Aurora Australis 7 - Photoshots - the web folio of Tony Stewart.

Aurora Australis 7

Aurora Sat May 11th 2024

OK, so with all the explanation now behind us, let’s look at some photos!!
I managed to get in place early, before sunset, which was great. Not only is the cliff edge a bit precarious, but potentially there’s not a lot of room for people if it got busy (which it did!).
Aurora prep Tumbledown Bay 11 May 2024
Tumbledown Bay pano aurora
Same spot, but different stages of aurora and foreground light.
Aurora Tumbledown Bay 11 May 2024
Aurora Tumbledown Bay 11 May 2024

Aurora Port Hills 11 May 2024
I’ve never seen beams reach up to the sky like this. Simply incredible.
Aurora Port Hills 11 May 2024
Similar spot, again with different intensities of aurora. Yet all within 1/2 hr of each other.
Aurora Lake Ellesmere 11 May 2024 C
Aurora Lake Ellesmere 11 May 2024 A
Aurora Lake Ellesmere 11 May 2024 B
And then going home it was still equally as awesome!!
Aurora motorway Templeton 11 May 2024
Aurora at home Templeton 11 May 2024
One thing I get asked a lot, is do you see the aurora like you do in photos? The answer is no, and can often leave people disappointed.
That is only natural, when photos are rich and striking. Yet out at night, on location you are almost left wondering whats going on, ‘where’s the aurora?!’. (Though there was no doubt this last Saturday!).

Nevertheless, despite that disappointment, the answer is quite simple. The difference between what can be discerned with the human eye, and what is caught on camera, is largely due to two factors.

 

The first being human night vision, and the way our rods and cones handle low light. In bright light, photopic vision based on three spectral types of cone photoreceptors allows colour vision. Whereas in dim light, a single type of rod only allows colour-blind scotopic vision. In simple terms, when it gets dark the cones lose their ability to respond to light, leaving rods only to respond to available light. But since they cannot see color, so to speak, everything appears to be various shades of black and white and grey. Interestingly, looking off to the side of what you want to see, is a wee trick to enhance what you are looking for, as you activate more of the peripheral cones (a wee army night vision trick!)

The second, is the camera effectively acts as an amplifier. Using long shutter speeds at night, light is allowed to ‘build up’ on a sensor. Something we as humans can not do. So that build up of light, in essence amplifies the scene, and in doing so can render a dark scene much brighter than it may appear. Taken to the extreme this can happen in any photography – and is simply over and under exposure. Too much or to little light allowed in, relative the the ‘correct’ depiction indented. As camera sensors are not limited like human colour perception is at night, they can successfully depict the intensity of auroral actvity.

I will do a mock up here that might represent what we can capture with a camera verse what we see with our eyes.
This was what I recorded on Saturday, and the actual visual perception that I saw.
Interestingly, the fact you can see some pillars and pickets is in itself incredible, and testament to the power of this solar storm. Normally when out photographing auroral activity at this latitude (kp 4-5), there isnt any discernable beams at all. Or very faint / very rare.
Camera vs Eye
Interestingly, by way of further scientific explanation, the colour of auroral displays often varies. This is largely due to the difference in altitude of the ionic activity, and the interaction with different gas molecules.
Colour chart of different aurora