After a tremendous run of shooting in the alcove, everything quieted down a bit, so we decided to relocate back to the Canon 6D camera and the fisheye lens as temps were now below -30F and the battery had been running the camera for three hours. I hustled out to the camera (about a 5 minute walk) and had to search to find it in the dark as the moon was now low, below the trees. I couldn’t use my headlamp as the light would have ruined the middle of the long sequence we were trying to capture. To my delight (and amazement), the camera was still going! I quickly swapped the spent battery for a fully-charged warm one from my warm inner pocket and left the camera to capture another three hours of aurora footage at 13 seconds/exposure.
As I walked back to the car, the sky erupted! Never had we seen such rapid movement and development. Moving at lightning speed, the aurora raced from the east to the west high overhead. It spiraled, danced in graceful motions, and a myriad of shapes. The edges were fringed pink and red. Previous nights when the display had only somewhat approached this level, exposure times had dropped from the average of 3-8 seconds to 1.5 seconds or less. The aurora was so bright and in such concentrated tight bands that were moving so quickly that I knew there was no hope of capturing any meaningful images. The aurora would have been severely over exposed and blown out while the foreground would have been utterly dark. We both took this very rare opportunity to just watch and revel in the display! I do recall a lot of yelling (the “Whahoo!!! variety) coming from somewhere nearby. Completely caught up in the event, we realized it was coming from us!
When the frenetic activity abated a bit, I took the opportunity to capture Dr. Morrow enjoying what was still a vigorous display.
The night proved to be perfect for capturing the panoramas I needed, as well as the six hours of fisheye lens images to test on our dome. If you want to see them stitched together for about 10 minutes of footage, consider coming to my live interactive program, Windows to the Universe in the Hansen Dome Theatre on May 23 and 25, 2013 at 6:45 pm.
Finally, there is the matter of gear–much of which I’ve just alluded to from time to time. I’ll have a lot of it along for my talk on Thursday and Saturday. If you really want to know about everything we took, just let me know and I can send you the list.
If you like to read even more about our adventure, you can do so here. Just start from the bottom of the blog to follow the whole trip. If you’d like witness the aurora for yourself, don’t be deterred by the cold. Modern gear makes a HUGE difference.