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What’s it like to chase and try to capture the Northern Lights, which put on their biggest show in Washington in July and August? Photographer Alex Farrell explains…
My friends Paulo Falcao, Kai Chinn, and I had been talking about this night for a couple of days. This was my first time out trying to capture the Northern Lights.
As we were gearing up to go shoot, we’d decided on going to Mount Baker at Artist Point. I use the Photographers Ephemeris app to determine the location that is north facing, has interesting foreground and the least amount of light pollution just beyond it. Paulo and Kai have done this before, so I followed their lead.
Gearing up for a night like this takes a few items: A camera that has manual capabilities for long exposure, a good tripod, a remote control for the camera, and a good amount of patience. Make sure to go prepared with water and food, as you may be waiting a while. Make sure you are able to keep warm and bring a chair to sit in, too. There is nothing more magical than being under a blanket of billions of stars.
After about an 1 1/2 hours of waiting, we started to get a little worried, mostly because of the clouds we were battling. Paulo had a good idea to drive down lower to get cell reception to see if anyone was reporting color on the Aurora Borealis Washington State Facebook page. This site is where I get all my information about Aurora storms.
Once we got cell reception, we found people reporting color in Darrington, and drove back up to Artist Point. Paulo took a test shot and yelled, “We have the Northern Lights!” I yelled back, “Really?!”
“Oh my gosh, there it is!” I said, after taking a test shot of my own. “It’s so beautiful,” Kai said as he took his shot, mesmerized.
We hooted and hollered with joy as we photographed. The storm lasted about another 20 minutes, and then she faded into the night.
Now with the naked eye I noticed a slight glow and pillars spike here and there. Living this far south from the North Pole, we don’t see the Northern Lights with our own eyes like you can way up north in Alaska. But it’s an awesome feeling to see the image once the exposure is complete.
A huge thanks to Paulo and Kai for making it a memorable evening to watch and photograph the Northern Lights.