A large solar storm hit the earth over Memorial Day weekend, causing a massive amount of auroral lights at the poles. This storm was so strong during a moonless night, that aurora was seen throughout much of North America. Dark sky locations around Portland, Seattle, and Yellowstone NP. All reported seeing the northern lights. During the peak of this solar storm, it registered a 7.67 on the Kp scale.
Hoping to catch the heart of the storm before it was over, I ventured up to Discovery Point at Crater Lake National Park (map) where I have captured the northern lights several times over the past decade.
Mother Nature rewarded about 25 other photographers that were on the rim at Discovery Point that night. At times the aurora was so intense we could see the light beams without eyes. However, a camera was needed to see the color, yet the vertical bands of light were visible to the naked eye. During the brightest displays, the crowd would erupt in cheer, as if we were applauding a conductor to an orchestra.
On this visit, I captured the aurora through timelapse. I wanted to see the light dance across the sky. After setting up my gear, I walked around chatting with various people. Some were struggling to get the shot, yet others were dialed in. Many were having issues getting a good focus. Knowing my gear was set, I began to help the others. I helped get several dialed in and focused correctly. So that they could capture the amazing spectacle for themselves.
Through the night, I found that many of the photographers were traveling together in a group. They have traveled all the way from Hawaii, and had been adventuring on the mainland. This was their first trip to Crater Lake. The group came up to photograph the night sky but were not expecting to get a firsthand experience of seeing the Northern Lights in Oregon.
About this time is when I ran into my friend and fellow night sky photographer, Matt Newman. Matt and I chatted a bit, but soon went back to helping the other people on the rim.
I checked in on the party I came up with, Joe Spendolini and Jason McMurry, photographers from the Klamath Falls area. Both were playing with their cameras after getting the shots they wanted. Joe was testing out a timelapse while Jason was experimenting with longer exposures.
The entirety of the aurora was active all-night long. However, the most magical part of the aurora only lasted about an hour.
As for the technical aspects of the timelapse:
- First Image: 11:50pm (5/27/17)
- Last Image: 1:43am (5/28/17)
- Cameras: Nikon D750 & Nikon D7100
- Lenses: Nikkor 14-24 f/2.8 & Nikkor 70-200 f/2.8
- Exposures: 8 seconds, f/2.8, ISO 6400
- Tripod 1: Manfrotto 190XPRO4 w/ Manfrotto 410 Mini Geared Head
- Tripod 2: Induro Tripod w/ball head
- Total Images: 1,285
- Software: Adobe Lightroom, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Premier Pro, LRTimelapse
- Timelapse Length: 55 seconds with credits
- Timelapse Audio: The Long Awakening, Audio Blocks
I had not intended to shoot still or art images that night, however, I have been able to edit a few of the frames into some wonderful newly released art for the site, BrianGailey.com.
This was such an awesome adventure. I highly recommend trying to see the Northern Lights for everyone. No matter where you witness them, just put them on your bucket list you will not be disappointed.
Until next time,