Unpredictable Beauty

The Magic of an Aurora

Unpredictable Beauty

© Ellen Anon

We went to Jokulsarlon, Iceland in winter hoping to capture the Northern Lights over Glacier Lagoon. In my mind’s eye it seemed that an aurora reflecting in the lagoon accented by some icebergs would be spectacular. However for that to happen there has to be good aurora activity coinciding with clear skies.

We had spent several nights hoping for an aurora. Even though the aurora forecast was excellent, we couldn’t see any because the sky was completely clouded over.

On the night I took this picture the forecast was meager but we went out anyway. Early on there was a small aurora, but then the sky clouded over so we went back to the car.

Several hours later we thought the clouds were thinning, but by then it was the middle of the night and I decided to set up near the car. But when the heavens opened up with a dramatic aurora, I knew I had to get down to the water's edge. I ran down (praying I wouldn't stumble and fall in the dark and that the magic would continue) and took the time to change to a 14mm lens because I wanted to be able to capture as much of the aurora and reflection as possible. By then the aurora was covering a good part of the sky. To maximize the reflection I flattened the tripod and placed the camera almost on the ground. To balance the exposure of the sky and the reflection (reflections are almost always darker) I held a cleaning cloth over the top part of the lens for about 10 seconds, then continued on with the rest of the 35-second exposure manually controlled via a remote cable. When photographing auroras it’s best to try to keep your exposures to about 30 seconds or less to limit the amount of star movement visible in the image.

It turned out that the aurora forecast for that night was revised after the fact... instead of a level 1 or 2 as initially predicted, it was rated at a 7. When photographing natural events, sometimes you just have to go for it, despite less than optimal predictions.

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Ellen Anon

Ellen Anon depends on reliable cards when faced with extreme environmental conditions.
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