Tag Archives: Lights

Arctic Norway Part 2

If you haven’t seen part one click here, if you have please read on.

The day before departing for the second Norway trip in February there was a huge earth directed M class solar flare. Also on the day of departure there was an even bigger X class flare the first of the new solar cycle to boot! So the conditions could not have been any better with clear sky’s forecast for the duration of the trip. I have to say I was very excited indeed! One of the things I always remembered at the end of January Norway trip was don’t worry you’re coming back in 2 weeks so you can get your epic Aurora photographs then. It really looked like this was going to happen.

Active Sunspots 1158 the source of the X class solar flare (Credit: SDO/HMI)

X ray image of the X class solar flare (Credit: NASAGoddardSDO AIA Team)

You can also view an excellent video here

The night before we arrived in Tromsø there had been some truly breathtaking displays of Aurora, probably the effect of the M Class flare slamming into Earths magnetic field. We arrived in Tromsø in the early hours of the 16th February we saw some very light low power Aurora on the flight from Gatwick we all had our fingers crossed the X class wasn’t going to hit until we arrived and were in the right place to photograph it.

A very technically bad photograph taken from the Aircraft about 1 hour before landing in Tromsø

We drove straight to the cabin at Sommarøy and got some sleep and awoke early for sunrise. One thing that was very noticeable was the very high fast wind and with temperature  around -5 /-10, when the wind hit your face it really took your breath away! The clear sky produced some harsh lighting conditions but looking back on the images I wish I had made more effort because the gradients in the clear blue sky were stunning. Photography feels like very hard work when getting battered by the wind so technically and physically I found it very challenging.

Mountain Shadows 1 Taken from Sommarøy

EXIF: Canon 5d ii |  Nikon 70-200mm | ISO:100 |  1/15s @ ƒ/8ish | heliopan CP

Mountain Shadows 2 Taken from Sommarøy

EXIF: Canon 5d ii |  Nikon 70-200mm | ISO:100 |  1/20s @ ƒ/8ish | heliopan CP



A small Lighthouse being dwarfed by mountains at Sommarøy

EXIF: Canon 5d ii |  Nikon 70-200mm | ISO:100 |  0.3s @ ƒ/8ish | Lee ND 0.9 + Heliopan CP

Hillesøya Observatory

EXIF: Canon 5d ii |  Nikon 70-200mm | ISO:100 | 1/20’s @ ƒ/8ish |  Heliopan CP

After the windswept harsh sunrise we explored possible locations to photograph the Aurora with some shelter from the extreme wind! Antony AKA Captain Aurora / Mr Epic found a great location near Kattfjordvatnet and we planned to go back that evening. The charts and graphs showed little or no activity but we all knew this could change and go off the scale if the X class hit. We went out that evening with some high hopes. The news of the CME had even made it onto the BBC website and news channel, I was receiving texts and emails from back home with people speculating that it might be able to be viewed all the way from the North of England. That evening we sat in the car, waited and waited and saw very little of the Aurora Borealis. Pretty much the same thing happened the following night with the levels remaining at nearly zero. I was starting to think someone had made up this whole story about the X flare or it has missed us completely.

Tromsø Graph showing little or minimal activity on the 17/02/11  click on the image for a better view Credit: Tromsø Geophysical Observatory

A small & very weak band of Aurora over Kattfjordvatnet Sean is looking in the right direction but I think Andy is slightly lost.

Finally on the 18/02/11, our last day, the Flare hit Earths  magnetic field and sparked a G1-class geomagnetic storm, not as strong as all the hype suggested but at least it was something. As the flare hit so did the thick cloud and our view was covered up once more. There were small breaks in the cloud that prompted some short bursts of photography but nothing like we imagined it would be.

A gap in the sky

EXIF: Canon 5d ii | Zeiss 50mm | ISO:1600 |  4s @ ƒ/2

After the short display we had to get to the airport and catch our flight back to the UK. The trip had been a real emotional roller coster with such high expectations, it almost felt like it was going to be a sure thing, but the fact of the matter is when chasing the Northern Lights it never is. I found that when you stop looking for something it comes and finds you. My Irish Aurora experience goes to prove that. I will leave the best until last with an image made near a little place called Bakkejord.

Bakkejord View

EXIF: Canon 5d ii | Zeiss 35mm | ISO:50 |  1s @ ƒ/11 | ND 0.6ND + Heliopan CP

Thanks for taking the time to look at my Blog. If you missed Arctic Norway Part one you can see it here. Please feel free to leave a comment or forward this link to a friend.

If you would like to find out more about my work or are interested in prints or licensing please see my website or get in contact. You can also follow me on twitter @reedingram

Thanks again,

Reed Ingram Weir



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Irish Aurora

Over the last couple of months I have been chasing the Northern Lights around the Arctic circle with minimal success but on the 1st of Mach 2011 when I stopped looking they decided to come to visit me!

On the day in question I had flown to Northern Ireland to visit my Aunty and we had a great day driving out to the coast looking at the huge waves break at Portballintrae we even had an ice cream, you’re probably thinking how could you possibly improve on that day? Well I often look at various websites showing geomagnetic levels and predicted Aurora levels and after a quick check on my phone at around 4pm It looked like something strong was brewing.

Tromsø Graph above and NOAA Aurora Doughnut below.

A large fast solar wind had hit earth’s magnetic field causing a geomagnetic storm that shifted the normal position of the Northern lights south. After looking over the available data I was convinced if I drove to the North coast of Ireland I would be sure to see the Northern Lights weather permitting. I asked my Aunty if I could borrow the car and she agreed reluctantly as I think she thought I was a crazy person suggesting that I was going to photograph the Northern Lights in Ireland.

I decided to head for my birthplace Ballycastle as it is nearly the most northern point of Northern Ireland. Even on the drive there I could see a large band of light in the night sky and I was sure it was the Aurora borealis,

When I reached Ballycastle I decided there was way too much light pollution from the Harbour so drove west along the Causeway Coastal road until I reached Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge car park. I parked up and jumped out of the car with excitement and there it was glowing bright about 35° above the horizon. When my eyes adjusted from the complete darkness I spotted Sheep Island and included this in most of the photographs from this location. Exposure was a complete nightmare all my photographs are totally under exposed due to the 8% moon that wasn’t even in the sky and zero light pollution, the only real light source was the light house on Rathlin Island. another problem I had was the fastest lens I had with me was a Ziess 50mm f/1.4 so in any exposures over 10 seconds the stars would move very noticeably. Even with a 30second exposure @ f/1.4 at ISO 1600 the images were still coming out dark. so I just had to balance the settings as best I could. I knew I wasn’t going to make a masterpiece but I was committed to recording this moment in time to the best of my ability.

I stayed at Carrick-a-Rede for about an hour before driving down to Ballintoy and having ago there but it was hard going with the horrible yellow lights so I decided to call it a night still feeling amazed I had even seen them at all!

Below are a selection of images from 1st March 2011

Balintoy Harbor, Ziess 35mm f/2 ISO 1600 3o seconds

Sheep Island 1,  Ziess 50mm f/1.4 ISO 1600 10 seconds

Sheep Island 2, Ziess 50mm f/1.4 ISO 1600 6 seconds

For me this was a very special experience and will not be forgotten and maybe in the coming years I wont even need to drive north as they will be flying over my head as we approach Solar Maximum in 2013 /14

If your interested in chasing the Northern Lights I have listed some useful websites below,

http://spaceweather.com/

http://kho.unis.no/forecast.htm

http://tiny.cc/mwq78

or you could always follow me on Twitter @reedingram as if the Aurora is out in strength I will probably be talking about it!

Thanks for looking please feel free to leave a comment or message,

Reed