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Aurora borealis, Pittsburg, NH. Photo by Peter Gray

How I Got That Shot: Aurora House

Text & Photography By Peter Gray

In recent years, due to an extended period of relatively high solar activity, it has been possible to witness the spectacular Aurora Borealis—aka, “northern lights”—from every New England state. I set out to capture the celestial phenomenon on a cold fall night in northern New Hampshire, after my “Aurora app” alerted me to a potential solar storm.

Upon arriving at my destination shortly after midnight, the faint glow of the dancing aurora on the northern horizon was my signal to set up quickly. It was four degrees Fahrenheit, windless and completely silent, save for the occasional howling of coyotes behind the old house. At one point, a moose ambled past. It took several chilly hours to get the shot I was looking for, but I succeeded at 3:00 a.m.

A few tips on photographing the Aurora Borealis: Even when forecasts call for the high probability of a solar storm, the atmosphere must cooperate. Clear, moonless skies are a must, but you also need “transparent” skies with low amounts of moisture, smoke, pollen, and other particulates that will affect the photo. Also, the farther away from sources of light pollution you can get, the better.

When prepping for an Aurora photo, I keep a mental list of potential shoot locations based on the weather. On cold nights, I want to be close to my vehicle for warmth. In warmer weather, I can venture to more remote locations.

Know your gear, how to set up the equipment, and what settings to use ahead of time. Preparation is a big part of the equation. In very cold temperatures or if shooting over water, a lens heater is sometimes necessary to keep condensation from forming on the lens.

The image here was taken with a Canon R5 and a Sigma 14-24mm 2.8 lens with an RF converter. ISO was set at 6400, with an exposure of 15 seconds. The aperture was 2.8. A simple keychain flashlight was sufficient to illuminate the house due to the long exposure.

To view more of Peter Gray’s work, visit petergrayoutdoors.com. You can also follow him at Peter Gray Outdoors on FB and Messenger. Or reach him directly at petergray@petergrayoutdoors.com