This past spring I travelled well away from city lights on a few nights hoping to get some photographs of the aurora borealis. They had been particularly strong, displaying pinks normally seen only at significantly more northern latitudes. Whether I had chosen the wrong nights, or even the wrong time of night, I don’t know, but I missed them.
Last Friday, I happened to catch in the news that a solar flare had been ejected from the sun and was headed in our direction. I wondered briefly whether it would lead to any light displays, but didn’t think more of it. On Sunday evening, as I was headed with my family to spend the night on our farm an hour north of the city, I remembered the little solar flare and may have unnerved my husband a bit with my frantic remembering of whether I had packed a wide lens or not. I had had one in my hand — twice — and put it back both times certain that I wouldn’t need it. The only lens with me for the day was a 100-400mm.
I awoke at 2:30am to see whether there really were any lights resulting from that flare, hoping that there weren’t because I wasn’t ready for it, but the green glow upon stepping outside was unmistakable. I couldn’t not make use of the opportunity, but I grumbled that I had three lenses sitting at home infinitely better suited to the task.
The hill behind the north side of the house would at least help to give me some high landscape to anchor the image, but at 100mm, all I had were trees and glow without end. I could have taken any silhouetted shot of that hill and simply given it a green cast. No good. Toward the west where the lights seemed to taper to black, there was still only indistinct green in the sky. On the eastern edge I had sheds and some of the less pretty scenery of the farm which wasn’t going to work either. My compromise came in shooting northeast. There, there were trees, aurora, black sky, and even a grain bin to lend a sense of place. The clouds in the sky added character too. That pink glow under them however, was the light pollution I had worked to escape all spring with my long drives. Not the big city mind you, but a town only 20km away.
So there’s my handicapped aurora. The light on the silo is the waning gibbous moon high over my right shoulder, and the warm light low on the left is a planet, I believe. This was shot just after 3am if that tells you astronomy enthusiasts more. I just had to share this ethereal green forest we see now and again.