After a lifetime of viewing aurora borealis, I’m thrilled to finally have the equipment and knowledge to capture photographic images of it. It has been, if you’ll forgive me, an eye-opening experience.
In the past, we have watched auroral displays, but have been confused and disappointed to see photographs of those same displays that show more and different intensities of colors than we witnessed. All these years, we’ve wondered what we’ve been missing. Finally, thanks to discussions with experienced photographer friends, I’ve figured it out. The photos we see of aurora borealis do not accurately reproduce what we see with our eyes.
Since the shutter must stay open a long time to capture the low intensity light of the aurora, it accumulates light, creating the spectacular colors that the human eye might not see in that intensity. It then becomes a question of what the photographer will do with the images.
Most photographers leave the photos as they are, or boost the saturation to get more colors. Since I take photos to show what I see, I generally lower the saturation to make a more realistic image.
For kicks and giggles, here are a couple of before and after images. Both of these are ones I didn’t post last time (see Prime Time!).
I can’t decide which I prefer. I guess I’d rather have an image that records what I saw, but I have to say, the camera images are incredible! See my high school friend, Ron Gile’s work here: www.rongilephotography.com.