Photographing the Northern Lights: Part 2

11 12 2012

After the excitement from the second night, I was keen to try photographing the Northern Lights again, which brings us to our final night.  We were lucky again with a perfectly clear evening, so the game was on. The Internet forecast for the lights once again left us with little hope, at a hard zero out of five possibility.  Playing the odds here would not be smart, but I figure you have to be in it to win, so I made plans for us to go twenty minutes out of town and into a pine forest, and see if we could get some magic there.

Arriving at our destination, a small, cozy log cabin standing alone in the forest, we searched around for some interesting foregrounds, should the lights forget to read the forecast and appear. We were now ready for the lights in all directions.  This having been done, we went back inside, and waited.  And waited.  And waited.

Just as we were getting ready to start packing up, I went outside for one last check.  I had been out every five minutes for over two hours to check if the lights would appear, and had no real expectations of seeing anything, but better to check and be sure.

Once my eyes re-adjusted to the darkness, I saw the smallest, thinnest sliver of green not far from the horizon, just over the pine trees. Almost excited, I began taking some images.  I set the camera to maximize the light and colour, and managed to get some images out that were decent given the near lack of the lights.  In a two-minute swish, everything changed.  The sky lit up a bright green, with purple, red and orange flames jutting out the side.  It was extraordinary!  The belt of green linked the opposite horizons, and turned the black, very cold night into a green, very cold night.  I was running around to all the foregrounds I had found earlier and was shooting away, having an absolute blast, forgetting about the conditions.

Real life soon caught up with me, and the brisk thirty below temperatures started taking their toll.  Unexpectedly, the camera was struggling before me.  The glass on the front lens kept frosting up, and the controls on the camera were lagging, seriously lagging.  It wasn’t long before the entire rig, camera, lens and tripod, started freezing solid.  This signaled the end of the session, which gave me a chance to head back into the cozy cabin, and regain some of the feeling in my fingers and toes.  You really learn to appreciate your digits after a couple hours out in the snow.

To join me on Safari, head to www.50safaris.com for full Safari info.

 





Some cool customers

27 11 2012

I was recently on safari in Canada, and had the amazing opportunity to head out into the tundra, and look for polar bears.  I had three full days to search for, and photograph, the great bears and each day provided new images in different conditions, but one thing remained the same: the mercury hit the minus thirty point on the thermometer without fail!  Chilly to say the least…

 

The first two bears we found were in quick succession of each other, and had slightly different plans.  The first, a large male, moved smoothly across the packed ice, right past us, and went to another tundra buggy to suss it out.  Fantastically exciting, but it was just the start.  The second bear, thought that ours was the buggy that needed the sussing out, and came to see what we were about.  This made my very cold shutter finger come to life, and click away furiously.  The true joy of seeing such a magnificent bear up close was enough to keep me just warm enough to stay out and keep shooting.

 

This pattern of being kept out in the cold by a bear keeping me entertained basically lasted for the next two and a half days.  However, after an hour in the gusty winds and minus thirty-degree temperatures, I did have to take an opportune moment (i.e. the bear took a quick nap) to get back inside the tundra buggy and warm my hands and face.  A rather snazzy (and first for me) fireplace in the actual buggy kept things toasty, and brought the life back to my frozen digits.  As if on cue, the bears would wake up just as I had recovered, and back out I went.  I did take a moment on more than one occasion to wonder how these bears deal with such harsh conditions.  The one bear that was out and about during an actual blizzard just carried on like nothing was happening.  Incredible.

 

To join me on a safari like this, or any other safari, check out www.50safaris.com!