Learning by making mistakes…
Last night was interesting. There was an early aurora display that looked fantastic. Fantastic as I was driving on highway 16 east and looking out of window while it was rolled down.
Spaceweather had forecast a 90 percent chance of aurora at high latitudes last night. Being in Edmonton I think that includes us or we’re at least on the edge of it. Aurorawatch.ca which I usually go to for aurora updates had the activity very low. It was around 20 percent chance. Usually I’ve seen a spike at 1900 hrs which is 7:00 pm local time. No spike. The graph was flat. Could Spaceweather be wrong?
I was getting antsy to go out with the camera. The evening skies were almost cloudless so if aurora were to appear they wouldn’t be obscured.
I found another website, Spaceweather.ca that had a little more specific auroral forecasts. By 9:30 pm our time it looked like eastern Canada would be having a great display and it suggested that a few hours later, western Canada where I am would have a similar storm. Feeling a little more confident about the northern lights showing up I hopped in the vehicle at 10:30 pm heading not to my usual area but an hour east of town where I had photographed an old Lutheran church a few times. I thought that it might make an interesting foreground for the display in the sky.
I was twenty minutes away from the church when I noticed that the faint auroral glow in the north had suddenly became bright, wavy bands of green light. Instead of being smart and pulling off the highway to shoot what was there I continued on believing that the aurora would only get more intense. Mistake.
By the time I took the photo above the display was already on the wane.
I continued to shoot the church trying something different. I was using my headlamp to lightly fill in the church. It looked great on the camera back so I continued using the headlamp all through the evening.
This morning when I opened the first photo with the fill something was immediately wrong. The night sky which photographs with a red cast was no match for my headlamp lit foreground which looked very blue. Another mistake. The obvious fix is to process every image twice once correcting the sky, a second time correcting the foreground and then blending the two together. Lots of work but it can be done.
Solution. Next time I try this I’ll either use a flashlight which I know has a warm color or experiment with photo gels in front of the light to warm cast.
No mistake is a bad mistake if you can learn from it.
Around 12:30 am the aurora were very faint and clouds were appearing in the north so I head home in no great hurry keeping an eye on the sky in case that changed. I was just a few minutes out of town when I thought to take a side road and for curiousity’s sake see how things looked. As I drove along a side road near a set of railroad tracks I saw a parked car ahead. Someone making out? An abandoned vehicle? Nope. As I passed the car I could see someone standing in front of their vehicle and the red light on the back of their camera glow. They were also shooting the night sky. By now it was 2:00 am. I remembered that lots of times the aurora spiked again at 3:00 am so I turned north and drove for a bit. Sure enough the aurora appeared more brightly. Not great but brighter so I kept shooting. Home by 3:30 am. Sleep came fast. LOL