Aurora chasing

Aurora chasing

Had an unexpected couple of nights chasing the aurora when I was down in Juneau on Memorial Day weekend.  Unexpected because you just get accustomed to there not being enough darkness for the aurora in Anchorage come early May.  I knew there was a good forecast for the evening, but had not expected I would get a chance to see it.  But there I was with my friend Chris Beck photographing departing cruise ships at night when we looked up and saw the aurora faintly dancing in the sky.  The party-goers who were enjoying bonfires nearby on Sandy Beach let out whoops and cheers of celebration.  Good to know even Alaskans can get excited about the northern lights.

The exposures were a bit challenging, to say the least.  My usual approach for a less-than-vivid display would be to open the lens all the way open to f/2.8, set the ISO to 400 or 200 and enter a manual exposure of 15-30 seconds.  But, in both cases on these two nights, I had to deal with an additional light source – either the city or the glaring bright lights of the cruise ship.  I found myself shooting at aperture priority and having as fast as 1/5 second exposures.  In retrospect, had I thought of it and had the time, I would have put my Lee graduated neutral density filters on – upside down so as to darken the city or ship.  But, the displays happened quickly and did not last long.  Unfortunately, at least for the cruise ships, I will not likely again have the unique combination of elements taking place to create the images.  And sometimes, that is all you get – one chance.

On our second night, after shooting the aurora with the skyline, we headed over to Mendenhall Lake in the hopes that we could get some aurora displays over there.  But, after much waiting, the aurora failed to revive for us.  So, instead, I captured a few images of the clouds moving across the moonlit sky, as well as the offending full moon peeking through some trees along the side of the road.

One Response to “Aurora chasing”

  1. Juneau 2010 Summer tour » Photography by Beck Blog Says:

    […] have been so lucky this summer to get to spend time with good friends and AMAZING photogs Carl Johnson, and Nathaniel Wilder (the man himself!) as they came through town on business trips.  I have been […]

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