2020 Northern Lights Calendar – August Photo

Magic over Lake Michigamme.

The August image was photographed this year on September 1, 2019 at 3:50 AM over Lake Michigamme. Same night/morning as the July image during our family UP trip this year. Everyone else in camp and the campground was sleeping now so I had it all to myself. 🙂 This is also the cover image of the calendar.

After photographing the aurora with my daughter earlier than getting into the tent for some sleep I awoke about 3:00 AM. It was quiet and peaceful in the campground now as most all were asleep. My camera and tripod were already set up and I was dressed for the cold morning air so I threw on my jacket, hat and gloves, then walked back down to the boat launch for some more photography.

What a treat. The aurora was still quite active, Kp Index of 5, and quite wispy looking. There were light and airy clouds overhead, moisture in the air, plus the mist and fog forming over the lake which created a very magical look when I made an image and looked at the camera LCD screen. I sat for about an hour making a few images, but mostly just enjoying the early morning along the lake to myself.

I do have to admit, I so wish the sky looked like this to my eyes with all the shades of green. I would still be there. I could see the glow, the rays and the misty look however it was shades of white and grey. See my January post for a photo of how the lights actually look to me. There is a link below you can click to read about why what we humans see is different then what the camera sees. I have read and been told that when you get to Iceland or Norway, places like that, close to the arctic circle you can see the colors and the aurora is on a whole other level. Maybe someday I’ll witness that.

Photographing the northern lights and the night sky is still landscape photography to me. As just a photo of the sky, in many images, is just boring and plain. (Note, I’m not taking about astrophotography that shows space in detail, especially shot through a telescope, those are, well, out of this world amazing! LOL!) Composition is still important. Like in this image things that are included in the frame with intent. The trees and shore on the left to add a bit of layering and leading lines (subtle). Or if you look back at the July photo I shot low using the rocks in the foreground for more layering and depth to that image. It this one I like the wispy, magical feel to the clouds and the reflection of that in the water that falls off toward the bottom of the frame. In this photo I didn’t want the rocks to distract from the reflection.

Using the moving water as a foreground element and leading lines “into” the photo.
Using the foreground for framing is another way to create depth and layering.

Also notice that the horizon line is straight, which I think is important in landscape photography. Also the line is not in the middle of the photo. Very rarely would I have the horizon in the middle. Either close to the top or bottom of the frame. Maybe close to the middle as in this image, but almost never in the middle except on those rare occasions I wanted symmetry between top and bottom. Its still the rule of thirds which I still use in many photos. I mostly prefer things off center, then symmetrical. For example, you will never, well 99.9% of the time, see a sunset photo of mine with the sun in the middle. More Landscape photos HERE

Horizon line far to the top, sun in the far right, top corner of the frame.

So a quick tip for you is to slow down just a bit. Even when taking a picture with a phone camera. Don’t just raise it and push the button. Pause for a second. Would the photo look better if you tilted up or down panned left or right? Just a little? Give it a try. As always, thanks for looking.


Exposure data: ISO 2500, 15 seconds at f/2.8, Nikon D750, Nikon 17-35mm lens at 17mm. My focus point on this lens is over the right side of the infinity symbol ∞ < on the lens at 17mm. Its closer to the center of the symbol if I shoot at 35mm.

If you want to see the scientific data on that day go to this link – HERE

Kp number was 5 when this image was shot.

The Kp Index numbers are not the only info to look at on aurora forecast, however it’s a good place to start. You can find more info on Kp numbers here. KP Info Here.

Here is a link to the Space Weather Prediction Center at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

What are the northern lights?

People ask is this what lights look like with the naked eye? The short answer is no. It has to do with how human eyes see at night, basically in black and white and not very well. More info here.

Where have you seen the northern lights in Michigan?

Thanks for stopping by. Thanks for sharing!

Bryan