Last night was something special. Finding… and photographing the aurora is not easy. It is best visible in pretty brutal environments. It is hard on the body and on the gear. It was -6C and windy. We had not eaten since lunch and were out until 3 a.m. when fingers and camera batteries were finally frozen.
Looking back at images from the Hotel Budir, our base camp for the first half of this trip, I am still at a loss for words to adequately describe the magic that transpired overhead last night. When I started work for this book project last year, I often have thought about what it would be like photographing this portion of the book. I knew the images would have to be epic to make the book. Anything less simply wont do and would be incredibly disappointing to me.
The past two weeks I have been very stressed trying to anticipate weather models, aurora forecasts and plan to put myself in the best position. The past three days have had me researching last minute flights to Greenland, Norway and Finland to make sure this trip isn’t wasted. Coming back without the images I need was not an option for me.
Last night, my stomach sank. We finally got our clearing in the skies…then I checked the aurora forecast. We got a forecast of 0-2. That is bad. A very quiet/minimal forecast is exactly what I didn’t want or need. To say I was disappointed was an understatement. I texted my wife because I just had to vent. However, I would still push myself to make the best of the situation and set up four cameras in different locations to at least make some sort of pretty picture. While it wouldn’t make the book, I would at least push myself to make an image I was happy with.
Then out of nowhere beginning at 7 p.m. – only 30 minutes past sunset – the skies began to dance. Soon enough that dance turned into an explosion of light and color unlike anything I had ever seen. I was sprinting back and forth between four cameras, constantly altering compositions, exposures and moving cameras from location to location and kept the pace for 8 hours straight.
When it was all said and done, around 5,000 ultra high resolution Nikon NEF files were backed up on a pair of G-Technology G-DRIVEev units. We shot non stop from 7 p.m. until 3 a.m. Last night, my work horses were the Nikon D810 (two of them), the D4s and a D750 which was allowing me to upload photos via wifi transfer from the camera to my iPhone. Exposures ranged from 3 seconds to 30 seconds with apertures from f2 to f4 and an ISO range as low as 400 at some points and as high as 2500.
Remarkable. Ethereal. Inspiring. Breathtaking. Exhilarating.