Best aurora for three years - Snowy Mountains area, NSW, Australia, 20 April 2018
A coronal hole centred on the equatorial area of the Sun enabled a surprisingly strong emission of solar wind to occur. This caused a brief but incredibly bright and colourful aurora which I captured from near Cooma in the Snowy Mountains.
After having an early dinner, I headed out from my home in the southern suburbs of Canberra. I usually have two choices - head south along the Boboyan Road towards Adaminaby (my usual route) or head down the Monaro Highway. After seeing a large mas of cloud behind Tuggeranong Hill my mind was quickly made up. It was going to be the Monaro Highway with my plan to stop either at Williamsdale or near Bredbo. The problem with the Monaro Highway is it heads due south and carries quite heavy traffic. This means that the lights of the cars tend to marr my shots so I try and pick turn offs along it to get away from the lights.
I arrived at Williamsdale a bit early and decided to head 40 km further south to Bredbo. To my dismay the area was shrouded with smoke. I realized tthat this could rob me of getting any clear and colourful images. I decided to head further south to Cooma but I could see the sky lit up above it from the lights of the town hitting the smoke. I was feeling my chances were poor. So I decided to head towards Berridale and the skies soon started to clear quickly. I had previously done some photography along an isolated road and pulled up at a likely spot I had not tried before. I quickly set up the tripod and took a test shot, well I was stunned with the image appearing on the back of my camera, the aurora was clearly visible as a white arc in the southern sky despite a crescent (waxing) moon.
I also noticed that I had just passed a windmill. A handy gate provided the access to it. It was only a few metres walk from the road. I intend to catch up with the farmer and give him a print as I did not have a chance to seek the usual permissions.
The shots show the broad extent of the aurora . The first few shots were with the Nikon D610, using my 20 mm Nikkor set at f1.8, the ISO was 800 and shots were exposed for about 15-20 seconds. Later I used y 14 mm Sigma f1.8 Art lens to shoot some panoramas which will be uploaded later when I have worked on them.
The second bracket of shots were taken with the D810 with a 24-70 f2.8 Nikkor zoomed in to capture the detail of the aurora. The shots were taken over a sequence of a few minutes and show the rapidly changing nature of the aurora.
If you are interested in learning how to forecast the arrival of the aurora I have developed some easy guidelines which I explain in my introductory workshops. Detailed notes are given which also cover the basis setting for night photography plus lots of handy tips. You can register for my courses through this website. Regards and happy photography, Ian