Some nights it’s just worth it to forgo sleep and gaze at the stars. Conditions could not have been better for viewing the Perseid meteor shower overnight.
Heading outside at midnight I waited for the moon to set and it didn’t take long for the meteors to start flying from their radiant, the Perseus constellation!
I am lucky to live in a place not hampered by light pollution so even the faint streaks of light shooting across the sky were visible. I lost count early on…
These are a little challenging to shoot and often they seem to land just outside of your frame with perhaps a tail sticking in. Their brightness varied a great deal as did their length but what struck me the most was the color! One fireball, a particularly bright meteor, was bright orange as it exploded into view, partially obscured naturally by a tall cedar tree.
Just like other times when I’ve been out photographing night events like the aurora borealis, the animals seemed to feel the energy and their sounds added music to the show.
This meteor was one of the last that I captured as dawn approached tinting the sky with pink. It’s not too late to catch some so if your skies are clear and dark tonight and into the predawn hours, pull up a cot and spend a night out under the stars.
The recipe for shooting? Patience, wider angle lens, higher iso, longer shutter speeds, a tripod, and a timer or a remote trigger. If you’ve got it, now is the perfect time to figure out how to use that intervalometer that might just be built into your camera so pull out that manual!
As always don’t get so wrapped up in getting the shot that you forget to take time to simply watch and enjoy.
Oh, the summer night, Has a smile of light, And she sits on a sapphire throne.
After days of temperatures into the 90’s the evenings after darkness falls are far more inviting to be out in and with meteor showers taking place, Delta Aquarids now and the Perseids on the horizon, the night sky is something to be watched!
On this night I was thrilled to capture noctilucent clouds, polar mesospheric clouds. These elusive clouds form very high up, only a few kilometers below the coldest part of the atmosphere.
These are seasonal clouds, visible only during a few weeks in summer, and never visible during the day. You must also be between 50 degrees and 65 degrees north or south of the equator to have a chance of spotting them.
These were lit by the sun about an hour after it had set and their shining, shimmery look was unmistakable even to this amateur cloudwatcher.
As addictive as aurora hunting and meteor shower watching, I find myself checking for them every night.
Painting is a blind man’s profession. He paints not what he sees, but what he feels, what he tells himself about what he has seen.
I can’t believe that there was a time when I was petrified of the dark. Like anything though you can always find ways to work your way through those fears.
I do get some pitying looks sometimes as I show up after the sun has sunk below the horizon and I begin to set up my tripod. Oh, you should have seen it 10 minutes ago! You missed it…
For me though the timing is perfect. I can still see enough of the landscape to decide on my composition and settle in to wait for that black canvas to reveal itself.
This is the time for rock steady tripods and long exposures that can gather the light. In a way it is more like shooting film. It’s more contemplative and I walk away with only a handful of shots due to the set up times and length of exposures.
On this night I had the pleasure of some company, a neighbor who shares in the joy and wonderment of looking at the night sky. I like those nights because it does free me from being as vigilant as I am when out shooting by myself.
One does have to be cautious when out at night and keep a close watch on their immediate surroundings. I always make sure to take frequent breaks to look around and listen for predators…four-legged and two! Close at hand I carry multiple flashlights, cell phone, and bear spray.
I like to light paint into these scenes using a torch with colored filters. Pablo Picasso painted with light in 1949 using a small electric light.
I waited for Mars to move into my shot on the left and gently painted the reeds with light. It’s an interesting feeling. Much more like you are actually directing the shot rather than simply documenting it.
Combine that with the sounds of nature and it becomes pure magic…So what I once feared has become one of my favorite times.
Step out of your comfort zone and you just might discover a new passion.
I often think that the night is more alive and more richly colored than the day.
Vincent Van Gogh
In a new study one third of the world’s population cannot see the milky way galaxy while light pollution affects eighty percent, and for four out of five Americans light masks the milky way.
Why does this matter?
In ecosystems everything is connected and the effects of artificial light can be devastating to migratory birds, hatching sea turtles, nocturnal animals, and plants to name just a few. The International Dark-Sky Association has a wealth of information on the effects of light pollution and on ways that we can help to reduce it.
I’m one of the lucky ones. I can step outside on a clear night and see the milky way with my naked eye as it arches across the sky.
This image was taken from my backyard.
It is not just a feast for the eyes but for the ears! It’s a nocturnal symphony in my little corner of the world when on any given night I can hear owls hooting, bullfrogs croaking, the haunting call of an occasional loon, and the coyotes howling.
It goes far beyond the sheer beauty of the night skies and speaks to the health of our planet.
As digital cameras advance its my hope that images like the one above will inspire people to think about light pollution and ways that they can reduce it.
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.
and the mornings have a chill to them, I begin to wonder when that first snowflake will fall.
Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.
I love that the mornings are darker and that I can slip outside and revel in the darkness knowing that dawn is just around the corner.
The skies have been overcast, thwarting my plans to shoot the Draconid meteor showers that peaked this past Thursday. As the clouds scudded by one could occasionally see a patch of stars in the night sky and I was at least lucky enough to see four meteors.
The hours between sunset and sunrise have become my favorite hours to shoot. If you haven’t tried it I would encourage you to go out and soak it up. There is a meditative quality about these hours. The tranquility and lack of interruptions is something that I don’t usually find in my daylight hours and that outweighs those brief moments that intrude when I hear a branch snap or see a bat fly by.
This morning I reflected on another loss to our small community that occurred when a Cessna crashed into Round Top mountain killing two pilots and leaving the third passenger, at this point in time, unaccounted for. I suppose that it could be said that they died doing what they loved but for those left behind I am not sure that is enough of a consolation and my heart goes out to them.
I grew up being afraid of the dark so find it empowering that I can now be out in it; finding enjoyment in searching out the photographic opportunities it has to offer.
Although I’ve shot this birch tree before it never occurred to me to try it at night and now I wonder… what took me so long?
Additional images of light painting can be viewed by mousing over and clicking on the galleries idaho… after dark and idaho after dark lunar eclipse on this link to my website.
I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.
Light painting…those words today probably bring to mind the fabulous wakeboarding images shot by Patrick Rochon in conjunction with Redbull but did you know that the earliest light painting was photographed in 1889 by Georges Demeny and was titled “Pathological Walk From in Front?”
Then again, Picasso is also an artist that one wouldn’t necessarily equate with this form of painting but he was apparently intrigued after seeing the figure skaters shot by Gjon Mili and in 1949 collaborated with him during a Life magazine shoot. These images were later displayed in early 1950 at MOMA.
I find painting with light to be both energizing and soothing and while planning my shots for the eclipse last week I indulged in a little painting by moonlight. Usually I have at hand an assortment of torches and filters to use as my “brushes” but I thought that moon is looking pretty bright… why not!?
The shot of the day might have been if someone had been photographing me wildly waving my camera through the night sky while trying to keep track of my lines! Is this a work of art? Perhaps not but I liked its energy and just like last week’s eclipse, when social media was filled with cookie cutter images of large orange orbs, I again found pleasure in shooting the moon just a little bit differently.
Nothing is ever newbut when almost everyone now carries a camera, at least a phone version, it becomes more difficult to create something that stands apart. Are you up for the challenge?
Additional images of light painting can be viewed by mousing over and clicking on the galleries idaho… after dark and idaho after dark lunar eclipse on this link to my website.
On this special eclipse night, the fourth eclipse in a tetra, I wanted to do something more than just photograph a large frame filling blood moon. I kept being drawn to the idea of photographing the stars AND having a full moon in the shot. It just doesn’t happen very often that you can see the full moon and not have the stars washed out by its glow. I also knew that at 8:11 there would be an iridium flare visible for a brief moment. Not a very bright one but having shot these before I hoped that it would be bright enough. Could I capture this trifecta?
A great deal of planning needed to take place. First there was scouting out a location and figuring out where each element would be at that one moment necessary to capture all three. For this I turned to a wonderful ap called Photopills. It gave me all of the tools necessary to plot the placement of the moon and the milky way in relation to the direction and elevation of the flare. Taking some test shots showed me that shooting at 11 mm on my wide angle lens should just barely squeeze these three elements into the shot. What settings I would be using needed to be decided close to the time of the shot as I really did not know how much light would be present.
The one thing that I was certain of was that I would have one shot, just one frame, to get this. The girl likes a challenge though and certainly I filled my time before and after with capturing the beauty of this extra large moon, the likes of which will not occur again until 2033, as it rose behind the mountains, already partially eclipsed.
It was a beautiful night, with perfect weather and even a shooting star that exploded during a test shot. How lucky can one girl be? Or is luck when opportunity and planning come together…you be the judge!
More images can be viewed in the gallery idaho after dark by clicking on this link to my website.
Did I ever chuckle when I came across this quote. Busted! Read on to see what a secretive lot we photographers can be!
This is my longest blog post to date BUT if you have ever been disappointed by NOT seeing the northern lights when others have raved about or captured fabulous images of them AND you live below 50 degrees latitude…read on!
If you can tolerate the ground-work laying information in the next couple of paragraphs without your eyes rolling back in your head I will then get to why you may have seen the aurora borealis and not even known it!
Trending this past week were photos of the aurora borealis dancing in the night skies over North America and other parts of the world as well. There are people FAR more adept at explaining what these light displays are but basically it begins with a CME or coronal mass ejection. This is a cloud of gas ejected from the surface of the Sun. When these winds of charged particles collide with Earth’s magnetic field it excites those atoms causing them to light up.
For viewing purposes the important thing to know is the global geomagnetic storm index or KP number and it ranges from 0-9, with 9 being the highest. Using this number enables you to see if there is a possibility of seeing the aurora in your location. Spaceweatherlive.com is a wealth of information on this number and how to find your value.
Back to the photos…
This week I saw some very beautiful images of the northern lights shot during the early hours of June 23, 2015. The KP index was predicted to be between 7 and 8 and for my viewing purposes in Northern Idaho, I need between a 5 and 6 to give me a good chance of seeing lights. The evening did not disappoint and along with the greens I captured with my Nikon some lovely spiking pinks dance across the night sky along the edge of my pasture. I am fortunate to live in a place with dark skies and little light pollution which greatly improves the chance of seeing these.
You might have noticed that I did not say that along with the greens I saw some lovely spiking pinks.
What my eyes saw when I walked outside was this..
but I knew that what I was seeing was the northern lights because of a chance discovery that I blogged about in March here.
I suppose it is the job of the artist to create mystery but I have read too many comments from people bitterly disappointed after getting up to witness this altogether infrequent sight at my latitude to NOT provide an explanation and hope to those who have seeing this on their bucket list.
I grew up in Edmonton, Alberta, latitude 53 degrees, and recall seeing the aurora borealis in all of its colorful glory. After many years away in more southerly climes we moved north once again to Idaho, latitude 48 degrees.
I was puzzled and disappointed that while others were out in my same area capturing beautiful northern lights shots…I never once saw them but I was looking for color. After my March discovery thorough research into this showed me that the human eye uses rods and cones. In the retina cones perceive color, work in bright light, and are used in the day. Rods perceive light and shadow and are used at night. Camera sensors in the DSLR’s do not have these limitations so they capture the full range of color and light.
The simple explanation is as you go below 50 degrees latitude, the northern lights are weaker and will to most people be viewed more as shifting patterns of light in the white to gray range and NOT the colors that the DSLR is capable of capturing. I would expect that eyes differ so possibly and depending on KP strength some people might still see some color. Travelling further north will diminish the differences between what your eyes see and what the camera captures.
The next time the KP index is high head out away from the city lights and enjoy searching the night sky and if you see dancing patterns and sheets of light you will have watched the aurora borealis!