The barometric pressure and one of our cameras went down tonight (5-6 March). As I write, the weather is deteriorating. We have just returned to our Tromsø apartment from an exploratory mission to a relatively unpopulated shoreline about 30 km west toward Sommerøy (an island community on the coast). We were hoping to find a good vantage point for photographing auroral lights reflected in water.
Looking out over the water there were snowy peaks and the more distant illuminated arch of the Sommerøy bridge (left of center). The crescent moon (with Earthshine!) ducked in and out of the clouds, setting the water aglow when it was out, and setting a cloud aglow when hiding. The wind gusted strongly, perhaps to 20-25 mph (or about 11 meters/sec as indicated on the signs of the Tromsø bridges). But the temperature was a balmy 5C (40F) which was delightfully warmer than the previous night’s inland adventure at Peak and Creek, with a low temperature of –15C (5F).
Duke set up an all-sky camera relatively close-in to the car and we ventured on foot about a mile (1.6 km) down the dark coast. The footing was very uneven with awkward ball-like clumps of grass episodically crossed with sloping streams of solid (and very slippery) ice. To make matters even more challenging, our path was necessarily not well illuminated, except by the crescent moon, since our headlamps would contaminate the all sky footage.
Duke and Will deployed mobile cameras on their tripods as we walked the coast, setting up at different spots along the way as the sky or the spirit moved. The northern lights erupted delightfully for a few minutes in a gap between the clouds, but the storm of lights occurred behind us over some rather ordinary hills. The all sky camera had been deliberately oriented more toward the water and so barely reveals the eruption (see upper right at about 2 o’clock in the image above). But the mobile cameras were able to turn and capture the rapture (see the image below)! Notice the greenish glow of auroral lights in the frozen stream.
Down the shoreline a ways we discovered that a curious light we’d seen on the horizon was coming from a little lighthouse (about 20 ft or 6 m high). Be sure to click on the image to enlarge it. The green light in the sky is aurora. The silver light is moon glow. The orange glow is light pollution from Sommerøy. The line in the sky just left of center at the top is most likely a satellite. We see a LOT of them at this latitude! By the way, neither Duke nor I (Cherilynn) had ever been above the Arctic Circle before this trip so we’ve broken our latitude records. Will has been all the way to Purdhoe Bay, Alaska at 79 degrees North during the summer of 2010.
The clouds eventually closed in on us, but the northern lights were still quite active. They illuminated the sky from behind the clouds with a soft, other worldly green glow that was also reflected off the water.
As I write, the guys are sitting on the couch of our Tromsø apartment attempting to repair the fallen camera – a Canon 6D with a $1200 wide-angle lens affixed. You might think that a team member had slipped on the ice, or stumbled on the rocky shore, or tripped over the clumps of grass during the miles of walking while hauling heavy camera gear. But no. All of that was safely completed. Alas, the camera fell over while leaning against our car after we had called it a night.
Fortunately, the lens appears to be okay, however the fall shattered the lens cap and a glass filter situated before the lens. The impact of the fall bent the filter’s metal rim making it impossible to remove, even after 30-40 minutes of diligent effort. So the new plan is to break out the rest of the filter’s glass, clean the lens and use the camera with the filter rim in place, hopefully without silhouetting or other unforeseen problems. Whew! On we go.