Well this week we are planning on attending an OCA Astroimaging SIG where the speaker, Dave Kodama, will provide some guidelines for photographing aurora. Now readers of this blog will know that we have been frustrated in our search for the northern lights many times now. First we lost out on many nights in Norway and then on our second attempt in Fairbanks, Alaska, frustrated again by many nights of clouds. So, for us, dealing with the frustration of clouds is the major issue. You still might want to attend the OCA Astroimagers SIG on Wednesday, May 1!
But, I can review some of the earlier attempts at photographing the aurora from cruise ships. Our last attempt on a cruise ship that went op the coast of Norway (see blogs of February 2019 for the details) had no luck at sea or on the land of capturing any aurora; just too many cloudy nights! But, back, in September 2017, on a cruise from Bergen to Greenland and beyond to Canada, we were able to see the northern lights from the cruise ship. Hmm, we wondered what the motion of the ship and the sea state would do to any astroimaging attempts, but, hey, it sort of worked out ok.
The image below was taken with a DSLR mounted on a tiny, tiny, little tripod and just setup on a table on our stateroom veranda. I took this photo in my PJs, while Resident Astronomer Peggy was shouting to me to close the door; It's getting cold in here!
You can see some jittering in the image due primarily I believe to my clumsy, sleepy finger pressing the shutter release. Anyway, wow, yes, we could see the northern lights. It was really exciting just to see the northern lights and there was always a lot of excitement at breakfast in the morning where everyone was talking about their experiences.
|Aurora, from stateroom veranda, off the coast of Greenland, DSLR, 14mm, 10 seconds, Sept. 2017 (Source: Palmia Observatory)|
But, for this first observation, the night was still young, so after being alerted that the northern lights were out and about, I dressed and went up to Deck 8 and setup the DSLR on a bigger tripod in an area mostly out of the way of shipboard lights. There is a tradeoff between having ship lights out and safety at sea, so I mainly just tried to find a location where there was not direct light into the camera lens.
This image shows the aurora as we move close in to our port of call in Qoqortoq, Greenland. The seas were relatively calm as the ship moved in towards the dock. One thing I tried to do with the camera setup was to have something in the foreground of the image to give some perspective and the only thing close at hand was me! You can see some green aurora and the Big Dipper shows up as well.
|Arriving in Qoqortoq, Greenland, DSLR, 10mm, 15 seconds, Sept. 2017 (Source: Palmia Observatory)|
This next image shows us closer to Qoqortoq and now the ship motion is more apparent in its effect on the shoreline lights. Sorry, I can't remember if this lens setting had image stabilization turned on or not, so I can't say anything about its effectiveness at sea.
|Closer in at Qoqortoq, Greenland, DSLR, 10mm, 15 seconds, Sept. 2017 (Source: Palmia Observatory)|
Lastly, on a separate cruise, I wanted to see how well some dim deep sky object like the Milky Way would show up in an image taken from a moving cruise ship. Again, I tried to find a darker area on the ship that was not affected by shipboard lights shinning directly into the camera. This long exposure taken with DSLR on tripod, and with me blocking out one light in the background, you can see that sailing at that time was pretty calm. The details are covered in the September 1, 2018 blog posting.
|Milky Way as seen on the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, DSLR, 18mm, 135 seconds, Sept. 2018 (Source: Palmia Observatory)|
Ok, so I look forward to getting some more tips and tricks for photographing the aurora. For me, my guidelines are to find something in the foreground to give perspective and then to know where the ship's bar or the hotel bar is, because you are bound to be frustrated by clouds and at least you can find some short term consolation there!