I can die happy!
Lady Luck shone down on me last night. Well actually, it wasn't Lady Luck but Lady Aurora Australis, the elusive and shy Southern Lights.
Here's the best of a small bunch of shots taken around 11pm on a dark and spooky beach last night. The upward pointing beams dance from one side to the other of the aurora. It's a good aurora if you see them and even better if you manage to see a 'picket fence', a group of smaller, very bright fence stakes floating above the beams. In a cloud free sky these beams would be dancing well up into the heavens.
I've been waiting four years to capture the Aurora, I follow a couple of Facebook Aurora pages and a website with up-to-date information regarding solar wind and flare activity (they cause the lights) and predictions on when to expect some action.
I've often been in the wrong place on the right night, or in the right place on the wrong night, or it's been raining or there's thick cloud, or I've forgotten to check the alerts, or there's been no internet so I can't check the alerts, or it's been too cold (many good Auroras happen in the depth of winter).....you get the picture. Can you tell I've not been bitten too hard by the aurora bug? There are Aurora chasers out there who'll drive miles and stay up all night when the lights are playing. And then go to work the next day and do it all again the following night. I'm keen but not that keen. Yet.
|Back to dunes and away from the house lights.|
As you probably already know, the aurora is not often visible to the naked eye. Many people are disappointed after seeing them, they're expecting to see brilliant greens and crimsons or for them to be bright like the Northern Lights. If they are seen, they're usually in various tones of white with a hint of colour. Last night the lights were clearly visible once the beams started dancing, the sky was a moving spectacle, bright with just a shade of colour.
This photo (with a little less colour) is roughly what I could see with my eyes when I arrived. The camera is much more sensitive, it picks up a lot more detail and colour as the shutter is held open for several seconds allowing more light in than the eyes do. Camera settings and good processing bring out the colours, although sometimes people can be a little heavy handed with their colouring.
I got a bit distracted while waiting to see if they'd be any more activity and took a photo of the stars looking north over the river towards Dunedin. The night sky is such a fascinating and magical place.
I'm easily distracted. Here another one looking out to sea, that's Moturata Island just off the mouth of the Taieri River. You can see my shadow on the sand...several shadows as I move about during the 20 second exposure. I'm silhouetted against the orange light coming from the wharf, a long way behind me. Those curves through the atmosphere low down in the sky have a name. I need to research a little more to find out what they are called and why they happen.
And actually, I'm only halfway to dying happy, I still have that hoar frost to catch.