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The Aurora Australis

Aurora Australis from Mortimer Bay
Aurora Australis from Mortimer Bay

It has been while since Hobart has seen a good strong Aurora. Yesterday the numbers were looking good all day, see: ozcreations.biz, and sure enough come dark the green and red was clearly visible to the naked eye.

From about 8:30 to 11:30 I snapped a few shots, and a few panorama stitches. I will upload some more to flickr as well.

If you would like to know more about the Aurora Australis, why not join the Facebook Page?

:Update: I returned to this location the other night, and while the gum still stands it has lost the main branch shown in this shot. It’s a shame as I would have liked to shot this tree again with a stronger aurora.

Aurora Australis

Aurora AustraliaMy experience with the Aurora.

I have shot a few Auroras now, most at fairly low light levels when compared to those at very high or low latitudes. I have shot a nunber at around 42 degrees south from Tasmania, and here are my tips for shooting Auroras that are just visible to the eye.

Light, it’s all about light. The fastest glass is going to give you the best results, why? Auroras are funny things, large light curtains that slowly move and weave across the night sky, in order to get the best picture you need to “stop” or have as little movement in the curtains as possible. There are only two ways to do this while keeping your exposure short, either you increase your ISO or you open you lens f-stop to allow more light in. Increasing the ISO is not ideal as it adds more noise, and only the best cameras will have usable low light pictures at high ISO’s

The picture above was shot at ISO 800 for 2 mins at f4 with a 17-40mm, in this example you can just start to see start trails, and the aurora is flat with little variation across the color bands. f4 on this lens was the max f-stop for light. If however I had used a 24mm f1.4 I would have been able to reduce the time period by 3 stop or an exposure of 15 seconds @ f1.4 at ISO 800. This would have given the same overall exposure but allowed for more variation and exposed the ribbons better.

So, get the fastest glass you can afford, and this is sometimes a trade off with focus length. For example 16-35mm f2.8 v’s 24mm f1.4, the 24mm is going to allow a lot more light in, but will not be as wide as the 16-35, and the cheaper 17-40mm f4 is going to allow even less in. Another option is the Sigma 20mm f1.8 if you can handle it’s softness.

What else do I need to know? Well, don’t try shooting an aurora near other light sources, such as cities. If you moon is up, and all but a slither then forgot it, it’s going to wash your aurora shots out. Use a good tripod, I can’t stress it enough, don’t buy a cheap flexible tripod for low light photography. the slightest movement is going to wreck your shot. You can used ND grads, and they will help to even out brightness. Know where infinity is on your lens, as you may not be able to see enough to focus. Some cameras show stars in live-view zoomed in and you can focus on them, or a light source far in the distance.

Early Starts

Lauderdale Beach Tasmania
Lauderdale Beach Tasmania

Ever had one of those mornings when you could not sleep? Decided to grab the camera and go somewhere local for a few shots?

Well that’s what I did this morning, not much of a sunrise, so I decided to change over to the 50mm f1.4 and shoot some portrait shots of some local pillars on Lauderdale Beach. I really need to get a 58mm to 77mm step up ring so I can use my filters on my 50mm, better exposure in the sky would have been nice. However the washed out sky does work well with the glamor filter in post. I’m hoping to capture the same shot soon with a good sunrise in the background.

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