Updated: Apr 5, 2021
i'm jumping ahead of a few explorations i've had to share a blog about a couple of images from two successive weekends. why? they are the featured images for april's promotional sale! there are some other images from those two weekends that i'll share in another blog because they are not part of april's promotional sale.
march 14, 2021 was a wee early morning to remember if you were out and about in dark sky country. i was not as i had to work the next morning. had i been in my twenties or thirties, i might have given it a go and gone straight to work from being out. however, i still would have only been able to see the show for about an hour at best due to travel time and work start time; a show that was looking like it would be a dud but then exploded. a show that lasted until the early morning hours. what was it? an aurora display of proportions that hadn't been seen for a while. if you don't recognize the technical term, you might know them better as the northern lights.
i was particularly bummed as i had been trying to see them for the last 6 years. i saw them once when i lived in eveleth, mn. i was awoken from a good sleep by my wife who told me to get dressed as we were going to go out to see something special. i seem to recall not being happy about being woken from my sleep. we went out aaaand......i don't remember. i have no recollection at all of what the northern lights looked like that night. even penelope can't remember it. lol!
with that kind of lasting impression (or lack thereof), i can't even really say that was my first time. so i was bummed at still not having seeing the northern lights and, especially, the grand scale of the one that early morning of march 14.
i decided to head out later that night as things were still looking good for another show. my first stop was tettegouche state park. i spent some time along the shore of lake superior off the path that takes you to shovel point. the stars at night in dark sky country never fail to amaze me. i could sit for hours just watching them. after spending some time making images there and experimenting with some light painting with a few images, i walked over to where the baptism river spills out into lake superior. i spent some more time making images and exploring in the dark. this particular spot allowed me a clear view of the horizon to the north where the northern lights could be seen if they appeared. having never seen them in real time (yeah, i'm not counting that night in eveleth), i had no idea what to expect when they show up. i'll get into that more in a moment.
i packed up my gear and headed on to a place called sugarloaf cove that i had explored at the beginning of 2020. i made my way down to the shoreline of lake superior and set up at a spot looking north. i chose that spot for its foreground interest as well as the north view needed for the northern lights. i was all alone in this beautifully quiet and tranquil area, a small speck of "dust" in the vastness of the sky as i looked out and up. i sat down on a rock near my camera which was all set up and dialed in to make night images. as i sat down, i noticed a grayish-dark blob in the sky over the other side of the shoreline. it seemed a bit strange for a cloud. i took an image and looked at my lcd where the image was projecting from.
i gasped! it was the northern lights! that blob was the northern lights! to say i was excited would be a gross understatement. i was literally beside myself with joy and excitement that i was finally seeing them after six years of being back in minnesota! i can truly say that first time seeing them and documenting them as a photographer is one of my biggest thrills to date.
i discovered that seeing the northern lights is very much like seeing the milky way. our eyes can only see in a limited spectrum but the camera is a whole other ballgame. it "sees" much more than we can; hence the vivid colors showing on the camera's lcd screen as opposed to a grayish-dark blob that my eyes saw. it apparently also depends on the intensity of the northern lights as well. if they are really strong like it was the early morning of march 14, you can actually make out colors as well. it still is not as vivid as what the camera can see though.
the image you see below is actually a panorama. i made six vertical images to get as much of the foreground and sky together in the image and then merged them into one image. while it pales in comparison to the images and videos i saw of the explosion of colors, movements (dancing) and pulsating display from the early morning of that same day, i was enthralled in looking at the images coming off my camera. the northern lights were visible for about forty minutes or so before disappearing. you'll notice in this image that either a shooting star or a satellite was also captured during this 6 image vertical panorama made. you can see it just above the northern lights between the center and right side of the image. i love the mood of this image. for those of you who have been following me for a while, you might know that i have a love of darker images and the moods they convey.
the following weekend of march 20 found me out in search of the northern lights once again as there was a good chance of seeing them. i should say at this point that when one makes plans to go out in hopes of seeing and photographing the northern lights, there should always be a a backup plan. the northern lights can be very unpredictable. you just never know what is going to happen even if conditions are ripe for them. many a night of high expectations have been dashed as i've read time and time again from other photographers, as well as in my own experience of the past six years of pursuing photography as a more serious passion.
i decided to head back to sugarloaf cove again and set up at the same spot. i really liked the overall scene there and i especially enjoyed the solitude of it with no one else around. i pulled in and felt a twang of disappointment. there were a few other cars in the lot this time. i hoped for the best and headed to the shoreline to see if "my spot" was still available. it was! the party that was down the shoreline a little ways had a bonfire going which was another bit of a sore spot for me as it cut through the darkness. but i lucked out again! shortly after i set up, they doused the fire and took off. for a while, i was all alone again. eventually, a couple other parties showed up. one walked right by me but continued on to the point past me. the other went down the opposite shoreline from me.
i sat watching the skies, knowing what to expect and what to look for. nothing was happening. just a clear starry night. i got up to walk back and forth a bit to warm up. all of a sudden, i saw pillar-like structures materialize in the sky. i literally ran to my camera and looked at my viewfinder. wow! i was seeing various colors and pillars rising in the midst of the northern lights through my camera. to my naked eye, i was actually seeing movement and shifting; there was also the barest hint of a green color that i was seeing. i started making images. for about two to four minutes, it was a brilliant display. then it started to peter out for the next 25 minutes or so. sometimes it would disappear; sometimes it would show up faintly as pillars. this went off and on for about 25-30 minutes and then it disappeared. i hung out for about another hour but never saw the northern lights again. the clouds were rolling in at that point and i decided to call it a night as the clouds were supposed to be around the rest of the time.
this image below is one of my favorites from the series of images i made. the blog that i mentioned at the beginning that is to come another time will probably feature a sequence of images so you can get an idea of how the lights were moving that night. this image here is pretty much what i saw through the camera. all i did was bump up the exposure a tad and remove the noise that is associated with making astrophotography images. it is a marked difference from the previous weekend. this one is full of light (foreground as well as the sky) and colors and a sense of movement happening. where the previous image seems more quiet and introspective, this image seems to leap and shout jubilantly! for this image, my camera was letting in half the light and the length of the exposure was three seconds less. yet it is quite a bit brighter!
what a great night for a show even if the most brilliant part of it was only minutes long! it has whetted my appetite for more nights and images like the two i am sharing here!
i hope you enjoyed reading this blog as much as i enjoyed reliving the two weekend nights. have you ever been profoundly moved by something, whether in nature or urban settings? perhaps it was seeing the northern lights like these. perhaps it was something else. i'd love to hear about it in the comments below. i love to read them and i respond personally to every one of them.
these images are available for purchase for your home and/or business. for the month of april 2021, they both are part of my special promotions for that month so be sure to check it out at that page. here's the link for it....
april 2021 promotion
they would also make great and unique gifts for that special someone in your life. i will be adding the images to the online store shortly, but for now, if you are interested, either use the contact form below or click the chat button to the bottom right. I'll work with you to bring to life a stunning visual art piece that will be enjoyed for a long time.
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i'd love to share these with others and you are a great way to help me do that. would you consider sharing this blog with others you know that might enjoy reading them? if you are reading my blog for the first time, thanks for checking it out! if you are reading this on my facebook page, consider following and/or liking my page. you'll get a notification every time i post a new blog. if you are reading it on my website, i post a new blog every one to two weeks. eventually, i will create an email signup on my website to make it easy to receive email notifications when i have added something new to my website.
i will see you next time with more "images from a quiet world"!