Aurora Borealis Prairie Style

Things never go the way I plan when shooting landscapes. It’s always best not to plan anything and just go with the flow. You’ll save yourself lots of disappointment that way.

When I was in the mountains a few days ago, Pat Boomer from The Alberta Foothills Weather blog, kindly sent me an email letting me know that a huge solar flare had just erupted from the sun and might make for beautiful photos of the aurora borealis in the mountains. As it turned out during my stay the sun and the stars never made an appearance. Sigh.

So this evening I’m out walking the dog back in Edmonton, overhead the sky is black and clear, the stars are twinkling, a couple of bright planets are on the western horizon and what do I see to the north? A broad blue/green band of northern lights. I stood in the middle of a school yard away from most of the bright street lights watching natures light show skipping across the atmosphere. It sure looked good. Good enough to head back home, grab the camera and drive for ten minutes to a place that has been photographed by me umpteen times before.

From a quick read earlier in the week it seemed that 30 seconds, f2.8 at 400 ISO would work. I changed the ISO to 800, the grain isn’t noticeable on my camera at 800, halved the shutter speed to minimize the motion of the stars and fired away. On the camera display the image seemed too bright so I cut back to ten seconds and all seemed well.

A little color correction, a bit of curves adjusted for density and contrast and voila. I didn’t stay out for too long, I was too sleepy and the light show fizzled. It’s probably glowing outside right now. LOL

That’s it. It’s not what I usually shoot but I see plenty of potential here for another night.

Happy shooting,


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~ by Dan Jurak on March 9, 2012.

27 Responses to “Aurora Borealis Prairie Style”

  1. Nah. You got the best of it. I also went out, thinking there might be more, but they fizzled out, then the moon rose. It provided some interesting moon scapes, but no green ribbons in the sky.

  2. What an absolutely fantastic shot. Still not entirely convinced by the pole in the foreground, however; sometimes it feels like it is in the way of the stunning sky!

  3. Reblogged this on Kerri's Opinion.

  4. I’ve never seen the northern lights- beautiful!

  5. @ Sukanya, when I was a small child, I would lay on my back at night and watch them dance across the sky. At that time, I thought everyone saw them. They can have spectacular shapes and colors. Last night was okay but not spectacular. I wish you could see them too.

  6. @ Rob, you’re right about the post. This was a grab more than anything. I’ve seen so many aurora photos and one thing that they all seem to miss is a foreground. Take away the post and part of the interest goes. I drove out to a place that had spookily shaped tree hoping to use that to frame the aurora but by that time the aurora had faded. You win some. You lose some.
    Thanks for commenting and visiting,

  7. @ Mac, were you driving a little sports car last night? On my way back home after the moon was too high and the lights had faded, I saw one turn into where I took this photo. I thought that there would be more people out than what we saw.

  8. Nice one Dan! As you mentioned, alot of aurora images have zero foreground interest and are essentially just a picture of a pretty sky which is why I think your image works quite well as it is more dynamic with the railroad crossing providing some sense of location. I tried to go and see them as well but I missed the best of the show, hopefully I’ll have better luck next time.

  9. @ Justin, most aurora shots look essentially the same. If the intent is just to capture the sky then no foreground might work. In this shot the aurora weren’t strong enough to carry the shot alone by itself. Are you on the aurora watch mailing list? They send out emails when there is a high probability of aurora borealis.

    Better luck next time and thank you for visiting and commenting,

  10. Well composed and exposed Dan

  11. @ Dan
    Nope… I went east towards Cooking lake, and essentially got lost in the process :) . I usually drive a white ram 1500 truck.

  12. @ Mac, I’ll look for you on my travels. I’m in a Black Toyota Rav.

  13. Glad somebody got to see them!
    We got completely skunked by clouds for the big show, they were very dim here last night.
    Hoping for better luck tonight, another one forecast to hit around 11pm.
    Fingers crossed for clear skies!

  14. I enjoy aurora photos that have foreground interest in them as well, like your shot above. Clouds have ruined a few oppertunities down here recently and last night they were pretty faint. Hopefully another stronger chance tonight as another cme is forecasted to impact at 11:49pm +\- 7 hours. Fingers crossed for clear skies and a well timed impact!

  15. @ Pat, cloudy early in the evening here and then clearing around 11:00 p.m. Who knows?

  16. @ Brandon, Plus or minus seven hours? That’s quite a wide window. I hope I can stay up late tonight, I’m usually asleep by 11:00. LOL Good luck!

  17. @ Dan … care for a photo expedition tonight then? :)

  18. @ Mac, I’d hate to promise and then fall asleep at the last moment. I just noticed that when I switched my camera over last night I somehow changed from RAW to small jpg. LOL Good thing that what I shot wouldn’t be considered a keeper.

  19. @ Dan Then I’ll call you and wake you up :)

  20. Thought we might get lucky here in southern Ontario but it was too cloudy for the Northern Lights last night.
    Your photo is beautiful!

  21. @ Patricia, that’s too bad. Hopefully more northern lights are on the way. :)

  22. Just beautiful …

  23. @ Dorothy, they can be soooo much nicer than this. Here’s to hoping we get more and clear night skies. :)
    Thank you for visiting and commenting,

  24. I do hope to see them some day. Thank you for the photograph

  25. @ Sukanya, they were predicted again for last night but never showed up. I do hope you get to see them one day. They are special.

  26. Just wanted to say I havn’t been to your site for awhile. I have been doing other stuff and the camera has been on the shelf.. you are so inspirational to me. You make me want to get my camera out. Thanks.

  27. @ Vivian, I can appreciate the part about doing other stuff. I’ve got so much on the go right now with retirement that I haven’t had much chance to get back into picture taking. Hopefully, I won’t disappoint you. This will be my most productive year ever. Stay tuned. :)

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