The Aurora Borealis Friday Night - NOT WYSIWYG

I've only seen the aurora a few times, but I'm pretty obsessed with it. I get alerts on my phone when activity is high and I check multiple websites to get up-to-date information. Even when the aurora is active and visible as far south as Vermont, there are still many factors that determine if we'll see it. Is it cloudy? Is there a moon or other ambient light? How much moisture is in the air? Do I have an unobstructed view to the north? Will it be dark enough?

One of the more traditional photos, this is a long exposure with the sony A99 at ISO 6400! You read that right. I actually pulled back the exposure three stops in post processing to get these amazing colors and detail with almost no noise. Goes to show that exposing correctly (ETTR) works better than underexposing at lower a lower iso and increasing the exposure in post-production.
This is probably my favorite capture of the night. The trees provide a story, and the green below the stars provides a different look at the aurora.
Kind of mysterious, don't you think?
Well, this past Friday night into Saturday morning, the aurora was going off. Around 10:30 pm I packed up my cameras and a few tripods and headed to up the Brownsville Trail on Mt. Ascutney to the Norcross Quarry, 1.1 miles and about 600 feet above the valley floor. It was very humid, so I hoped that by getting above the settling fog and with a perfect unobstructed view north, I'd have a great shot at seeing the aurora.

And I kind of did. Although what I saw was more of a faint glow above the lower level of clouds. I barely saw any color. But when I looked at my first 30 second exposure, I saw all the colors we imagine when we think of the aurora. I ended up spending about five hours of there. I took some interesting photos with one camera while I let the other camera shoot away for a timelapse.

I'm pretty pleased with how these came out, and I think this shows an interesting point. Although we photographers are always debating the veracity of photos, there are times where photos are used to see what the eye can't. This may be in an action stopping photo or in a long exposure. Either way, we're telling the truth even though we didn't visually see the what truth our capture shows.

Enjoy, and the time lapse will be coming soon.

Here we can see a bunch of trees with the glow of the Upper Valley shining orange to the east.

By using the cloud layer as the ground in this image, it becomes difficult to tell scale.

A slightly different perspective from the early shot.

The wind made the tops of the trees shake, which is captured in this long exposure.

Here it's hard to tell if the green is the aurora. The trees seem to part giving the viewer a peak at the beyond.

After midnight, the moon was up. Although the northern lights were slightly diminished due to the ambient light, I really like how the foreground becomes recognizable.

The moonlight reveals the rocks and rocks above. I haven't seen too many aurora photos with a grounded foreground, so I think this is kind of a unique image.


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