Friday, October 09, 2015

The Sky's on FIRE!

... before I start, here are a couple of shots of some avian visitors to my humble abode! 

Ruffed Grouse

I haven't seen any here in the 8 years I've lived here, but for some reason, I had a visit from a pair of ruffed grouse. They stayed just long enough to have their portraits made:

and now, without further ado...

The Sky's on Fire!

I read a post on FaceBook that showed a huge swath of aurora borealis activity over Canada. I checked with the ClearDarkSkies forecast and it indicated that we were in for a cloudless night. That got my motor running!

I had checked out my neighbour Vic's place as a likely spot to shoot stars. It has an open Northern exposure, a nice overhanging tree, no light pollution... so that was my first destination.

Not bad, but the Northern Lights weren't particularly brilliant. This was probably one of the better displays. By the way, I like the way the red light on the tower 'grounds' the image and gives it some depth. 
So I shot for an hour or so, doing a timelapse sequence. I actually went home, made a coffee and came back to the camera clicking away on Vic's dock! Then I decided to try another spot before going home to work on the images. Good thing!

I've been here before: the Schuyler's Island Causeway in Horseshoe Lake. Half an hour later I was set up and running, and I wasn't disappointed!

Here's what I saw! The sky was on FIRE! I installed this image as my blog banner today as well. Note the meteor trail captured just left of centre!

New Header
Here's the previous header for archival purposes:

I also turned around and shot the Milky Way while I was there. I'm still struggling with post-processing techniques. My problem is the millions of stars! I need to eliminate some to improve the image. Here's where I am so far:

This is the first time I've been able to render the 'depth' of the Milky Way. I'll keep practicing. 

For my photographer readers: my star shots are usually 15-30 seconds, f/2.8, ISO 1600-2000. That night, I stayed with 15 seconds because I wanted to shoot a sequence of a couple hundred shots, and 30 second exposures would have made me stay there all night!

A word about the TriggerTrap© shutter release device. It makes life really easy and it's an elegant, inexpensive solution. If you're not familiar with it, Google is your Friend!. Basically one end plugs into your camera and the other end into your iPhone or Android. The app lets you choose a variety of triggering mechanisms and arrangements. Bottom Line: it makes live really easy!
The only downside is that you can't shut down the iPhone display while it's running, so it drains the battery (I ran out of iPhone battery before camera battery!) and depending where you put the phone, you have to watch out for light pollution/light leaks. 
In this case, I set it to make exposures 2 seconds apart (to let the sensor cool down a bit between shots), pushed the button and left it to run. Brilliant product!

I combined about 150 images from the 9:00 session and about 180 images from the later group into a 2-minute long timelapse video. Please take two minutes to enjoy it, I'll wait right here! Here's the link:

And here's my favourite image, a composite of a 180-image StarStax and the image up above. 

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