Live-Blogging the Aurora

Aurora Borealis and Spruces, NWT

Greetings from the Arctic Circle!  This week my friend Steve Shuey and I (as well as our wives and a dear friend) are outside Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, trying to photograph the Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis.  The sun has been very active lately, so if weather and wind cooperate, we should have a very good shot at getting some fine aurora viewing over the next 5 days.

I will try and post every day to report on our progress, and to show examples of what we are getting. If you have never seen or photographed the Lights, it can be challenging – and exhilarating. No more so that this week when it is about -25 degrees C. with a 40-knot wind (making it close to -40 F.) Good weather for frostbite…but not necessarily for photography.!

Steve and I went out last night around 10 pm to scout out the area around Yellowknife – in the prime viewing zone for Aurora in the Northern Hemisphere – and managed to snap a couple shots. We were mostly testing equipment : this will be the first time I have ever shot aurora on digital after many years of doing it on film.  The problems (noise, primarily) are ones we will have to tackle to get high-quality images.

This test image in nothing special, shot by the side of the highway around midnight, but it gave us a real-world test of our gear and our clothing. Within 1 minute of getting out of the truck, the skin on our faces began to freeze. Add that to a fierce wind that made even the steadiest tripod shudder, and a very faint, shapeless aurora — we knew we were not going to get anything memorable that night.

Today, however, the wind is down, the skies clear, and hopes high.  We have flown out to Blachford Lake Lodge, a superb wilderness base for Aurora-viewing, and plan to spend the next few hours before dark scouting locations. I’ll report back tomorrow on how tonight turns out. Stay tuned…

Nikon D3, 28 f1.4 lens, ISO 800  8 seconds  f1.4