Tag Archives: Photography

Chasing Aurora in the Convertible Aurora Ship

After the long bright summer skies, we finally have darkness again and with the increased solar activity, it was only a matter of time before the Northern Lights would return to Northumberland.

This wasn’t the first time I’d seen the Northern Lights from Northumberland. I photographed the Aurora back on the 10th March 2011 at Lindisfarne, not long after my amazing Irish Aurora experience.

Lindisfarne causeway Aurora featuring yours truly 10-03-11

This time things were just slightly more fun with the addition of the Aurora-chasing convertible warp ship. It can transport two persons and camera equipment at high warp.

The Aurora Ship docked at Lindisfarne Causeway 26-09-11

I was aware there might be a possiblity of a severe geomagnetic storm following three CME eruptions from the Sun. But it wasn’t until around 17:00 that evening I really fully believed that there would be a chance of viewing the Northern Lights from the Northeast.

I checked all my available data and everything added up so I called my co-pilot, friend and colleague Patrick Hussey, and we launched the Aurora Ship up the A1 at high speed (within the legal limit, of course).

I decided to head for a place called Howick to do the first check and see if we had any Aurora in the sky. As soon as we pulled up, the sky to the North was bright with a tint of green but we had heavy cloud obstructing the view.

I set the camera up on a tripod and took an exposure of around 8 seconds. This confirmed the Northern Lights were out to play. We got straight back in the Aurora Ship and headed further north. We pulled up at Bamburgh  despite the large amount of light pollution from the village and castle, the Aurora was building in strength and structure, so it was well worth a few photographs before setting off to the next location.

Northern Lights Bamburgh Beach 26-09-11

Northern Lights with the Aurora Ship Bamburgh 26-09-11

The next stop was just slightly further North at Budle Bay. The light pollution was much more under control, we could even see the Milky Way!

The Milky Way with some added lens flare supplied by the Aurora Ship's particle sensors.

After viewing the Aurora here for around 20 minutes, I decided we needed a clear view North and the best and closest place for that is Lindisfarne Causeway.

After a cracking little flight in the Aurora Ship, we arrived not knowing where the tide would be. Amazingly, the tide was out so we had a safe crossing to Holy Island. We parked up about halfway across the Causeway and set up the camera.

By now the Aurora was very bright and clearly visible with structure and an array of colours. I took some comedy photographs of the Aurora Ship but while doing this, the sky ignited.

What was already bright visible Aurora became insane with large curtains of light falling from the sky! It was quite a sight to see such a display from Northumberland and I was so happy I had followed my heart and belief that we would see the lights that night. The insane display didn’t last long, probably only 5 minutes, before it settled and faded away to just a slight green hum in the sky.

Northern Lights building in strength at Budle Bay 26-09-11

The Climax of the evening with a large array of colours and curtains of light 26-09-11

After the epic display 26-09-11

Now for the science bit. | © Tromsø Geophysical Observatory

As it’s quite rare to have such powerful displays of the Northern Lights in England, my images were published by major UK papers including The Sun, The Mirror, The Daily Mail, The Telegraph, and online publications including Spaceweather &  National Geographic.

I will be taking my images to Jack Lowe Studio were he will be making a series of fine prints that will be available to purchase on my new website. It should be live over the next few months.

In the meantime, should you want to order a print or talk about licensing, please contact me direct.

If you live in the North East and want the chance to see the Aurora, feel free to follow me on twitter and check now and again. If it’s happening I will be talking / tweeting about it.

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

Arctic Norway Part 1

In the first 2 months of 2011 I headed out to Tromsø Arctic Norway each time with great expectations visions and dreams of viewing and photographing the Northern Lights / Aurora Borealis in all their glory and using the short amount of day light to photograph the beautiful landscapes in this stunning area of the world. However sometimes / most of the time the elements don’t come together as you would hope. It is a frustrating thing when you are handed all the ingredients for the vision you have for a photograph in a landscape that is so beautiful but it requires that final garnish of light to make it work. For me I would rather not take a photograph than take something I know I will not be happy with later on at the viewing stage. Of course most of the time I end up taking the photograph anyway but I do try and hold back most of the time.

The View Towards Trømvik

EXIF: Canon 5d ii | Zeiss 18mm | ISO:100 |  1/6s @ ƒ/8 | 0.75s

Grøtfjord Marbles

EXIF: Canon 5d ii | Zeiss 35mm | ISO:100 |  3.2s @ ƒ/8 | 0.75h

The first couple of days on the first trip the light was excellent but I was still getting settled looking for possible compositions and just generally adjusting the the climate and sleeping patterns so not many photographs were taken, The Aurora levels were also low / non existent with a quiet sun or solar wind that had not arrived yet, When the Aurora’s did finally arrive they were covered up by the blanket of snow cloud that had followed us to Norway. Nearly 1 meter of snow must have fallen in 24 hours making photography almost impossible so a lot of sleep was had and Irish whisky was drunk. When the snow finally did decide to clear it left flat grey sky behind and then more snow came at the cycle repeated itself for a day or so.

We all decided it was time to get the hell out of Norway and travel south to Finland to try and beat the cloud.

It sounded like a good idea when it was suggested but it was a hell of a drive and with temperatures ranging from + 1° at the coast  to – 17° inland it sure was an interesting one.

The drive really was beautiful and eventful we drove past frozen Fjord’s and were followed by sea eagle’s and I even managed to get the car stuck in a ditch! When we did finally cross the Finnish border I was ready for bed and it was only 4pm, soon after the border we pulled into a large service station, the first thing I noticed was that there were only a couple of cars parked up everyone else had snowmobiles so I was instantly jealous / concerned. The great thing about Finland is that it is much cheaper than Norway so when I ordered a cup of tea and a jam doughnut I didn’t have to sell my camera equipment to pay for it.

Frozen Fjord Kattfjordvatnet

EXIF: Canon 5d ii | Zeiss 18mm | ISO:100 |  1/250s @ ƒ/11


After the tea and doughnut it was time to go and find a decent location to photograph the lights. We ended up on top of this very open dark hill with a 360° view. The Aurora started to glow but I wasn’t happy with the location so I decided to go further down the road and try and find a better  vantage point. I think the best action of the action actually happened when I was driving and when I did find a place to shoot it was slightly disappointing and with only a couple of average photographs taken it was time to start the long drive back to the cabin at Ersfjordbotn Norway.

Aurora Borealis over the snow covered hills of Finland

EXIF: Canon 5d ii | Zeiss 35mm | ISO:1600 |  15s @ ƒ/2

The next day (back in Norway) the grey cloud was still the trend and time was now ticking with our flight back to England fast approaching! I think I had only made a couple of photographs I was happy with so I was feeling pretty frustrated at this stage. I was putting lots of pressure on myself to make some decent images and I think this probably made things worse. Now when I look back over the RAW files I feel I could have done things so much better with stupid compositions and sometimes bad technique but I suppose  you only learn by making your own mistakes.

On the last day we had some good light and drove around the Island and made some images at different locations but always missing the best of the light. I did however get a nice shot of the hire car near Rekvik.

VW Golf Blue Motion with studded snow tires

Sommarøy ? Seascape

EXIF: Canon 5d ii | Zeiss 18mm | ISO:100 |4s @ ƒ/8 | 0.75h

On the final evening we finally had broken cloud, not clear sky but at least we could see the stars sometimes which is a real treat after solid snow cloud for 5 days! We decided to stay local and visit a great location only 5 minites drive from the cabin called Kattfjordvatnet, We had a pretty epic display of Aurora but it was slightly ruined with the constant attack of cloud from all directions. It was still fantastic to watch the Aurora dance for us, The display lasted about 1 hour before the cloud beat us.

Aurora over Kattfjordvatnet

EXIF: Canon 5d ii | Canon 24mm | ISO:1600 |  15s @ ƒ/2.8

Even with all the frustration and cloud dodging, this trip to Norway was still a great experience.  I learnt a lot about how to cope with disappointment and how you need to use the small moments of perfection as best you can. Stay tuned for Arctic Norway part 2 where I will describe my experiences of the February Trip. Until then please feel free to leave a comment. Thanks for taking the time to read my blog for further information about my work please see my website.

Reed Ingram Weir

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,




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,


Iceland Adventure

I have recently returned from an inspirational trip to Iceland, I went with fellow photographers Antony Spencer & Aaron Bennett. We picked up the hire car at Keflavik airport at 1am and headed south east to Jökulsárlón glacial Lagoon. It was not long before we spotted the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) and what should have been a 5 hour drive soon turned into an epic 9 hour journey stopping off to photograph waterfalls &  Aurora Borealis underneath light provided by the full moon. When we did finally reach the beautiful Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon  it was time to wake up and get stuck in to this beautiful place.

Aurora Borealis over Jökulsárlón glacial Lagoon

Its not easy photographing this beautiful event as you want to keep your shutter speed fast to retain the detail in the dancing Aurora but a higher ISO means more noise, and a smaller aperture causes loss of sharpness throughout the image and vignetting. You need to split the difference on all the settings to strike the best balance for the scene.

While photographing the Northern Lights over the glacial lagoon you would think it would be silent but the playful family of seals had other ideas. I wished I had a 500mm Lens to pick up some pictures of the seals relaxing on the icebergs. Maybe next time…..

This was one of the 4 hour long sunsets I really liked the contrast between the frozen iceberg and the golden sunset rays. The colours may look stong in this one but I have actually reduced the colour as it was clipping!

I really tried to get some nice detail shots of the shapes sculpted in the ice. I used my Nikon 200mm to get as close as possible. again something longer would have come in handy.

If you ever get the opportunity to go to Iceland grab it with both hands it is indeed an amazing place, as are the people. I just love the hotdogs they serve in the petrol stations!
On the long journey back to the airport we stopped off to quickly shoot the sea stacks at Vik even though it is indeed a cliché shot its always nice to have your own version to hang on the wall at home.

I am looking forward to getting some of my Aurora images printed it will be interesting to see what paper will suit them best. I am sure my printer Jack Lowe will have lots great advice on this matter.

Tech stuff
On this trip I was mainly using a Canon 5dii with Nikon and Ziess Lenses with an adapter in the middle to make it all work. I am not a big fan of the 5dii as I find it very noisy even at low ISO’s compared to my Nikon D700 but I really wanted the extra resolution that the 5dii has to offer to make slightly larger prints.

Beautiful | Norway

I recently returned from beautiful Norway after a 4 day trip organised by Antony Spencer The plan was to photograph the Northern Lights but sadly the cloud and sometimes rain set in during the dark hours making it impossible to see them yet alone photograph them.

Even tho we did not get to see the lights dance we still did plenty of exploring and photography during the daylight hours. Norway has so much to offer with stunning mountain’s and Fjord’s everywhere you look. We were also very lucky to have been there when the autumn colours were at there best with lovely oranges and browns like you have never seen.  it really its Large format camera territory as my SLR ‘s just did not have the resolution to capture the amazing detail that this landscape has to offer during the daylight. I will definitely return again probably during the winter when the landscape is transformed with a layer of snow and the light is more subtle making it much easer to photograph.

Antony Spencer will be running trips to Norway throughout the year so get in contact of you are interested in going out to Norway to see the lights for yourself.

Below is a small selection of photographs taken during my stay.

Grøtfjord Ripples

Summer Island

DIY Filter Holder for Nikon’s AF-S 14-24mm ƒ/2.8 G Lens

I have had this wonderful lens for sometime but I am never able to use it because I love using filters but this lens has no standard way of fitting a Lee or Cokin Filter holder. I know Lee will be launching a new filter system for this lens  in June but I am a very inpatient person and I think it will be over £300+VAT just for the holder and maybe 1x filter!  So I was thinking I can make one for much less and still decent quality. and it can take the 130mm / 170mm Grad filters that Lee & Cokin Make. below is a list of key ingredients you will need.

1x Cokin X Pro Filter Holder

1x Cokin Universal Adapter ring

black Telescopic Circular Tubing

thin Black plastic sheet / or black card

Thin foam + spray adhesive

I have posted some photos of my filter holder below, I have only had a quick test and there is no cut off at 16mm on a FX Camera so a DX would be ok for sure.

I am going to head out tonight and get some landscape test shots so will post the results later.

LA Baby!

Recently I was lucky to be sent out to LA on a job not photography related but still very interesting.

I managed to get out a few times to take in and photograph some of the stunning landscapes they have over there. The first thing that hit me was the difference in the light and how hard it was to get a decent exposure. below are a few of the shots I took on my travels.

Spring Exhibition at The Biscuit Factory

Sorry I haven’t been updating recently I had a very busy February and couldn’t find the time or an internet connection!

Anyway excuses over, I just wanted to let everyone know I have some work being included in the Spring exhibition at the Biscuit Factory. The opening night is on the 12th March and if you are local please come along it runs from 6pm until 9pm I will put the address details below.

16 Stoddart Street
Newcastle Upon Tyne
Tyne And Wear

An afternoon chasing light & tide

I was going to get up and do a sunrise at a local location as the weather looked very promising for a change. I did get up at 7am but I went back to bed again. I needed to make up for it by dedicating my afternoon to getting some decent shots and maybe catch a sunset if there was one.

I started off by heading for Whitburn  near Marsdens bay South Shields, I knew the tide was coming in but I was hoping it was still out so I could access one of the arches for enough time to get a decent shot, This was not the case, I probably could have got to the arch and set up but I would of had to swim back! I decided to get a wide shot of all three arches. By the time I had finished the first exposure it was time to leave as the tide was heading in fast.

After that I decided I would head north and see if the weather at St Mary’s Lighthouse was any good. Even though the tide was high, I have no high tide shots at this location. I arrived and the first signs of pink were visible in the clouds so I headed down to the rocks and set up I tried a couple of different compositions and settled with the one below.

Whitburn Arch

St Mary’s Lighthouse