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Northern Lights – Fail

I’m not sure what planet I’ve been on, but I had no idea that the Northern Lights were going to be visible this weekend so far south of where you can normally expect to see them. I woke up Saturday seeing posts online of the views people had much further south than where I’m located. I literally had no idea that this event was taking place. As a photography hobbyist, I’m a little frustrated that I let such a unique opportunity go by.

As I looked more into the event, I kept seeing that Saturday night wasn’t forecasted to be nearly as good as Friday, but there was still a chance to see the Northern Lights. I had a hunch that I’d have to go farther north for the best opportunity so I hopped in the car around 5:00pm and started driving.

I made my way up to just north of Pullman, Washington around 11:00pm, which is about 350 miles from home. The sun set a little after 9:00pm, but the last light of day lingered for about an hour and a half. Around 11:30pm the dark skies were finally present.

I’m not very familiar with the area so I drove around a bit trying to find a spot that didn’t have any lights nearby. I drove up and down a lot of dirt roads hoping not to get stuck somewhere, and then I finally just stopped in the middle of nowhere hoping for the best.

When I turned off all of the lights in the car I noticed a glow coming from the north that looked different. I pulled out my phone to take a quick photo and sure enough, it was picking up the colors of the Northern Lights. I scrambled to take my camera and tripod out in the pitch dark using my iPhone as my flashlight. Holding the iPhone under my chin while using both hands to set up the tripod wasn’t ideal, but I did the best I could.

Just when I started to get the camera mounted on the tripod I got a phone call, which disabled the iPhone’s flashlight. I was adjusting a screw that helps mount the camera and the screw became dislodged and it dropped into the dirt below the tripod. After my call I searched using the flashlight, but couldn’t locate the screw. At that point there was no way to attach the camera securely to the tripod. I was hosed.

I still managed to get my camera onto the tripod head, but I had to hold it in place, which on a 30 second photo, was almost impossible to do without causing some camera shake. The lights were already dissipating at this point so I only managed to get about 6 photos that weren’t blurry before the Northern Lights disappeared for good.

I drove back home and climbed back into bed around 6:30am. It was a long night, and not very fruitful, but I feel better knowing that I at least tried.

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