I’ve been really lucky—or maybe really well prepared. I’ve photographed things that people only dream of seeing. I’ve shot rare cloud formations, the Northern Lights, and sub-auroral arcs called STEVE. Elephants and pangolin in the wilds of South Africa (thank you Jenny), grizzly and black bears in the Rocky Mountains (thank you Sonny), and a tornado in Alberta I was so close to that the shot didn’t require the full length of my zoom lens. But one of my favorite things to shoot is atmospheric optics and light. I’ve got Les Cowley to thank for that!
The light pillars in the photograph above have been on my bucket list for ages. Conditions have to come together exactly right before they’ll appear, and their appearance can be fleeting. You need finger-numbing, battery-draining temperatures, plate crystals in the atmosphere, and light pollution—that bane of a night photographer’s existence. Light pollution disrupts the natural patterns of wildlife and in the U.S. and Europe, 99% of people can’t experience a true dark sky. But when the lights combine with ice crystals floating gently in the sky, I can’t resist trying to capture them. There’s a season for sighting these pillars and where I live, we’re at the very end of it.
On this night, at 2:30 in the morning, I pulled on my husband’s very warm down-filled jacket and stumbled outside with my senior dog who’d woken me up for a potty break. Shooting upwards into the sky around me were the pillars I’d resigned myself to never seeing. They don’t shoot directly up from the light sources. The delicate crystal plates drift down and reflect the light back toward the viewer from a more midway point.
We were in the car in about five minutes and off on another optic adventure. One I won’t soon forget. The frozen fingers were worth it, and I was so happy to share the magical night with my husband.
Note: A shout out to Deborah Byrd of https://earthsky.org/ too for publishing so many of my images. It’s always an honor. And if you’d like to learn more about optics, visit Les Cowley’s incredible site https://atoptics.co.uk/
4 thoughts on “One time I can live with light pollution…”
Wonder if the” Green Flash” is on your list? I was fortunate to experience a double green flash aboard a yacht anchored off Bird Island in the Seychelles. Painted it and if I find the image in the archives in Dublin will send it to you.Artist: Michele SouterSent from my T-Mobile 5G Device
I would love to see your image. I have seen the flash on several occasions but haven’t photographed it yet. I have photographed other mirages though. So nice to hear from you, Michele!
I am always awed by your deep knowledge of atmospheric optics combined with the willingness to use the night hours so enthusiastically, as well as having gathered the technical skills to be able to photograph tricky light on top of having acquired the visual talents needed to deliver a solid (enigmatic, enduring) image! Whew, that was a mouthful! Four pillars, each vital to the end piece.
Thanks Jenny! ❤️