Northern Lights Reward by Alpha Whiskey Photography
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Northern Lights Reward

  • Dec 20, 2016
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Northern Lights Reward

It caught me almost completely by surprise (although my app did suggest some aurora activity that evening) but the display turned out to be a consoling reward after an epic journey to find a remote waterfall. I had just driven for most of the day to reach Godafoss, only to be prevented from capturing it that evening by unrelenting wind and mist. So, I decided to pop over to the next stop on my list, Alderyarfoss, gullibly believing my satellite navigation's assertion that it was a mere 45-minute drive away.Alas, what my navigation didn't tell me was that it probably determined that time over an aerial distance in a straight line. On the ground I had to take what I assumed was a road but seemingly more crevassed and cratered that a beaten up asteroid. Consequently, 45 minutes was something of a fantasy, taking more than double that time along a route that evidently no one else was stupid enough to travel. But there I was, utterly alone in the dark with my poor vehicle trying not to flip over on this rodeo ride of gravel and rock, not a single solitary droplet of life anywhere to be seen or heard and evermore committed with each passing metre. Finally, I had managed to scale the vertical cliff to the car park where I found myself, unsurprisingly by now, completely isolated but within earshot of running water. The waterfall. But that subtle scent of relief quickly evaporated when I realised I still had to walk a few hundred metres downhill through muddy rocks. Telling myself I was committed by now was no consolation for carrying my camera bag and tripod, grumbling frustration under my breath with each precarious step. At least I could see the ground clearly with a full moon at my back and a Brubaker-supplied headlamp strapped around my temples.I paused for a moment to contemplate my frustration and fatigue, looking up at the moon-lit sky where I saw two pale strips of cloud reaching over me from behind the hills in the distance. Hang on a second. Those can't be clouds. I set up the camera on the tripod and took a ten second exposure.The strips were green. The aurora borealis was about to display. This was my reward. Ribbons of light began swirling through the sky, as if someone on the other side of the hills from where they emerged was holding them in their hands and gesticulating wildly. The lights became brighter and larger and more saturated with hues of green, yellow and pink.So there I was, exhausted and alone on the side of hill under a spectacular aurora display, Alderyarfoss a few metres away. It would have been great to capture the lights over the waterfall, or any other landmark for that matter, but they were firing in the opposite direction and the full moon would have challenged my exposure.Once the peak of the display seemed to be over, I quickly walked down to snap the waterfall before trudging back up the car park and enjoying the fading glimmer of the display.The following night I was also graced with the lights while driving east so naturally I pulled over and shot what I could before the lights faded once again.These are by no means great aurora images and would have been far better over a mountain peak or reflected in a lake, but I consider myself fortunate to have seen the display twice on two consecutive nights and they were certainly a prize for my efforts. The last image is actually from my last night in Iceland when a momentary break in the clouds allowed me to quickly capture a mild aurora by the Milky Way. Sorry to take you on this epic journey of prose but I wanted to share the experience. These were virtually all taken with a Nikon-something-or-other-who-cares-DSLR and wide angle lens between ISOs of 1600-3200 for around 8-13 seconds, manually focused to around infinity at F/2.8.

Dec 20, 2016

Northern Lights Reward

This post has 16 photos Dec 20, 2016Comments (6)1220 views
It caught me almost completely by surprise (although my app did suggest some aurora activity that evening) but the display turned out to be a consoling reward after an epic journey to find a remote waterfall. I had just driven for most of the day to reach Godafoss, only to be prevented from capturing it that evening by unrelenting wind and mist. So, I decided to pop over to the next stop on my list, Alderyarfoss, gullibly believing my satellite navigation's assertion that it was a mere 45-minute drive away.

Alas, what my navigation didn't tell me was that it probably determined that time over an aerial distance in a straight line. On the ground I had to take what I assumed was a road but seemingly more crevassed and cratered that a beaten up asteroid. Consequently, 45 minutes was something of a fantasy, taking more than double that time along a route that evidently no one else was stupid enough to travel. But there I was, utterly alone in the dark with my poor vehicle trying not to flip over on this rodeo ride of gravel and rock, not a single solitary droplet of life anywhere to be seen or heard and evermore committed with each passing metre. 

Finally, I had managed to scale the vertical cliff to the car park where I found myself, unsurprisingly by now, completely isolated but within earshot of running water. The waterfall. But that subtle scent of relief quickly evaporated when I realised I still had to walk a few hundred metres downhill through muddy rocks. 

Telling myself I was committed by now was no consolation for carrying my camera bag and tripod, grumbling frustration under my breath with each precarious step. At least I could see the ground clearly with a full moon at my back and a Brubaker-supplied headlamp strapped around my temples.

I paused for a moment to contemplate my frustration and fatigue, looking up at the moon-lit sky where I saw two pale strips of cloud reaching over me from behind the hills in the distance. 

Hang on a second. Those can't be clouds. I set up the camera on the tripod and took a ten second exposure.

The strips were green. The aurora borealis was about to display. This was my reward. 

Ribbons of light began swirling through the sky, as if someone on the other side of the hills from where they emerged was holding them in their hands and gesticulating wildly. The lights became brighter and larger and more saturated with hues of green, yellow and pink.

So there I was, exhausted and alone on the side of hill under a spectacular aurora display, Alderyarfoss a few metres away. It would have been great to capture the lights over the waterfall, or any other landmark for that matter, but they were firing in the opposite direction and the full moon would have challenged my exposure.

Once the peak of the display seemed to be over, I quickly walked down to snap the waterfall before trudging back up the car park and enjoying the fading glimmer of the display.

The following night I was also graced with the lights while driving east so naturally I pulled over and shot what I could before the lights faded once again.

These are by no means great aurora images and would have been far better over a mountain peak or reflected in a lake, but I consider myself fortunate to have seen the display twice on two consecutive nights and they were certainly a prize for my efforts. 

The last image is actually from my last night in Iceland when a momentary break in the clouds allowed me to quickly capture a mild aurora by the Milky Way. 

Sorry to take you on this epic journey of prose but I wanted to share the experience. These were virtually all taken with a Nikon-something-or-other-who-cares-DSLR and wide angle lens between ISOs of 1600-3200 for around 8-13 seconds, manually focused to around infinity at F/2.8.
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Comments

Sabrina RaymondDec 19, 2016 06:37 AM

Wow, these are stunning! What a fantastic experience.

Alpha Whiskey PhotographyDec 19, 2016 07:25 AM

Thank you Sabrina! Have a lovely Christmas :)

RebeccaWagesDec 20, 2016 09:34 PM

YOU are awesome! Thank YOU for sharing!!!

Alpha Whiskey PhotographyDec 21, 2016 03:09 AM

Thank you Rebecca :)

BlissfulwanderlustJan 24, 2017 08:07 AM

Wow. The last 4 photos are just stunningly beautiful. I love the picture with the person in it. I was shooting the northern lights in Lofoten, Norway around the same time. What an unbelievable experience. Thank you for sharing your time in Iceland. I enjoyed reading about it and seeing your pics...

Alpha Whiskey PhotographyJan 24, 2017 08:34 AM

Thank you. (The person in the photo is yours truly).

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