To see the aurora some people think of to having to go to places such as Iceland and Norway or even Canada but here in the north of Scotland the aurora can be photographed when conditions are active. This can range to nothing visible to the naked eye and a faint green arc visible on a long exposure to a full blown display that stretches out over head requiring an exposure of a few seconds.
We have had a few of the full blown displays here in the UK over the years and two of the most memorable to me were February 2014 and the more recent March 2016 aurora. Prior to the February 2014 aurora I had never witnessed it before other than taking badly under exposed images on my old Canon 400D.
I do like looking for aurora but there are some hard core people out there that go out at every opportunity to get a photo of it. It is worth keeping an eye on certain websites to get an idea of when it is active:
- Aurora UK Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/AuroraUK
- ACE Satellite Data: http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/products/ace-real-time-solar-wind
- Magnetometer Stackplots: http://flux.phys.uit.no/cgi-bin/mkstackplot.cgi?&comp=H&nor&Sync
- Tamitha Skovs Forecasts: https://www.youtube.com/user/SpWxfx
There are other websites out there that base their alerts around the KP index, which is not that useful as the KP index is a measurement averaged over a 3 hour period and by the time you get the alert the best of the show will likely have been over and done. I find it best to keep an eye on the 4 links above.
It should also be mentioned that our eyes work differently to that of a camera sensor and sometimes you may just see faint and grey structures on the northern horizon but with a 10 – 20 second long exposure the aurora reveals itself to the camera. In addition to that different people have different ways of processing images, some like vibrant colours whilst others like to keep it a bit more subdued. Each to their own. I have tried to find a balance for my work that I am happy with but there are times when I have went a wee bit too far. 🙂 So what you see on people’s photos is not always how it appears to the naked eye.
The following website explains what we see with our eyes versus what we see with the camera.
The night of March the 6th was an impressive display with the aurora reaching directly overhead. I didn’t have much time to get to another location so I took these shots from my back garden. It was such a large display that I struggled to get it all in using my Samyang 14mm lens and it required 5 vertical images stitched together as a panorama to get a fair bit of it in shot. Even that wasn’t enough! By the time I had thought about going to another area activity had died back and I went back inside. I hope you enjoy looking through my images from that night.