Viewing entries tagged
astrophotography

Aurora Burst

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Aurora Burst

So last night the aurora finally came.  It had been predicted for a while that the sun would blurt out some more space junk that would hurtle towards us and probably cause an amazing aurora display when a particular portion of it rotated into view again.  It was supposed to be here on Sunday, but there must have been some traffic jams up there since it showed up casually late on Monday night.  It put on good display for some, but it also wound up being pretty random for a lot of people.  I stayed out quite late and only managed to catch one brief 15 minute or so display from my vantage point.  My cameras were clicking away capturing it all and I didn't really know what it was looking like.  It'd have to be a lot stronger before we see the great displays this far south with our naked eyes like they get on a regular basis in Alaska, but a long exposure can capture some detail your eyes are completely missing out on.  A little bit of post processing can bring that out even more.  So when I got home and did a cursory check I got pretty excited by my initial processing of a few shots and posted a shot to Facebook amongst friends, but it was nearing 5am and I was dead.  The rest would have to wait until I woke up.

So after a bit of sleep, I hopped back into Lightroom and checked out my other camera.  Lo and behold, this was even better.  There's something about the 6D, even though it's a lesser camera than the 5Dmk3, it makes some pretty fantastic images.  Maybe it was the different lens/focal length or the fact that it was 15' away from the 5Dmk3 and had a slightly different landscape/angle, but it managed to create an image that I was trying to make my original post look like with ease.  

With that in mind, I jumped into Photoshop and batch processed a large range of photos that spanned the event and brought them into Final Cut Pro X.  From there I noticed something.  It was very rhythmic.  There were fish that were jumping in the little lake/stream system I was in front of that were producing waves that perfectly matched the explosions of light.  Even more subtle were some bits of fog rolling across the water that almost made it look like ghosts were marching across the frame.  

So I knew what my music was going to be; no music at all.  Instead, some pulses.  I found some crashing waves, messed it up and added a bunch of bass.  Then I looped it all for about 30 seconds.  There's enough rhythmic action on the screen that you kind of don't notice the stars jumping back 15 minutes in their progression.  In the end we have this:

I then reworked the whole thing and try to throw in a zoom.  While it worked and made the rhythmic pulses even better (it felt like Jurassic Park as it pulled away from the ripples in the water), it made the star shifts very noticeable.  So I backed out and just worked up a 4k version instead for YouTube.

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Distant Stormlapse

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Distant Stormlapse

On Sunday there was the threat of severe weather across the state, but it wound up not forming much except in the far south and east and over the lake and in to Michigan.   This meant one thing; awesome towering thunderheads in the distance.  So I went out right about sunset to see if I could capture anything.  I didn't get much that I liked, but as it darkened I realized these were some pretty active storms.  Now I'm thinking forget the pictures, let's get a timelapse.

So that's what I did.  I headed to the southern edge of town to a field where I knew I'd have an unencumbered view south/southeast.  The only problem was the street lights.  I kind of didn't want them there and yet I also did.  I thought the lights lighting up this field would provide a nice contrast and color combo, but it's a bit overpowering at times.  So much so that there's actually flare in my 16-35mm (the wide shots) and the light is literally behind me.  

So what's the setup?

  • Canon 5Dmkiii with 16-35 f/2.8L II
    • 3,297 shots at 16mm f/2.8, 2s, ISO 3200
  • Canon 6D with Tamron 70-200 f/2.8 Di VC USD
    • 1,668 shots at 70mm f/4, 2s, ISO 3200

There are actually about another 900 shots taken, but I wound up not using them.  I shot some at 200mm, and quite a few with my 400mm f/5.6.  I thought I could end it by zooming into the moonrise. While it worked, I deleted it because it was so out of place for the subject of the video.  Going from lightning to a crystal clear moon shot changed the subject matter way too fast.

In the end, I took them all, batch edited in Lightroom, exported and ran them into a 1080p 60p project in Final Cut Pro X.  So each second represents 2 minutes of real time.  A soundtrack and sound effects were then added to recreate to the atmosphere, with a tad bit of creative freedom.

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Aurora trails

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Aurora trails

One of the nice things about taking a timelapse is that you can take the resulting images and not only use them for your video, but pull individuals out for other purposes. Or in the case of landscape and astrophotography, take the whole bunch and stack them later.  You basically get a two-for-one out of the shoot.  You can make a video and you can make a killer image.  Now there are plenty of ways to stack, including specialized software, but I rolled my own method that involved creating some Adobe Bridge and Photoshop scripts.  This allowed me to work at really high resolutions, involving hundreds of potential layers, and breaking it down into manageable automated chunks that I didn't have to supervise or bring my computer to a grinding halt.   And trust me, the first few attempts did just that and was a massive amount of wasted time.  However, as time went on and I got the scripting down, I got really excited by some of the results and started imagining new uses for this method that I hope to give a test run to soon.  For now, however, there's this.

696 image stack of the aurora from the video in the previous post

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Aurora

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Aurora

There was a brief aurora last night and while I usually check in on this image for aurora forecast, I didn't last night. So while looking at Facebook during a brief bit of time wasting, a photographer/weather duo I follow called Wisconsin Weather & Photography, posted an image of the aurora going on.  I immediately dropped everything I was doing and hit the road.  I unfortunately got out there a little bit too late to get the big burst some people saw, but I did get left with this nice little bunch of green swirl with some red bursts in there every now and then.  I also decided to take it a step farther and processed it in 4k.  Granted it made it a bit harder to work with, but the extra clarity on YouTube is rather nice.

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Camelopardalid timelapse

Yes, this is outside the bounds of cat and animal photography, but the night sky is one of my favorite subjects.  So when once in a lifetime opportunities present themselves and the weather is good in my location, I tend to jump on seeing them.

Here we have the new meteor shower, which really wasn't, from the remnants of comet P209/LINEAR.  This was actually my first all night, one shot timelapse.  Most night timelapses that I've done in the past I usually only did for an hour or two so I could change up for a different shot, or more likely the event was over/got cloudy/tired/etc.  This time I was determined to make in an all nighter.  So I headed out to what was labeled as the nearest dark skies to me according to http://www.jshine.net/astronomy/dark_sky/, which ended up being about an hour away on the northern edge of Governor Dodge State Park in Dodgeville, WI.  I got there around 9:30pm and drove around on back roads for a while looking for interesting northern views, but after a while settled on just an unobstructed view of the north.  I started taking pictures around 11pm and stopped around 4:15am.

The start of a satellite trail

The start of a satellite trail

All in all, it looks like I have a lot of satellites. However, I can't be too sure.  Since each frame is 20 seconds of time, it's impossible for a meteor streak to be in two or more of the frames, unless I happened to catch a 3 second trail or so at the tail end of one frame and the start of the next.  However, there are a lot of tiny streaks that appear in successive frames emanating from roughly around the radiant that don't appear connected, yet have the same path.  So perhaps it's possible that it's different meteors on roughly the same path, but I'm not willing to definitively say that.

Settings/gear used:
Canon 16-35mm f/2.8LII @ 16mm f/2.8
Canon 5DMKIII, ISO 3200, 20s exposure, RAW
885 total frames

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