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Aurora hunting

Published July 15th, 2012

Although I have seen the northern lights in my lifetime, it's been so long since that I can't really recall the last time they were visible. I do know it was in Ludington, Michigan, which is a little further south than they usually show (and roughly parallel with where I live now). I've been waiting for another chance to see them this far south again, but every time they were supposedly going to show, they never did, or it was cloudy.

Last night, however, my parents called me in a frenzy from Pelican Lake, asking for advice on how to get pictures of the stunning lights they were seeing and begging me to go looking for them, since they thought I could get better ones. I didn't think I would actually be able to catch them, since Pelican Lake is about 157 miles north of here - but I went to go look anyway. I had been driving around with a friend for maybe an hour and a half when I spotted something that I wasn't quite sure wasn't just clouds until I turned off my headlights and saw the movement. I was shocked (in a delighted way) to see that the lights that were white to the naked eye showed up as a brilliant green and deep indigo on camera. When the sun started to rise the colors aligned to make an almost-perfect rainbow.

Unfortunately, many of my pictures turned out blurry or underexposed in the long run. Having seen some of the stunning photographs others have gotten of the aurora further north, I don't feel right uploading these first-timers as part of my actual profile. That being said, though, it was still amazing and I have to share them.

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Also notable: the moon & the visible Andromeda galaxy. My car is a little bit in the way, as are the headlights from a few trucks that were passing just below the horizon.

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The brilliance of the green in these exposures absolutely shocked me. The lights were white to the naked eye, but clearly very bright and in motion - but even so, the colors appeared in exposures as short as 10 seconds. It's amazing that it takes such a short amount of time to capture that color.

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Not much aurora in this one, but it was a lovely skyline nonetheless. If you look closely in the upper right-hand third of this one you can just barely see a meteor trail.

  • July 14th, 2012
  • NIKON D5100
  • 18mm / f/4 / 20 sec
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Wind turbines.

  • July 14th, 2012
  • NIKON D5100
  • 18mm / f/3.5 / 20 sec
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  • July 14th, 2012
  • NIKON D5100
  • 18mm / f/3.5 / 20 sec
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My favorite from the batch. This was just before sunrise.

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Another, more clear meteor trail is in this one. I saw probably 5 or 6 of them throughout the night, which was pretty cool in addition to the lights and everything.

  • July 14th, 2012
  • NIKON D5100
  • 18mm / f/5.6 / 30 sec

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