A Display After Dusk

June 1, 2001
All photographs taken between 11:15 and 11:45 p.m. on June 1, 2001

UPDATE - in response to questions on equipment, exposure times, etc. (3:25 p.m., June 3, 2001): 

Equipment: Pentax ZX-M camera; Pentax 50 mm, 1.4 aperature lens; Pentax 28 mm, 2.8 aperature lens; tripod; and cable release shutter.

Film: All photographs in April and May 2001 were taken using Fuji Superia 800.  Most of the photographs from the March 30-31, 2001, event were taken using Kodak Royal Gold 400.  

Exposure times: Exposure times for the 50 mm lens (at 1.4 aperature) range from 10 to 30 seconds.  Exposure times for the 28 mm lens (at 2.8 aperature) range from 30 to 90 seconds.  Anything that I have shot under 25 seconds with the 28 mm lens is too dark.  

Preference: I prefer using the Pentax 50 mm lens 95 percent of the time because of the amount of light - with the 1.4 aperature lens - that enters the camera in such a short time (prevents star trail).

Recommendation: You best learning tool is to take advantage of opportunities to photograph the northern lights.  Learn about your equipment & what settings work best (exposure times, lens and film).

Above photos: The above photos 2, 4, 5, 6 and 7 are taken with the 50 mm lens (10 to 30 seconds), while the above photos 1 and 3 are taken with the 28 mm lens (exposure times 60 to 90 seconds).    

Information regarding photographs: At 10:40 p.m., I learned from www.spaceweather.com that the KP was at level 5 from 7 to 10 p.m. Also, there was a warning for a KP level of 4 throughout the night.  Thus, I drove to the farm, arriving about 11:05-11:10 p.m.  

I didn't see the northern lights at that time because of the intense moonlight, and the sun below the horizon to the northwest.  Despite the bright sky, I took four photographs just to see what might show up.  Number 5 is one of those four photographs.  It shows a lot more than I saw - the northern lights and orange light from the sun below the horizon to the left.  The camera in this photograph is pointed north-north-east.

I quickly drove to another location.  Still, there was no activity - or so I thought.  I took some photographs, including number 4 (similar to number 5 in colors, with the "green" northern lights and orange from the sun just below the horizon).  The camera is pointed north here.  

At some point, probably about 11:25 p.m., I saw a ray directly to the northwest, which was the brightest part of the sky (with the sun just below the horizon).  Soon, another ray appeared to the right. You can see the two rays in photograph number 1.  The camera is pointed northwest here.

Then, I noticed a small area where the lights would go from dull to bright to dull, and so on.  This can be seen in the green in numbers 2 and 7 (the camera is pointed northwest in both).

One of my favorites is photograph number 6 which features the constellation CASSIOPEIA to the right of the windmill.  The camera is pointed north-north-east here.

After 11:45 p.m., all activity ceased.  I waited until 12:30 p.m. for more activity before going home.

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