This image was captured on last christmas eve while visiting friends and family in North Norway. Long story short: On our way to christmas dinner, the light was wonderful, the moon emerged and the icy cold temperatures froze the shores and gave a dense fog over the sea. I couldn’t help myself. I changed outfit and ran down to the shore and worked there all the way into pitch darkness and well into christmas dinner. My very kind and understanding wife actually approved this stunt, but I got a suspicion that not everybody else was very happy… But at least I got a few nice images! 🙂
When I started to photograph, it was rather dark but the disappearing aurora of the sun lit up the scene in a wonderful red-pinkish hue. As it got darker and darker, the aurora weakened and stars started to appear. At the same time, the foreground was becoming very very dark (I could hardly see my hands..), and the moon very bright compared to the landscape. I knew that even the very high dynamic range sensor in my d800 would not be able to capture both landscape, moon, stars and the color of the disappearing sun in one single exposure. So, I composed this image with the camera on my tripod and took numerous exposures at different iso’s and exposure times to capture all the elements in the scene as I saw it. The next day, I sat down and inspected all the different files. The aurora and the moon matched perfectly in some of the exposures, and to my surprise, earthshine lit up the shadowed part of the moon perfectly. The foreground however, was too dark on these exposures and the sky too bright to show any stars. My original plan was to follow my regular HDR workflow and blend the exposures in HDR efex pro but the result was far from satisfying. It lacked the contrast and crispness I wanted. I tried to increase clarity and contrast but by then things started to look really weird. Since I had three exposures from three different regions of the scene I decided to blend them manually. I used the image where the moon and the sunglow was perfect as my base. I then took one exposure of the starry sky and blended it into the top of the first image using the masking bug in the layers module of the wonderful OnOne Perfect Photo Suite 9. In exactly the same manner, I blended a lighter foreground exposure into the lower part of the image. The resulting image was then imported back into Lightroom and after slight adjustment of temperature, color, clarity and sharpness, the image came out very close to how I experienced the scene. The masking bug has a gradient which give soft and natural transitions and I found it amazing how naturally the different exposures blended with a broad gradient.
As much as I love a day on the beach, I must admit that few things can compare to a photo-session in a freezing cold, snow-clad landscape. I’m fortunate enough to live in Norway so winter is all around me this time of year. Days are short, but when the skies are clear, the light is beautiful. This image was captured in late december near Mayavatn in central Norway. I was driving home from a visit to friends and family up north as I passed this scene. I stopped the car, parked and ran out in the snowy fields, having snow up to my waist. The thermometer showed -24 deg celsius and I was dressed for driving in a warm comfortable car, not fieldwork. Suffice to say, I got cold and wet, but I think it was worth it. Hope you like my image, have a super Wednesday!
I haven’t been able to post as much here as I hoped or planned for this month. My apologies. I have been out travelling (and still am, kind of..) for 4 of the last 5 weeks. And as always, travelling makes some logistics more difficult, e.g. access to image archives (which are locked down in my safe when I’m not home) internet access, editing images on laptop screens etc. Well, enough excuses. Here is my first christmas-posting this year.
I’m currently in the northern parts of Norway, visiting friends and family. Where I am right now, the sun is below the horizon these days, but will be seen again in early january. Furthermore, the skies have been clear and the moon mostly invisible. This means that nights are long and very, very dark. Couple that with a latitude that often sports aurora borealis, and it is given what I have been up to every night this so far this christmas.
Shooting the aurora is not very challenging, technically. I basically use the same settings as I do for starry-sky photography, maybe a little lower iso, as the aurora lights up the land somewhat. Iso 1600-3200, f 2.8-4 and an exposure-time of 10-20 sec mostly give nice results. I prefer to use a very wide-angle lens to capture as much as possible of the skies. The challenging part is to find an interesting foreground and wait for the aurora to appear and match the foreground. Although I am born and raised in this area and more or less know it like my own pocket, it is still extremely challenging when it is so very, very dark. Also, handling the cold may be a problem. Using live-view for hours when temperatures are below -10 deg c may be a problem. And good, warm shoes and clothes are a must!
Anyway, I got a few images, both of aurora and deep starry skies. This particular image was captured at around 5 am in Valnesfjord, Norway, dec 22nd. I used one of my d800 bodies and the nikkor 14-24 @ 14 mm. Exposure setting were iso 2500, f 4.5 and 10 sec. Hope you like it, more will come!
I wish you all a wonderful Christmas and hope for peace and prosperity for all of you!