This year I’ve been caught up in the craze that has swept Tasmanian photographers and sky watchers, thanks to an increase in the activity of solar storms. Aurora sightings are expected to become more prevalent as solar activity reaches the peak of a twelve-year cycle. That means a few more cold nights out in the dark, hopefully taking more amazing Aurora images.
Aurora Images: Solar Powered Brilliance
by Ben Wilkinson
Auroral displays are some of the most impressive spectacles of nature. Curtains of light, rays, arcs, pulsating, and dancing are all terms used to describe these red, green, or sometimes purple light shows. This mysterious and magical phenomena, in fact, arises from events on the sun millions of kilometres away. Massive solar flares often blast streams of charged particles into the solar wind and outwards towards the earth. These particles are directed by the magnetic field of the earth where they collide with atoms in the atmosphere. It is these collisions which generate the beautiful lights which are observed as the Aurora. The patterns and shapes of the Aurora are determined by the changing flow of charged particles and the varying magnetic fields.
The Aurora aren’t usually very visible to the naked eye. It takes a camera (set in a certain way) to catch the light. There are some helpful Facebook pages that give advice on how to capture Aurora images, and the communities involved with them are very serious. They’re the “Aurora Illuminati”.
Aurora Photos: Look and Learn
Here’s a few basic tips to get you started on a journey to taking Aurora images…
- leave the aperture down very low
- bump up the ISO
- experiment with shutter speeds, say between 25 and 45 seconds
Oh and don’t forget your beanie!
I would highly recommend you do some research before you head out trying to catch Aurora images. It can save a lot of questions and disappointment after the event. There are iPhone apps that send you alerts and the IPS – Radio and Space Weather Services web page has a notification email service as well.
Aurora Images: Dedication and Teamwork
Be warned though… when it happens, you’re usually all snuggled up and warm on the couch. This means only the dedicated will want to venture into the cold night air, for a mere chance of taking elusive but prized Aurora images. If you’re as lucky as I am, you’ll have a supportive wife to come along for the ride. She keeps me company, packs a thermos, a beanie and maybe some tasty treats as well.
It’s all fun. But it can be a bit frustrating too: the challenge of being in the right place at the right time with the right settings. However, it doesn’t take an expensive camera with big lenses to be get lovely Aurora images. As with all photography, good equipment can help. But anyone can have a go. Some of the best shots come from amateurs like me. And if I can do it, so can you!
Hopefully I’ll meet some of you out there. I will be doing my best to capture as many Aurora images as possible. I will be sharing the best of them with you on my WILKOGRAPHY Facebook page and here at Think Tasmania.