I have not been particularly lucky nor clever with my photography sessions. It seems like checking that a few different settings are correct before I start shooting is more than I can handle. And right now as I write I just got back from a session where I thought I had it all right. The sky was clear, a half moon gently illuminating the landscape and reasonable chances for some good aurora. So I grab my equipment, including a new remote control for the camera. Before I was stuck with the built-in 10 sec. delay in the camera if I wanted to avoid shake from pushing the shutter release, and the aurora can change quite a bit in 10 sec., plus I miss a lot of shots just from the time I waste. Off I go, but there's no aurora in sight. It could come though, so I make a trip to a nearby clearing anyway. As I get out there, nothing's happening and I just play around, seeing if I can put the moon in the frame without getting a nasty flare (I couldn't!). And then comes the aurora; perfect timing! I get a couple of shots as it starts firing up, and then the battery dies. Not so perfect timing, but it was expected, and I had the spare battery ready. Pops it in, and I'm ready to shoot away. But the camera is dead. I don't understand what's going on, but evidently my spare battery doesn't hold enough energy for one single shot. Perfect place and timing, intense and dynamic aurora across the sky, moonlit snowcovered landscape, camera settings finally correct, and there I'm standing with two dead batteries. Det sker bare ikke Lars Krimi!!! For once I couldn't blame myself for my misfortune. I checked the battery in the charger before I left (and once more when I got back!), and it appeared to be fully charged. But there's absolutely nothing in it. That's just not fair. :-( Well, fortunately my surroundings offer me such rich opportunities to take nice photos that I simply can't miss all of them, so here's another gallery anyway.
The first image certainly wasn't chosen for the image quality. I was checking a small clearing near my cabin to see if it was any good for shooting aurora, and it isn't (deep snow, street lights nearby). But while I was in the mess, a band of aurora to the north went crazy for a minute, becoming as bright, tall and purplish at the bottom as I have ever seen it. What a show that must have been from straight underneath. This out-of-focus shot was all I managed to get.
Here's a photo taken in the middle of campus. I was on the way to the pub with a friend when I noticed a band of aurora to the north. That wasn't what I had brought the camera for, so I had no tripod but placed the camera on the snow and took a shot just for the fun of it.
At the pub a band called Ethos happened to be playing. That's the best live music you'll find in Fairbanks. Here's the drummer doing a solo while the rest of the band is taking a break. Yes, I did take photos with the whole band, but due to poor lighting and handheld camera, this is the only sharp one.
As I make my way from the pub back to the cabin, the aurora is still glowing on the northern horizon. I make a little detour and take a few shots, using my backpack as a tripod.
A couple of weeks later, the crescent moon and brilliant Venus dominate the sunsets. Notice that the dark part of the moon is visible due to Earthshine (the parallel to moonshine on Earth).
The moon grows day by day, and one night I catch it out there with a moondog beside it! Perhaps not the most spectacular one, but the moon is only half. It's heavily overexposed, but there's no moonflare, and I wonder why. Note also a bit of a moonpillar (the parallel of sunpillars which are sometimes seen at sunsets) both above and below the moon.
I haven't been impressed with the sharpness in a lot of my photos, but now I've finally figured out what has been wrong, and I believe that will save me from a lot of grief in the future. Unfortunately I figured it out just after the moondog had faded away, but here's how sharp the above photo should have been.
And then the sparse harvest of my latest photo session. On my way to the clearing in the woods I pass this receiver - would have looked good with some brighter aurora in the background rather than bright orange light pollution (which even looked a lot worse before a Photoshop quick fix...) The bright 'star' to the right of the receiver is Jupiter.
Here's the start of the substorm, and the excitement is rising as I know it's coming, and this time I'm ready for it. As ready as two dead batteries.
An impressive and very active auroral display progresses while the confused photographer is desparately pushing the buttons on his very dead camera. After having warmed up the first battery for a while, I re-insert it and manage to get three shots of the fading aurora. Notice a satellite passing through Cassiopeia in the two last photos. Some day there will be no disfunctional batteries, no full CF-card (yep, did that too), no bad camera settings and nothing else to stop me from capturing a good substorm. Wait and see.