Photo of the week — “Northern Lights”

Photo of the week — “Northern Lights”
“Northern Lights” — photo of the week ending January 10, 2015 | Purchase Print

After about 20 minutes of bright aurora bands filling the sky, it seemed like the display was fading, the brightest bands dwindling off into the southern sky. Then, on the eastern horizon, this band re-formed, condensed, brightened, and a loop pushed up and overhead. This was an awesome show!

Technical notes
Nikon D7000
Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC Lens for Nikon
Focal Length:  17 mm
ISO:           3200
Aperture:      f/3.2
Shutter Speed: 0.5 sec

Photographing this event was tough because the northern lights were so dynamic. It was good practice, since every few seconds I had to move and adjust the tripod and change the shutter speed. None of the bands seemed to hang out in the same place for long, and my viewing directions were almost entirely east-west, my northern and southern views were blocked by large trees.

I always try to tell people who want to shoot the lights how important it is to be comfortable and quick with gear and understand your camera settings (camera settings article) and this was a testament to that. Any time spent fiddling with the camera was time missing this amazing spectacle of nature.

I pushed the ISO up to 3200 for a good portion of the night. That’s pretty much the limit that I can take with the D7000 and I definitely had to stretch my noise reduction to the limit as a result. This lens gives me a fair amount of distortion when shooting at 17 mm and f/2.8, and I preferred to have a sharp image throughout with minimal vignetting. Even though the aperture wasn’t totally open, I was shooting at less than 1 second shutter speeds for most of the night.

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