2020 Northern Lights Calendar – September Photo

September photo once again shot at the Hurricane River.

The September calendar image was photographed on October 10, 2016 at 2:48 AM over Lake Superior, where the Hurricane river pours into the lake. Hurricane River Campground in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. That fall, I was honored to be the Pictured Rocks Artist In Residence for 2016.

For 17 days in October of 2016 I was honored and lucky enough to be the Artist In Residence (AIR) at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. It was an amazing experience. You can view my 50 favorite photos from my stay here – Top 50 AIR photos. As AIR the park gives you a place to stay, I chose a cabin out by the Hurricane River, of course, and you spend your time exploring and creating. My goal was to really get to know the park and work for some story telling images and not just the classic overlook spots to celebrate the parks 50th year. I wanted to create at least one image per day and I think I was able to accomplish that.

The cabin I stayed in during the Artist In Residence.
Backing up photos from the day inside the cabin.

In addition the park asks that the AIR do a presentation to the public and donate a printed photograph to hang in the park headquarters. I presented a slide show of images talking about the stories behind them during the parks 50th celebration and also a mini workshop on making better images in the park, especially with phone cameras since that is what many tourists use now days. The image chosen to hang in the office is one of my favorite shots. (see below) And the park superintendent at the time liked it best because it has the cliffs and the lake, plus shows how the shoreline became to be (and still evolves) from the power of the lake in one photo. Informative and educational, not only another pretty picture she said.

Waves crash on the rocks at Mosquito Beach.
Grand Portal Point, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

There were only 2 nights where the aurora was active or the skies were not cloudy, however on the morning of day 10 the aurora was out! I don’t remember if I had checked the aurora forecast that day as I didn’t have cell coverage at the cabin and it is spotty throughout the park. (Tip: you can get good coverage at the Grand Sable Lake parking area on the east side of the park.) But most nights it wasn’t cloudy I would check to see if I could see any activity with the lights.

A little before 2:00 AM I woke up and I could see clear skies from the cabin window and thought I saw a glow to the north. So I got dressed and went out for a test shot to see if the lights were active. Sure enough, they were. It was quite chilly out so I grabbed a warmer jacket along with some hand warmers and headed out for some nighttime photography. I walked across the road, county road H58, to see what I could come up with.

Test shot from the cabin driveway to see if the aurora was active.
I crossed the road for another test shot with less trees blocking the view.
A shot from the overlook just down from the cabin.

I wasn’t happy with any compositions I was working so I decided to drive the short distance down to the Hurricane River area to see what I could photograph in that location. There is a bridge that crosses the river for the hiking trail so I thought I’d try a shot from the bridge using the trees to frame the aurora. There wasn’t a large enough gab in the trees however to see enough of the sky. So I crossed to the west side of the river hoping to maybe work my way up that side of the bank where I had not shot before. The lake was fairly calm and the river wasn’t high so I was able to tuck myself up against the rooty riverbank and have the river in the foreground with the trees framing the lights in the sky. And I didn’t get wet feet! Well not too wet, my daughter laughs that I always end up wet when shooting around water.

View from the bridge crossing the Hurricane River.
Self portrait from the spot the calendar photo was created.

This aurora was not real strong so I used a bit higher ISO, 5000, and a 25 second exposure. This is pushing the limit of not getting star trails, see link on this below, and it gives the lights a more wispy look. However it also lets the camera collect a bit more light in the shadow area for a better exposure of the water and sand in the river. Quite pleased with the image I moved back across the bridge to see if I could find another composition. There was a rock on the beach I was using but not really liking the shot, but I did get kind of a cool self portrait. I shot for a couple hours and was back to the cabin about 4:00 AM to get some more sleep as I planned a long day of hiking later, but not too early. LOL!

Another self portrait down the beach from the river mouth.

Exposure data: ISO 5000, 25 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 3 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.

Thanks for stopping by. Thanks for sharing! -Bryan