2020 Northern Lights Calendar – April Photo

The April image was photographed over Lake Superior at the mouth of the Hurricane River on the night/morning of September 3, 2016 at 12:39 AM. On this trip I was with my family and the Aurora was active 3 nights in a row, so they were able to witness the magic of the northern lights! More on that with the June photo. This image was shot the second night/early morning while everyone else was sleeping after a long day of hiking and sunset Pictured Rocks cruise on Lake Superior. I tried to get my daughter up but wasn’t going to happen this time. 🙂

Sun behind Grand Portal Point on the sunset cruise.
Another tour boat is dwarfed by Indian Head.
Sun shining through open section of Grand Portal Point.

As I’ve mentioned the Hurricane River Campground in Pictured Rocks is one of my favorite campgrounds in the state so when in the UP I and we often end up there. Always when visiting Pictured Rocks or towards the end of a trip working my way home. So I have quite a few aurora images from this location.

Our camp at mealtime.

I started photographing the aurora around 10:00 PM and continued for the next four hours moving to different locations along the beach and shoreline. The display was bright and pulsating with light pillars shooting into the sky off and on. As you can see in the calendar image and some of the others posted here I prefer to use the shore ling and/or some type of layering or framing instead of just shots of the sky. This gives the image for interest and a sense of place.

First image shot around 10:00PM
Self portrait shot along the shore a quarter mile or so from the river around 11:30 PM

There were a few other people on the beach and at first it was a challenge keeping them out of the photos especially when they would turn their headlamps on. Of course it was very dark and I was tucked up under a tree by the mouth of the river so I’m sure they had no idea I was even out there. I debated about including them in some photos, however ultimately the photojournalist in me took over and I decided to include that human element in the images to help tell a story. I think photos should tell a story, not just be pretty pictures, even though I don’t always succeed at that.

Another shot with the group of people watching the show.

I will say looking back on the images I wish I would have stayed in one place and really focused on the changing lights, and it would have been great to shoot a time lapse. I will say I often second guess myself on choosing where to shoot and what to shoot. Was it the best spot? Did I miss something? Would this have been better? Yet I’ve also learned I really need to choose and stick with it. Yes I might miss some shots. But if I keep changing while shooting I’ll miss all the shots. It also seems looking back at the images the activity was still going when I called it a night. Not really sure why I stopped shooting other than fatigue. I should have just sat in the sand and fell asleep.

Although I will say when shooting at night next to the lake or rivers/waterfalls at night I do think about bears from time to time. I have never seen a bear in Pictured Rocks, tracks on the beach yes, however I would never hear one walk up on me in the dark with the sound of the waves and water in my ears. I have to admit it would be cool though.

This is a favorite image of mine! (I wanted the shot with the people in the calendar)
One of the last shots I took on this outing around 1:00 AM.

Exposure data: ISO 3200, 20 seconds at f/4.5, 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. I want to mention you will notice many of my images are in the 20 second range. Looking back on the nights the aurora was very active I wish I would have shot more in the 5 second range to get a put more texture or detail in the lights. So I guess I need to keep hunting!

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

There was a G2 geomagnetic storm starting to hit earth with Kp numbers hitting between 4 and 6 through the night.

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?

One more thing. I know I’m not good at writing. I plan to keep at it though even past writing about the calendar. Maybe you will find something interesting, useful or even learn something.

Thanks for stopping by. Thanks for sharing!

Bryan

2020 Northern Lights Calendar – March Photo

March image in my 2020 calendar shot over Brevort Lake.

The March image was photographed over Brevort Lake on the night of October 7, 2015 at 10:13 PM over Brevort Lake in the southeast section of the UP. Like I mentioned in the last post there was a G3 geomagnetic storm starting when I photographed the February image early that morning and it continued getting stronger as the day went on – and I almost missed it!

After photographing the aurora at dawn on the 7th at the Hurricane River (see last post) I crawled back in the tent trying for a bit more sleep. I was only dosing on and off for an hour or so I decided to get up and start the day. I made the image below not that the sun was up before starting my drive east. My UP trip for this year was over and I needed to start working my way home. I wasn’t sure where I was camping that night, but was in no hurry as I didn’t need to cross the Mackinaw Bridge for the lower peninsula until the next day. I would just work my way toward the bridge and go where the light and fall colors took me. It was still a bit early for fall color which wasn’t quite peak yet.

Mouth of the Hurricane River after the sun was up.

I stopped at Grand Sable Dunes, a few spots along the highway, Tahquamenon Falls, and the scenic Lake Superior Shoreline Road. Then turned back and hit some back roads west and south of the town Trout Lake ending up on highway US2 around Brevort.

An old cabin along highway M-28.
Driving along Lake Superior Shoreline Road.
Tahquamenon Falls

It was getting later in the day and I was tired so I needed to find a place to camp. No, like I said in the last post I don’t remember if I had checked the Aurora forecast or not. Maybe I did, but also knew the weather predicted cloudy skies. Either way I wasn’t thinking about the geomagnetic storm from the sun that was hitting the earth as I drove, I was just tired. So I continued driving east until Straits State Park Campground where I would call it a day, camp and cross the bridge in the morning. But, campground closed, rats!!! So now what? I decided to drive back west to Brevort Lake where I knew there was a National Forest Campground. My best decision of the trip! In about 20 minutes I arrived and even though I think the campground was closed for the season the gate was still open. It was deserted, I had my pick of all the campsites so of course I chose the best one out on a point with a small view of the lake.

Sunset near my campsite on Lake Brevort.
Backing up photos at camp before photographing the aurora.

I set up camp, made dinner and grabbed a shower, figuring since the lights were active in the morning I would try for photos once again as soon as it was dark enough hoping the clouds would stay away. What I treat I was in for. Even though the skies were not all clear it wasn’t completely socked in with clouds either. And as soon as it was dark enough I thought I saw a glow so I made a test shot and sure enough, although not strong, the lights were active! Now, this must have been a lull in the activity because as the night went on things became stronger and more active. The G3 storm was strong and it turns out the KP numbers were 7/7.5! The strongest aurora display I had ever seen!

Test shot. You can see the milky way, cabin lights across the lake and a plane went by.
Another photo early on. A planet, shooting star. Plane contrails, I think??? Milky way, some light pillars starting.

So I set my camp chair on the water’s edge, my feet almost in the water, tripod legs in the water and watched the magic of the Aurora Borealis for over two hours. Would have been longer, however more clouds did move in. No matter. It was amazing. I could see some green and even a bit of magenta with the naked eye. And when the light pillars started shooting into the sky, it gave me chills and goosebumps. I might have even had tears in my eyes. Its really tough to explain the emotion I felt watching this. While I love camping and exploring in the UP alone, which is how I always do it, I wished my family was there to witness this with me. Yet all alone in this campground I couldn’t help but feel like I was the only one on earth witnessing this spectacular sight. It was an awe moment for sure. Research has shown we need more awe moments as they are good for our mental health. Read Here.

More clouds moving in before midnight. You can see part of the big dipper. I decided to get into my tent for some much needed sleep after this.

I am so glad that the Straits Park campground was closed. Luck is always a park of seeing the northern lights and nature photography in general. Yes preparation and planning help a lot, but this time luck far outweighed any of that.

I got back out about 3:00 AM to check conditions. Clouds were thicker on the horizon so I crawled back into the tent. You can see the big dipper in this frame. I’m not sure what the orange glow reflecting on the cloud is. My guess would be light pollution from Sault Ste Marie, except its 40 miles away? You can see it in the calendar image as well.

Exposure data: ISO 3200, 25 seconds at F2.8, 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 – HERE

There was a G3 geomagnetic storm starting to hit earth with Kp numbers hitting 7+ through the night, damn clouds. 🙁

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. Thanks for sharing!

Bryan