The Thumbprint of God - Aurora Reflecting on Lake in Alaska

This is another image from Friday night's terrific aurora storm. This was one of the first images I shot that evening. We hurried out the door, pausing only to glance up and see the building aurora from our front yard. Luckily, I had just scouted a new location earlier that day - a location less than a 5 minute drive from our house near Hatcher Pass. The drive took decidedly less time than it legally should have... When we arrived, we grabbed our gear and ran for the lake shore. This is the quickest I've ever set up for an aurora photograph. I quickly turned the LiveView on, set my exposure to my typical test exposure (ISO 800, f2.8, 20 seconds), set my lens to its widest focal length (16mm) found a star on the LiveView screen and zoomed in digitally at 10x, then manually focused to render the star a pinpoint. I composed this shot through the viewfinder, realizing that the aurora was moving too fast for my standard base-line 20 second exposure. So I shifted it to a 10" exposure and bumped the aperture to f3.5 to get a bit more depth of field & sharpness. All of this took less than 20 seconds.

I doubt I've moved this quick in the past 5 years.

But then again, this light show demanded urgency.

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A fingerprint-shaped aurora mass fans out over a wind-swept lake near Wasilla, Alaska. (Dave Taylor/Sixtyone North LLC)
A fingerprint-shaped aurora mass fans out over a wind-swept lake near Wasilla, Alaska. (Dave Taylor/Sixtyone North LLC) - 'The Thumbprint of God' - click to purchase a print.