I've never seen an Aurora show, but after seeing these Canon EOS 5D Mark II images, I'd love to be there to experience one! Zoltan Kenwell from Alberta Canada shares these stunning Aurora images and the story of how he photographed them. He sent us 4 images, but you can see the whole gallery on his site.
Click on the images for larger versions.
“I have been chasing Aurora for a good 5 years now. Normally the winter months, Jan/Feb/March are better for viewing, because of clearer, darker skies at my latitude. The main drawback, is that there is a lot of snow everywhere and its usually -13 to -31 degrees F outside. This of course causes its own set of issues with me and my camera gear. I mean its real cold, nothing likes the cold! The event I captured on July 22, 2009 was a very random and unpredictable event. It was about 65 degrees F, with little to no wind. Perfect really! This event was not caused from sunspot activity, which is the normal thing that has enough energy to cause the Aurora. Instead, it was apparently a “crack” in the earths magnetic field, which allowed the energy from the steady solar wind earth experiences, to enter our atmosphere. It was totally unexpected! So how did I know it was happening? Well, I received a “red alert” from local Aurora project on my cell phone at 10:10pm. I grabbed my 5DII, a few lenses, spare battery, tripod, GPS, laptop and headed out the door. My wife was shaking her head saying, “Be safe, see you in the morning!” She is an experienced Aurora widow!
It was still relatively light out and there was a little cloud cover, so I checked out the satellite imagery and headed for clearer skies knowing I had about an hour before the sky would be dark enough to get good definition and color of the Aurora. I was able to shoot for about 45 minutes in a few different locations before the cloud coming from the north began to obscure the Aurora. So, I check out my GPS for the first highway heading south and put the hammer down! I drove about 30 minutes. I had to stop, I couldn't stand it any longer. I had to get out and shoot this amazing display. This put me at about 2:00am. I shot from this area till 4:30am. Changing locations by a 3-5min drive allowed me to capture different horizons in my photographs. As the sun began to come up and the skies lightened, this amazing event, sadly, was over. Excitedly, I drove home to view approximately 150 fantastic images that I got.
The last time I was able to capture one of these events of this magnitude, I was shooting with my Canon 1DIII. I definitely feel the 5DII has a much better dynamic range and portrays the color better, not by a whole lot, but it is there in this type of photography. Not to mention the extra resolution. I only shoot full RAW, and holy cow the prints of this images are mind blowing! I have a number of 16″x20″ already printed, they're just wicked!
I feel one of the keys to good Aurora photography is minimal shutter speeds. Thirty seconds or less. It's the best way to get good definition in the Aurora and minimize star trailing, thus keeping the stars in the background nice and sharp. This is where the 5DII shined for me. Most of the shots in the Aurora, July 22, 2009 gallery were in manual mode @ ISO 800, lens wide open. It was enough to maintain the 30 second or less exposure time for the glass I was using. EF 16-35mm f2.8L USM and the Sigma 12-24mm f4.5-5.6 DG HSM. I shot a few at higher ISO's to get my shutter speed down to the 5-10 second area. This allowed me to get some real detailed definition in the Aurora waves. The results speak for themselves. The original raw files are not noiseless, but they clean up with so little effort. It was one of those fantastic moments where everything came together perfectly and I was there to photograph it. What an experience!
Infocus Imagery Inc.
Zoltan posted his images on Spaceweather.com, and there, I also found another photographer who used a Canon EOS 5D Mark II to photograph the same Aurora, but from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Take a look!