By Stefan Hendricks and Mario Hoppmann |
It. Does. Not. Stop. Polarstern continuously moves and shakes in the swell of the Barents Sea. Usually a cause for seasickness, the movements and the vibrations now cause pain for photographers onboard. Because on our way to the Norwegian coastline we are in the prime latitude for the aurora borealis, the northern lights. The nights are now dark, the weather good enough and the phone chain is organized. In the night from Oct. 1 to Oct. 2 finally the activity of the solar wind plays along. Now is the time to gather on the uppermost monkey deck to enjoy the show, but also to get cameras and tripods up there and take the chance for some photos in the darkness. Nowadays cameras have sensors with high sensitivity, but even having mounted a fast lens with a wide aperture one still need long exposure times. And Polarstern moves. Without Pause. The first photos are a smear of stars and lights due to the constant up and down as well as the pitching and rolling of the ship. Another possibility is taking videos with a DSLR. That does not require that less resolution and together with a good lens, one is able to capture the fast movements of the auroras well enough. However, photos are unmatched for getting the colors of the northern lights.
In a pause of the solar activity, we check the first results on the computer and optimize our camera settings. A fourth of a second for the exposure time; it does not go faster than that our pictures are either to dark or too noisy. Then the waiting for the next phase activity and the passing of the rain clouds starts. The reward for the patient ones comes later.
The second phase of the night is not as impressive as the first, but we can see other shapes and different colors this time. In the end of the session, the photos are numerous and they show the learning curve of the night. We do hope for more aurora sightings (that hope was granted during the writing of this blog) when the ship is on stable on a station (that wish was not granted yet). Because even the best pictures of the night are all still a bit blurred.