was what appeared in the night sky alongside the aurora borealis!
To me, photography is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event.
“GET IN THE JEEP” I shouted to my husband, “I need you to take me to the lake right now!”
Not being able to sleep and unable to concentrate on the book I was reading I started checking my apps to see what I might be able to see in the night sky. The moon wouldn’t be a problem and for once the skies looked like they would be clear.
There was an expectation that in a couple of days we might be seeing the northern lights so I was looking forward to that having been shut out by clouds from seeing the Eta Aquariids meteor shower. When the aurora app showed a pretty distinct area of red I jumped out of bed and ran for my camera and tripod.
I quickly dialed in some settings, plunked the tripod down on the deck and took a test shot to the north, I could see that there were light fluctuations but my eyes had not yet adapted to the dark.
Sure enough, aurora borealis, and looking strong! Turning around I looked up and saw flowing from east to west overhead the most incredible arc. I didn’t know what it was, having never seen one before, but I knew that it was one of those moments not to be wasted. I had no idea how long it would last and wanted to get into an area that was not rimmed by towering cedars and grand fir to photograph it.
I didn’t bother to change out of my pj’s but threw a hoodie on to ward off the night temperatures.
Firing off shots to document overhead and to the west I yelled at my husband to hurry, which thankfully he did, ignoring my agitation and occasional expletive.
With camera already attached to the tripod I leaped from the jeep and ran to the water’s edge to start shooting.
And then the magic began…
I wish that I’d had a recording of the animals that night. On other occasions while photographing strong aurora events I’ve noted their heightened response to these energetic events. Bullfrogs croaked in deep, vibratory tones, coyotes howled, two different species of owls hooted, and a grebe’s haunting notes echoed from across the lake.
The aurora borealis themselves were spectacular, but the arc, that was simply unforgettable. My search for confirmation of the proton arc had me reaching out in many directions (thank you Lucy, my go to person for night sky questions!)
A proton arc occurs when massive protons ejected by a solar event bombard the earth’s atmosphere…and they’re rare events.
This is exactly why I shoot every day under all conditions. There wasn’t time to mess around with settings and fiddle with focus. This was a time to hit the ground shooting, quick check of the histogram and take full advantage of an opportunity that I might never see again.
You know when you’re working on the computer and you might have several things going on at one time concurrently? Well this is an awful lot like that…
Sometimes I think that taking the photograph is the easy part. You work hard at learning your craft, shooting anything and everything. This changes over time as you develop a sense of what really moves you to capture what is really meaningful to you. Then, if you have the opportunity to exhibit your work, you’ll need to edit and print it.
So much of what we view today is on phones, tablets, ipads,and computer screens so it is a rather rude awakening sometimes when it comes to the print.
I tend to not print my own prints. I want to have the best quality available and the widest choice of print options. This does not come without its own set of problems though.
I shoot in raw to give myself the best range of options when it comes to editing. I don’t want the camera to compress the image into a jpeg and throw out information that might be critical to my shot. We do after all make a photo, not just take a photo.
Likewise when sending my image off to print, I don’t want the lab to make choices on how it gets printed.
I have set up an editing environment that has consistent light, I calibrate my dedicated monitor on a regular basis, and I do test prints which I then check against my monitor for accuracy.
All of which is challenging because so much of the general public viewing is done with that wonderful backlighting that has to be then factored in when you send an image to print. That file needs to be adjusted so that the print that comes back or gets drop shipped to a client, looks exactly as it should.
I took the opportunity recently to look back on years of images as I was putting a collection together to print. It was a fascinating experience to look at the evolution of my own journey in photography.
I would highly recommend doing this.
Then take it one step further, don’t just post those images… print those favorites!