Fairanks), I thought to say, "Take a look to the right---you might see some aurora."
I didn't even have a chance to get the words out. Already, he had spotted an "omega band." Then, THE SKY EXPLODED. (!!!!) (I was seeing aurora, over the airport (glowing brightly enough for it to be easily seen over all those lights (!!))---to the south. (!!)) I only got these pics towards the end of the display. (. . .) They still *ROCK*!! :) :)
2/29/08 Friday (Leap Year! :) :) ) (I have this vivid memory . . . of my older brother telling me . . . that some of the students in his fifth grade were 2---and about to turn 3. Of course, he kept the fact that they were born on LEAP YEAR a "secret"---all to himself. He was wont to do such things. (. . .)) I don't actually remember just what I was doing. . . . (Which I find *ASTOUNDING*. (!! (!!))) -Was I driving? -Was I walking the "dog"? I honestly can't remember. (!!) Regardless, there was some VERY cool aurora (Three nights of displays is rare---even 'round "these parts." ( :) )). I only got these pics toward(s) the end of it. -Enjoy. :)
3/8/08 Saturday to 3/9/08 Sunday THE SKY WAS GREEN
Poul Jensen convinced me (It didn't take much---I had been dying to see the master auroral photographer in action for some time. . . . :) ;) ) to ride along with him to just south of Anderson---as the auroral activity was going to be QUITE high, and weather-prediction-wise, that was about as far as we had to go to get clear skies.
The activity was VERY high that night. -I caught three pictures before we even left:Aurora Over Fairbanks I Aurora Over Fairbanks II Aurora at the New Place :) :)
Of note, this was one of only two times that I have missed ANY ( :) :) ) of "The Red Green Show" ( :) ;) ) for the purposes of taking pictures. (The first was [for] "light pillars." :) )
On the way down, another [auroral] "substorm" hit. It was *INCREDIBLE*. :) :) -Full "corona," massive motion, colors. . . . I think it was the second or third best "corona" I have ever seen---and I got to watch it in warm comfort, though the skylight of Poul's Saturn. :) :)
At first (as I am so accustomed to being the driver, 'n stuff), I couldn't help but feel that I was doing something DANGEROUS---that, like, I should BE LOOKING AT THE ROAD, 'N STUFF. :) :) But I came to grips with the fact that Poul was, like, the one driving, 'n stuff. :) :) -Then, I felt guilty--here I was, watching this *INCREDIBLE* display---but he had to like, drive, 'n stuff. I got over it. :) ;) Of note, I couldn't take any pictures of it---I could--reasonably readily--have kept the camera quite steady in relation to the Saturn, 'n stuff . . . but the Saturn was NOT stable in relation to the aurora. . . .
Even though it was a "new moon"--the sky was lit. There was some high altitude, wispy clouds---lit green by aurora. One could see pretty clearly, out---the night sky was lit by aurora. (!!)
We got set up. I was glad that I was still young enough to crawl around on frozen bridge abutments, 'n stuff. ( :) :) ) Then, it was time to wait for yet a third "substorm."
"Did you hear that?!" :) :) Along with the ice "giving way" on the river, we heard no small amount of . . . "stange sounds," that morning. ~:) The first time I heard what sounded like something tumbling down the incline of rocks by the river I wasn't sure---but the second time. . . . I looked---and I thought I saw some ice rolling down. Imagine my surprise, when the "ice" started running back and forth. (!!) :) :) -Best guess, it was a bunny wabbit (sic). :) :) -Along with a "wild canine" seen running across the [frozen] river, about 75 feet downstream--and maybe another one ~seen across the river--we had a fair share of some "visitations" by Alaskan wildlife. :) Alaskan wildlife is not like the wildlife of, say, Pennsylvania---where everything just runs away. :) In Alaska, the critters just sit there and stare at you---and you can see "the wheels turnin'": "threat, ignore, LUNCH." :) :) -This was made all the more . . . intereting, as not so terribly long ago, wolves ate a kid [who was] waiting for the bus---up in "Clear," just a few miles away. . . .
Both Poul and I thought the critter crossing the river was a fox. -And, wolves won't attack healthy adults---at least, they had never done so until rather recently. . . . "Alaska: Get off of the bus---and into the food chain." ( :) :) ) -All in a night's fun "up here." :) ;)
Oh, something(s) definitely worth mentioning: Poul Jensen is, like, the only other person in the world---"bitten as badly (or WORSE!! :) ;) ) by 'the aurora bug'" as I am. He also has made observations beyond that which I have, 'n stuff---namely: When the dynamic pressure [of the solar wind] is high, one ofttimes gets discrete aurora---even between substorms (Normally, it is "diffuse aurora. . . ."). And, during times of high dynamic pressure, one is more likely to see the (high-altitude) "red-tipped rays." Wow. I had missed those [observations]---and I have looked a LOT.
After a while, we started to get some very strange aurora, to the south:What is this? It must be an "auroral hole". :) ;) -Both Poul and I agreed that we had never seen anything quite like it. ("Auroral hole" is a play on "coronal hole"---what spawned this, and spawns many other, substorms during "solar minimum." :) ;) -I guess only a p-hys-i-cist could, like, get that one, 'n stuff. :P ;) ) Strange Aurora I Strange Aurora II Strange Aurora III Strange Aurora IV
I thought that the arrival of the following "lone ray" was a harbinger of the coming substorm. Poul disagreed. For once on this trip, I was the one making a useful observation. :) :) (-Only because I had seen something similar a few years ago. :) ;) )Lone Ray
Then, the substorm started to ensue---from the south. It was a VERY odd storm---[with the aurora] looking almost like "crepuscular rays." Apparently, this was due to the fact that "standing waves" were coming off of the near mountains---causing the continuous formation/maintaining of a very regular line of clouds:"Crepuscular Rays" I "Crepuscular Rays" II "Crepuscular Rays" III "Crepuscular Rays" IV
The rest is just absolute coolness. :) :) I had wanted--and for SOME time (ever since I had seen such a shot by Jan Curtis, in fact. ;) ;) )--to get a nice picture of aurora through the clouds. (I had previously only gotten one moderately good one.) On this morning, I got several. ( :) :) :) :) )
Now, I expected that I was going to be, like, "comfortably outdone" by Poul, 'n stuff. (I mean, he's like, a GENIUS, 'n stuff. (!!)) However, I did not expect to be so . . . totally buried. -Everything from set up, to equipment, to technique, to knowledge. . . . He made me look like a child. :) :) I had a choice: become further obsessed, and try and catch up with him---or just say, "Thank you little mill---that is enough." :) ;) I think my pictures are good enough---at least for now, 'n stuff. :) :)
Something else worth mentioning: Although Poul and I had what he called "luxury temperatures" (Both he (and I) are at least somewhat accustomed to doing this sort of thing at ~47 below. :P :P :P :P )---I still . . . have "too many years experience at life" ( ;) ) to be crawling around frozen bridge abutments for over four hours. :P :P -Already a little bit sick, I proceeded to get seriously ill. :P :P :P :P -Although I enjoyed this little trip with Poul almost beyond measure, I don't think I'll be taking another, anytime soon (and possibly ever :P :) ). -Enjoy the pics; they RuLe!! :) :)
4/4/08 Friday While both marveling and lamenting that the sky was still blue at 10 PM :P :P :P :P (Perpetual daylight is THE WORST thing about living in Alaska, bar none. Picture, if you will 3 & 1/2 months of sleep deprivation. (. . .) :P :P :P :P ), I noticed some bright green aurora above the (newly christened) Akasofu building.
I feverishly set up my tripod in less than ideal conditions, and snapped off two shots. One them actually came out quite nice. :) ( :) )
4/12/08 Saturday I knew from the ACE data that activity was likely; however, I didn't think that it would be dark enough for me to see anything. So, I was a little bit surprised, pulling to the top of the driveway, to see some bright geen overhead. :)
Dudes and dudettes, I was exhausted. Nevertheless ( :) ), I set up my equipment and weakly took some halfhearted shots. Some of them came out okay. I heard my bed calling too loudly, and shortly thereafter collapsed into it. :) ;)
Oh! Please note that I have discontinued the "AM/PM" convention [in the naming of the plots, 'n stuff]---as--since I've upgraded to "Panther"--this information is no longer readily available to me. . . . :( :( (And I can't always remember the time(s) that I took these pics, 'n stuff. ;) ;) )
4/23/08 Wed-nes-day :) :) (No pics.) Early in morning of the "anniversary" (The Japenses find it ASTOUNDING---that Gaijin ( :) :) ) use the word "anniversary" for such sad topics.) of my first heart attack, I saw some green arcs, solemnly dancing overhead. As I'm sure I've mentioned somewhere in these "notes" (And, knowing me, probably more than once. ( :) ;) )), Interinor Alaska sees about 3 & 1/2 consecutive months---where it's too light to see any aurora. (The tourists are just SOO disappointed. (. . .) :( ) Now, my future is very much in doubt---I don't know where I'm going to be going, once my time here ends. So, this may have very well been the last time I ever got to see the aurora.
I stood there, watching them. . . . [Under the cirumstances,] I thought I'd feel more.
Oddly enough, I didn't.
4/28/08 Monday (No pics.) Around 1 AM, it was just dark enough---for me and another grad student (Carl Andersen---he's REALLY cool. (I just walked down the hall, to ask him if I'd spelt his name correctly. :) ;) )) were just able see a green arc, almost overhead in front of the GI.
Although I once saw aurora on the 5th [of May], I am almost certain that I won't see it again, "this season." Well, look at the bright side---this means that my "aurora galleries" will, at least, be "caught up" for a while. :) ;)