In the 11th hour… literally, my wife and I decided to pack the van with camera gear, sleeping bags, folding chairs and, of course, some junk food to head out into the country in hopes of capturing the aurora borealis (or the northern lights) with time lapse. It was June 23rd, just a couple of days past the summer solstice. Of course, what this means is that, it takes forever for the sun to set. This was OK with me as it game me time to set up a few different angles and positions as the sun was going down
I used a simple setup consisting of Canon 60D, EF 16-35mm 2.8F lenses, remote timer controller, tripod, headlamp and Twizzlers (important). Keeping the camera in manual, I adjusted the ISO and shutter to keep the balance of light and lowest noise possible. I set the camera to RAW and its lowest size. Aiming for 15 finished seconds each clip, I would adjust the intervalometer to about 4 or 5 second intervals. Ultimately this meant sitting around and swatting mosquitoes for about 37.5 minutes for each segment.
It was close to 1:00 am when the sky finally got fully dark with a slight bit of glow to the north. It seemed like it was going to be a bust as we couldn’t see the northern lights anywhere. My wife was curled up inside her sleeping bag… sleeping, and the camera lens was collecting heavy dew when I decided to shut down.
On our way back home, just a kilometer down the road, there they were! Streaks of light dancing across the sky. We quickly pulled onto a gravel road and took out the gear. The lights were dancing so fast that I needed to speed up the timer to catch the movement. Therefore, I had to also decrease the shutter and increas3 ISO so that the shutter and timer wouldn’t collide.
Of course, mother nature doesn’t always do want you want. Just when I got it set up and started the timer, the lights would seem to stop in that area of frame and start dancing like crazy out of frame. But I had to be patient and keep the camera pointed in one spot otherwise I would get a bunch of 1 second finished clips.
It was now almost 3:00 a.m. There were junk food wrappers all over the van and the sleeping bags were damp with dew. But I got what I wanted. A great night!
Stay tuned for my next entry, regarding post-production.