2020 Northern Lights Calendar – February Photo

February Calendar Photo

The February image was photographed over Lake Superior on October 7, 2015 at 6:33 AM from the mouth of the Hurricane River while I was camping at the Hurricane River Campground in Picture Rocks National Lakeshore.

I spent a couple days at Pictured Rocks that year and this is one of my favorite paid, drive up campgrounds in the state. Maybe my favorite. I even joke with my kids that site #10 in the lower campground is “my” campsite. 🙂 Although I do like to camp for free on National Forest and State Forest land and sometimes hike in more often than not.

The day before I hiked the Chapel Loop in Pictured Rocks. I think it’s one of the top three hikes in Michigan and you should check it out if you have not hiked it yourself. The trail runs along the tallest sandstone cliffs in the park during the lakeshore section of the hike. Its about 10 miles long and people who have never been to the Lakeshore can’t seem to believe it’s in Michigan. Check out this PHOTO of Grand Portal Point along the hike.

Info hereMap here

I think I need to write about this hike and photography along the way some day..

So needless to say I was quite tired, but I was camping on lake superior and that always means a possibility of being up late into the night and early morning photographing the northern lights.

I’d like to say I was prepared, knowing about the predicted favorable aurora forecast, but I don’t remember doing so. I was still new to the whole night sky photography thing and I more or less just checked every cloud free night to see if the aurora was visible.

My camp was already set up from the day before, so I returned from my hike, made some dinner, photographed the sunset and then relaxed a bit until it was dark enough to see the lights and photograph them. Looking back through the photos the first shot I took was about 9:00 PM. Turns out the Aurora would be active all night long.

Hurricane River Sunset
First image around 9:00 PM. You can see the start of the aurora activity, the milky way and some airglow.

The image I chose for February was at shot at dawn. The sun would rise a little more than an hour after the photo was taken. So you see the warm orange glow of dawn on the bottom right of the photo. Clouds came and went through the night and I was glad to have some in the early morning as I love the texture they create with the aurora back lighting them. Also the moon was still out and setting so you can see a bit of moonlight hitting the sand in the bottom right of the photo as well.

It turns out the aurora activity would only grow stronger as the day went on with a G3 geomagnetic storm was hitting earth. But more on this when I post about the March photograph, stay tuned! 🙂

Aurora behind the clouds.

Exposure data: ISO 2000, 20 seconds at F/2.8. Using a Nikon D600, 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 memory serves me, I didn’t take notes, I used 20 seconds to have a bit of “wispy” movement in the clouds. At the same time being careful not to have too long of a shutter speed otherwise you would start to see “star trails” and not points of light. You can read a more detailed description of this here “How to Avoid Star Trails by Following the 500 Rule”

Self portrait with my red headlamp watching the aurora grow.

If you want to see the scientific data on that day go to this link – October 7, 2015 aurora.

There was a G3 geomagnetic storm starting to hit earth with Kp numbers climbing as the night went on, into the early morning and the next day.

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.

You can order a calendar HERE

Have you seen the northern lights?

Thanks for stopping by.

Bryan

2020 Northern Lights Calendar – January Photo.

The January photo was photographed over Lake Michigamme on August 31, 2017 about 5:30AM. More specifically the boat launch at Van Riper State Park, so not the most glamorous location. Michigamme and the park are located in the central Upper Peninsula of Michigan, about 40 minutes west of Marquette.

Photo for January in 2020 calendar.

I was on a UP mountain bike trip with my son, 13 at the time, and we were camping at the state park in the rustic campground. So this was not a photography trip yet I always try to make some images if I hear the Aurora forecast is promising and the skies are clear. I don’t remember exactly, but I believe it was cloudy earlier in the night so I didn’t even look to see if anything was visible.

Our campsite at Van Riper State Park

We crawled into the tent on a very chilly night thinking maybe later the skies would clear. I forgot to set my alarm so good thing I woke up at about 4:30 in the morning. I knew my son wouldn’t want to get up to go check the skies to see if the aurora was visible, not his thing. So I quietly got up, grabbed the camera and tripod and walked down to the boat launch, which is only a few hundred years from our campsite. The plan wasn’t to stay out all night anyway as I didn’t want to leave him alone for a long time.

Test photo over the trees from outside the tent.

The skies cleared and I could see the distinctive glow to the north, northwest. I had scouted the boat launch area the evening before while still light out and I had a good idea where I wanted to shoot from to keep the dock out of the image and include some of the shoreline. I liked that some lights from a cabin or house where on off in the distance. Just across the lake is highway 41 but at this time of the morning there was very little traffic if any so I didn’t have to deal with car lights in the trees.

Test photo at the boat launch.

I only stayed out for an hour or so as light pillars were coming and going and I hoped they would get real strong before dawn after which the lights would be too hard to see. So I was quite happy with the images I made, I wasn’t out all night and was able to get some sleep for mountain bike riding the next day.

BTW, exposure data: ISO 3200, 8 seconds at F/2.8. Using a Nikon D600, 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 – Space Weather Live

There was a G1 geomagnetic storm with Kp numbers at 5+ but that mostly happened after dawn and sunrise so I would not have seen it. So my guess is this image was during the start of a good Aurora and maybe Kp 4.

The Kp Index numbers are not the only info to look at on aurora forecast, however its a good place to start. You can find more info on Kp numbers here – Kp Numbers Info

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

Here is a good write up about why this is – What our eyes see VS what camera sees

More (not exactly) what I see with my eyes.

Some say they can see the colors and maybe so, but in my experience its a milky, white color. Although I have seen a faint glow of green with my eyes. And even though mostly white I have definitely seen light pillars shot up into the sky. But, just because the human eyes are bad a night vision doesn’t mean the color isn’t there. I would also love to be in Greenland or Norway close or above the arctic circle some day as I understand that far north you can see more colors, especially with strong geomagnetic activity.

Have you seen the northern lights?

Thanks for stopping by. – Bryan

Order your calendar HERE!

Mountain bike riding with my son

My favorite 30 Images from my recent fall UP trip in Michigan

UP fall 2018 Images
Click the link above to see the 30 images big if on a computer.

New prints form this trip also available! Click the print store link above. Thanks for looking and thanks for sharing. I’m hoping to blog about some individual images and stories from my trip.

Bryan in the Trap Hills area of the Ottawa National Forest (near Bruce Crossing, MI) on a rainy day close to peak color.