I’m pretty lucky to be able to run up the mountain for a sunset and then run back down again to find a relatively empty beach to shoot the aurora… In hindsight, this night I should possibly have stayed up the mountain for the aurora, then I wouldn’t have missed the best bit which happened in my transit time… But at the same time hanging out on a deserted beach, bar a few other photographers, with a group of friends made for a much more fun evening…
Generally speaking the aurora doesn’t really become visible until after dark. And by after dark I mean about an hour or more after the sun has fully set and the ‘blue hour’. Of course the night I really count on this being the case is the night where the aurora hits its high notes pretty much just after the sun had set, just as I was halfway down the freaking mountain… I see the amazing photos some people got of an auroral sunset and I kick myself, but hey, thems the breaks!
Here’s some of what I got on the mountain. I found a really nice spot on a rock in front of a bunch of other rocks and was so happily sitting there, on my own, checking out all the lichen and plants around me… listening to the buzzing of bees and feeling the itch of mosquito bites, until it turned out that the rock I had parked myself in front of seems to the ‘THE’ rock for every tourist up the mountain to hang out taking photos of the sunset, some drinking beer, being loud and obnoxious (which by the way I would probably totally do too if I was with a bunch of mates and on holiday) Even though my peaceful silence was shattered it was still pretty nice. Next time I go exploring to find a better, less raucous spot.
I had planned just to knick over to Howden, the go to spot for aurora watching if I can’t be bothered going anywhere else. The skies were clear for a change and there was the possibility of some action. Yet it turned out that the possibility for some action was a massive freaking aurora hitting, so the plans were changed and I was heading over to Clifton Beach to meet the other folks I often shoot with… Bit of a hike, I took the wrong road, thought I was lost in the scrub then eventually found the beach. By the time I got there, which was only about an hour after leaving the mountain and it wasn’t even full dark yet, most of the awesome beam action had died down… Not that it mattered because it was much more fun on the beach. Actually the best bit was seeing how excited Leenas niece was to see her first aurora. And what better aurora to have seen for the first time. There is a lot of ‘debate’ at times about what it actually looks like with the naked eye. I guess when people see all the photos of these amazing colours they expect to see the same thing, but that’s not strictly the truth.
All people will see the aurora differently. People have different eye sight strengths and stuff and some people can pick up more subtle glows than others. The last two auroras I have seen and shot have the been the most visible to the naked eye that I have seen so far. The one at Scamander you could visibly see fairly distinct beams shooting up to the sky. It was white light and I couldn’t pick up any colour with my eyeballs. I would still describe it as kind of soft light though, and there is a definite glow on the horizon which looks like it would be the light from a nearby town, although there were no towns there. If you were just casually driving by you may not notice it unless you were looking though, it’s not like it a disco that lights up everything around you.
Wednesday nights one down at Clifton Beach was by far the best naked eye I have seen. You could immediately see the glow from the arc, which looked like the moon rising, although the moon was behind us. Then for a brief period of time patches of light appeared and went, if you look at the time-lapse from Clifton beach you can see the way it moves. Not all the light was visible, but where the brightest bits were it was clearly visible. I could maybe see a tinge of green every so often, but I wouldn’t personally describe it as a green glow. Of course the visibility of it all really depends on the strength of the aurora, and a whole bunch of other factors, like moonlight etc. People have been known to see very distinct colour, I haven’t yet though. I guess the thing to remember if you do plan on going out to see an aurora is that the visible, naked eye ones are not the common views of it down here in Tassie. Doesn’t mean they don’t happen, it just means that you can capture them on camera more so than by your eyeballs. Quite often you will see a glow, but if you aren’t aware then you are likely to think it is just lights from a town. A lot of people expect to come to Tassie and wander out to the beach or somewhere facing south and see an amazing display of lights dancing through the sky, more often than not they are pretty disappointed. Having said that, it is totally worth the chase, and you really never know when you will get lucky enough to see one. There are all sorts of prediction graphs and apps you can go by to get an idea of when one might hit, but you must remember they are predictions based on space weather and sun flares etc… It is like the weather, no one can be 100% sure they can only give a rough idea. So the only real way is to just get out and see. Yes it can be cold, it can be windy, it can be frustrating at times, but hey, that’s all the fun of it.
Such an amazing thing to witness with your eyes though, it really is an awesome sight that aurora.
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