Prairie Cinema

An early drive-in theatre for the Prairies …
Aurora Borealis from the Trans Canada Highway between Brooks and Medicine Hat, Alberta.  Click here for more of my flickr pics

One of the coolest things about living on the prairies so far north (well, I’m far north for most of the world … for Canada, or other northern countries, I’m actually a southerner, lol) is the northern lights. I can imagine early settlers getting their first look at the dancing lights and being in complete awe. The canopy of night, with the moon and stars provided plenty for pre-television, pre-industrial, pre-photographic peoples to marvel at … a first sight of the aurora must have left them breathless with wonder.

Its really not so different today. The aurora borealis truly are one of nature’s great light shows, even a weak, paltry version seen from the far south. I must admit that I was a bit surprised when I took the pictures off the camera as I wasn’t expecting so much colour. This was my first attempt at photographing the aurora, and I hadn’t thought about the way our eyes only pick up colour at certain intensities. So far south, all I saw with my eyes the other night was a dull gray-green glow in the north … I knew that I wanted to get a picture, but I didn’t think about how much more colour there might be than what I was seeing.

I didn’t expect the vivid green here at all … as I said, to my eye, the low intensity made it a very dull green, barely off gray. And I didn’t see any purple at all in the sky that night … that light must have been well below the levels that my cones could pick up. This was done with a 25 second exposure, so there’s a fair amount of light collection involved, but I haven’t done any colour correction here … thats exactly the way my Nikon DX lens saw it. I have done a little bit of light filling after the fact to make the picture a bit brighter, but no modifications of colour.

You can check out my other pictures over at my flickr page, including a couple more of this aurora and others taken the same day/night. Its on nights like this that its clear to me why ancient man had such a reverence for the sky. Even in the age of the internet, 500 channels of cable and satellite TV, and constant information at your fingertips, the sky can still put on a pretty impressive show … there’s no doubt in my mind that in a time before all those things, it was the best show in town, bar none.

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