The Bubbles

Northern lights, the Big Dipper and an iridium flare over Acadia National Park, Maine
Behind The Shot: The Bubbles
Photo By Christopher Mills

Acadia National Park preserves much of Mount Desert Island as well as some smaller Islands along Maine’s Atlantic coast. Once you arrive in Acadia, you’ll find beautiful woodlands, rocky beaches and glacier-scoured granite peaks like Cadillac Mountain, along with some of the darkest skies Maine has to offer.

On a beautiful night in late August, I made my way to Jordan Pond around 11 p.m. and hiked a short distance around the pond to set up facing the two mountains known as “The Bubbles.” With my Nikon D7100 and Tokina 11-16mm lens on my tripod, I set my focus to infinity to make sure the stars would be sharp. I set the shutter speed to 25 seconds, the aperture to ƒ/2.8 to let in as much light as possible, and the ISO to 6400. Anything longer than 30 seconds with a crop-sensor camera will result in egg-shaped stars due to the Earth’s rotation. I also plugged in an intervalometer and set it to trip the shutter automatically every 30 seconds. That way, I wouldn’t have to worry about camera shake from manually pushing the shutter button and could sit back and enjoy the stars overhead.

This time of year, in late August, the Big Dipper is positioned over the Bubble Mountains and makes for a nice composition. With the sound of the water gently slapping the rocks around the edge of Jordan Pond and the camera clicking away, I didn’t think I could ask for a better night. I noticed the sky over the mountains turning a reddish hue as the northern lights were having a small flare-up. As I sat there in hopes of a bigger flare-up from the small solar storm, an iridium flare streaked through the sky just to the right of the Big Dipper. Iridium flares are caused by a communication satellite orbiting the earth. They’re visible for a few seconds if they orbit where the sun can reflect off of the satellite, which is what you see in this photo.

Being pretty happy with what I had captured, I decided to call it a night and work my way back to my vehicle. I was almost packed up when I heard something running down the path toward me. It got almost to where I was and stopped. Neither what came running down the path nor I made a sound for what seemed like forever. I wondered if whatever it was could hear my heart pounding. After a long wait, I shined my light toward the path and into the woods and didn’t see anything, so I made a very quick trek around the pond and back to my vehicle. Once I was back at the campground safe and sound, I went to sleep very satisfied after a perfect night under a big Maine sky.

See more of Christopher Mills’ work at christopheramillsphotography.com.

Nikon D7100, Tokina AT-X 11-16mm F/2.8 PRO DX II at 11mm. Exposure: 25 sec., ƒ/2.8, ISO 6400.

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