Seeing the Unseen

Seeing the Unseen

It’s my first time to Norway and North of the Arctic Polar Circle and, of course, I had reasonable expectations to see the Northern Lights. Despite an unfavorable weather forecast, the skies have been clear for the past two nights.

Forecasts for aurora activity were similarly dire, but they were unfortunately more accurate. The Northern skies looked completely black to our eyes. Quite disappointing to have come this far and not being offered a ticket to one of the greatest shows on Earth.

Not wanting to waste a perfectly good night sky, away from strong sources of light pollution, we set out to Tungeneset anyway, intending to image its famous mountains on the background of a million stars.

What we got, however, was more than we expected.

Modern digital cameras are incredibly sensitive to light and have no trouble seeing colors our eyes cannot see. Our puny human vision system is not really good at seeing color when the lights are dim. At night, we basically see in black and white. Digital cameras, however, have no such limitation.

When set to take a 25″ exposure at ISO 6400, my camera was able to reveal a faint green glow over the Northern horizon, something that our eyes could not see at all, even after many minutes of getting adjusted to the darkness. Not the most amazing aurora ever, but still better than nothing.

Night skies over Tungeneset

The other unexpected bonus was not one, but two meteor tracks. You should be able to see one clearly even at reduced resolution, but there is a fainter one to its left. You might have to click on the image to enlarge it in order to see it.

Not a bad way to end our second night in Norway. We still have one and half days of shooting here, so let’s hope we can get some more nice images.

Equipment used: Fujifilm X-E2, Samyang 12mm F2 CS NCS lens.

Exposure data: 25″ at f/2.0, ISO 6400.

There are 12 comments for this article
    • Ugo Cei at 3:01 pm

      Great article and thanks for sharing. The author makes some very good points and what my camera could see yesterday was totally not what my eyes could see. I guess this applies to most of night photography. Whether it’s a good or a bad thing, I don’t know.

  1. Andy Bitterer at 3:14 pm

    Ciao Ugo, glad you finally made it up North. There’s a reason why I keep traveling to the Arctic every year! 🙂 And yes, it takes a while for the eye to recognize an aurora, but a bit of green is better than clouds, snow or hail. Those “meteors” in the image are much more likely satellites, as they are exactly equal in length and would fly slow enough for a 25 seconds exposure to register. A meteor would probably not emit enough light at their usual speed to be captured by the sensor, methinks.

    • Ugo Cei at 3:20 pm

      You might be right about satellites, Andi. I saw a few meteors with the naked eye myself, so I figured out these might be two of them, but I can’t be sure.

  2. Bob McCormac at 2:55 pm

    Great shot! Having shot many night sky photos I know it can be hit or miss. I usually shoot with a 5D MkIII for astro photos but I’ll have to try my XE2 and see what results I get.

  3. SallyIV at 9:53 am

    Nice indeed!!

    I can never stop thinking how our ancestors thought about the Northern Light…

    Well, However, in full crop I see a lot of purple stars, did not quite expect that!


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