I was out running errands on my way home and happened to see an interesting alignment of Venus, Mercury, and the moon as I was near the capitol. I whipped around to the northwest path on the grounds, took out a camera and tripod, and caught the three celestial bodies arranged around the tower.
I’ve had some great shots of the ISS over the years…passing over a Fort Lincoln blockhouse, streaking across the sunrise above the Double Ditch post, and above the Pioneers statue at the capitol mall. Tonight I opted to grab a shot of it passing over the tower from the north, and it didn’t disappoint.
I like those direct overhead passes because they take longer. There’s more to see. But sometimes that poses a photographic challenge, even with a 10mm lens. When it’s lower on the horizon it’s easier to get a nice arc over your foreground subject. In any case, I’m relishing every photo opportunity I can get these days!
See that point where the K index plummets from a tasty 7, indicating a geomagnetic storm, to a serene 4, indicating bubkes? That’s the point where a friend and I loaded up the truck and blazed north to catch those auroras that we’ve been anticipating. That’s okay…my photo buddy and I had a backup plan, and it worked out quite nicely.
Step One: I had this spot in mind, along a little lake northeast of town. Even though the auroras weren’t cooperating, the moon and sky sure were. There was a fantastic lunar corona which actually manifested as a couple of paraselenae, or moondogs as the sky conditions mutated.
We played around at this dock for a little bit, allowing the sky to do some things and letting long exposures turn the rippling lake to glass. At this point we were still hopeful for some auroral activity, but moved on to the next stage in our backup plan since it didn’t require Northern Lights to bear fruit.
This is the abandoned church at Arena. It looks like daylight, even though it was around midnight or so, because the full moon was a-blazin’. I grabbed my big 6-D-Cell Maglite and did some light painting of the cross atop the church’s steeple, and we let the stars and clouds do their thing in the background.
In this shot it almost looked like I could see some splashes of color in the clouds, as if the auroras were trying to peek through, but even at full size I wasn’t able to tell definitively. It was cool to be able to visit this ghost town in the dark, though, and it was another excellent consolation prize since the Northern Lights trip was otherwise a bust.
I have the attitude that any time I return from a photo trip with even one image that I really like, that trip has been a success. It doesn’t even matter if the photo is relevant to the purpose of the trip. In this case, I have a few such photos, and they were the result of a solid backup plan, so I’m pleased not only with the results we captured but the success of that plan.
When I returned from my recent Aurora Borealis photo trip, it was around 4am. On a work day. I hastily grabbed and processed a few shots to share, grabbed a combat nap, and went on with my day. This weekend was busy, but I had the opportunity to peruse the shots from the day and found a couple more that I really like. The above shot is one that I used for this blog’s Facebook page.
While the layout looks a little jumbled, this one by far had the best colors. The Northern Lights are a fleeting target, and you don’t often get the same light twice. In fact, I don’t have a whole lot of different angles from the night because the peak of the lights came and left so suddenly.
I’m going to take another look to see if I have anything else that I haven’t shown already. Hopefully the next time they come along, I’ll be ready!
After dozing off early in my recliner tonight I woke up to a text from a friend who was out on patrol tonight. He noticed that the Northern Lights were in full swing. I grabbed a good friend, hopped in the truck, and took off. We were not disappointed.
As I mentioned recently, I’ve had some health issues and other things that have just plain sidelined me as far as photography and blogging. This was a great way to get back in the saddle for a bit as much as my pain would allow, and happens to have been one of the better aurora borealis nights in a long time. Just because I’ve been in my recliner doesn’t mean I haven’t been watching what the sun and skies are up to.
We appear to have arrived along one of my favorite rural roads just in time to see some very spectacular lights. We saw spikes, we saw ripples, and we saw a lot of them. I worked the area the best I could within the time allowed, and we pointed the truck back toward the Bizzo once things began to taper off.
I can’t speculate on the frequency with which I ease back into my beloved photo hobby, but hopefully this is a harbinger of good things to come. With the weather changing in our favor and another spring and summer on the way, things are looking pretty good. I hope to be on the mend in time for mountain bike and volleyball season, too!
You can bet I’ll have a better plan for the next time the auroras spike! I have dozens of places marked in my GPS, it’s just a matter of being ready to bolt there at a moment’s notice.
“…stand still, and consider the wondrous works of God…Dost thou know the balancing of the clouds, the wondrous works of him which is perfect in knowledge?” –Job 37:14,16
This year I’ve developed a new love for September. I love the days which are warm, but not too warm. I embrace the cool mornings and used yesterday evening to follow up the TEA Party rally and sunset with a roaring bonfire. The crisp, clear nights are perfect for stargazing and, as I’ve noticed over the past several days, the clouds are quite remarkable.
The past six weeks have been a blur due to a hectic work schedule, culminating in a frenetic Week Six that delivered some marathon days but satisfying progress. Now that the major rush has subsided for the time being, I’m grateful for the opportunity to, as Job was instructed, stand still and consider the wondrous works of God. Wondrous indeed.
Once I was all set the lightning began. I was absolutely delighted to find such an amazing setting: the band of rain beneath the storm clouds, several bolts of brilliant lightning arcing from the ground, clouds aloft lit by cloud-to-cloud lightning, starry sky above the storm, and a celestial alignment of Venus, Jupiter, and the Pleiades ahead of its advance. That’s a packed photo!
What a blessing to have such a great vantage point for this storm. Despite going an hour early to the movie, we still had to sit in the absolute front row (albeit in the center). That wasn’t really bad seating, but certainly not optimal. Our view of this storm, however, couldn’t be finer.
It’s a good thing I took Friday off from work, because this storm was worth watching (and photographing) until after four in the morning. Some shots turned out better than others, but this one is pretty close to perfect. I’m so thankful we went out that night, and we had no idea we’d be treated to such an amazing spectacle.
A curious and somewhat protective owl landed just above me on an old threshing machine as its young screeched in a nearby tree. I used my 6-D-cell “Louisville Slugger” style Maglite to do some “light painting” on the tractor once I was set up in place. I got the tractor, the Northern Lights, and the Big Dipper in the shot, lit to my liking after many attempts. Evenly lighting something in the dark by waving a flashlight at it isn’t as easy as it may sound.
If you’d like to see what such a beast looked like in its heyday, check out this video of a restored 1921 model:
This is actually an even better catch than is readily apparent; right before I snapped it, the clouds were covering Venus. Right after, the auroras faded from the northeastern sky. A sliver of moon appeared above the horizon as well, but only at the expense of the Pleiades fading from sight as sunrise approached. All in all, it was a matter of delicate timing.
No, I didn’t really sleep last night. Yes, I did get Northern Lights photos. More on that later.