The Aurora that wasn’t

aurora, aurora borealis, northern lights, prairie, nightsky night sky, stars, winter, prairie, Dan Jurak, Alberta, landscape, snow drifts,

There was a tremendous solar storm last night. The only problem is that I didn’t stay out late enough to see it. Or maybe that wasn’t a problem?

Spaceweather was forecasting great things for last night and they got it right. In fact as I write this at 9:00 a.m. the following morning the storm is still going on. It is rated as a 6 which is as high as I have ever seen in my few years of following this website.


The forecast for last night was partly cloudy so my hopes of getting anything really good weren’t very high. With that in mind I wanted to refine or practice shooting night sky panoramas. I learned two very important things from my first attempt at panoramas.

The first thing that I learned is that it is important to have your panorama head as level as you can get it. If you are shooting a set of say six images for a panorama if the head is not level when you go to stitch the images the stitching program has to try and align those uneven horizon points. As a novice at stitching I have much to learn to get that down so it is better in the short run to get the images right in camera.

The second important lesson is about having enough detail from image to image that is recognizable in the stitching program to match similar points. The first night pano that I took was in the absence of any kind of moonlight. The moon was behind the earth and for as trivial as that might seen when shooting night panos the light of the moon can add a lot of illumination to the foreground.

There was a very faint crescent moon on this night and although it was faint to my eye when the camera recorded the landscape the snow in the foreground was amazingly bright.

Having these lessons under my belt the pano stitched much easier. The absence of any kind of northern light display removed some of the drama that was in my first pano.

It was very cold on this winter night. The thermometer on my Rav4 said 19 Celsius. Happily there was very little wind which would have made things seem much colder.

I drove out of town with no particular place in mind and somehow ended up at the same place that I had taken my first night pano so I gave the same place a try. Froze a bit even though I was dressed for winter and then made my way to an old, iconic barn a few kilometres further up the road.

panorama, night sky, nightsky, aurora, milky way, stars, Dan Jurak, prairie, winter, barn,

Level the tripod. Take six frames. Redo the whole series again because of an airplane that moved through the sky while shooting.

By this time it was 9:30 p.m. and still no aurora in sight or at least not much to see. Homewards I drove with the plan of taking a detour just before I hit the city limits to have another look for the northern lights and there they were.

I headed toward this old and large poplar tree that has been in a few of my photographs before, snapped a few frames and with high hopes drove north, away from the city for twenty minutes. The lights disappeared.

Meh, I figured that they would probably show up but I was getting sleepy and a warm and cozy bed looked better to me than driving til 3:00 a.m. taking pics. I guess that’s what happens when you get older?

More lights planned for tonight and if the sky is clear I intend to leave later and return later with more aurora photos.

Happy shooting,




~ by Dan Jurak on March 2, 2017.

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