New Perspectives
'Volcano Viridescent' One thing I love about photography is the way it makes you look at things in new ways that can provide a totally a different perspective. Let me illustrate that tidbit by telling the following story... I was sleeping in a little mom and pop guesthouse on Iceland's southern Snaefellsnes coast when I happened to wake for a moment and glance out my window. Even half-asleep I could see the first faint beginnings of an aurora. I dressed in a panic (including putting on my pants backwards...which I didn't notice until hours later) and ran outside with my camera and tripod. To be honest, I hadn't scouted the area before I went to bed because the aurora forecast was down-right pessimistic. So with absolutely no idea where to set up, I just looked for the first place I could shoot that wouldn’t include the hotel in the image. Just across the hotel's access road was a shallow pond with mountains in the background. I took a quick series of shots. But they didn't really impress me...the foreground was choppy and the images in my viewfinder just didn't convey the awesome view I could see with my bare eyes. I checked Google Maps on my phone, I spotted a more promising location and skedaddled. The second location truly absolutely amazing and resulted in the best aurora shots I've ever taken. Frankly, as a result, in the years since then I've ignored my shots from the first spot. Last week, I took another look at those frames. Individually, they still didn't impress me. I had been shooting with a 14mm lens on a full-frame camera, so I had a pretty wide view: each shot covered about 115° of the horizon. But I remembered that this aurora covered nearly the entire sky. Fortunately, I had taken shots ranging from due west to due east. So for kicks and giggles, I picked out three of them taken with a different perspective and tried to combine them in Photoshop to make a panorama. And this image was the result. I was honestly stunned. The combine

New Perspectives

One thing I love about photography is the way it makes you look at things in new ways that can provide a totally a different perspective. Let me illustrate that tidbit by telling the following story…

Back in the winter of 2019 I was visiting Iceland for the first time. I was sleeping at a little mom and pop guesthouse on the remote Snaefellsnes coast when I happened to wake for a moment in the middle of the night and glance out my window. Even half-asleep I could see the first faint beginnings of an aurora. I dressed in a panic (including putting on my pants backwards…which I didn’t notice until hours later) and ran outside with my camera and tripod.

To be honest, I hadn’t scouted the area before I went to bed. So with absolutely no idea where to set up, I just looked for the first place I could shoot that wouldn’t include the hotel in the image.


Just across the hotel’s access road was a shallow pond with mountains in the background. I took a quick series of shots (see next photo). But they didn’t really impress me…the images in my viewfinder just didn’t ‘sing’ to me.

Aurora Borealis photography in Iceland
I thought that using the road by the hotel as a leading line would spice up the shot. It was a swing and a miss…the image just doesn’t have any ‘magic.’ I spent another ten minutes shooting to the right of the road but things didn’t improve much.

So I checked Google Maps on my phone, spotted a promising location on the other side of the hotel and skedaddled. The new spot was truly absolutely amazing and produced some killer images (see below).

Aurora Borealis photography in Iceland
This second location was simply stunning and it blew me away.

In fact, those shots were so nice that I pretty much ignored the stuff I shot at the first location.

And three years came and went by.

Last week, I had some free time and took another look at those first shots. The first thing I noticed was that there was a distracting amount of noise in the foregrounds. I cleaned that up with Topaz DeNoise AI (which wasn’t around back in 2019 when I first processed the images). The Topaz helped, but even so, the individual shots still didn’t impress me much.

I had been shooting with a 14mm lens so each image covered a wide area but not the whole sky. I kinda remembered that this aurora ranged over the entire horizon. So for kicks and giggles, I picked out three of my shots that covered the landscape from the far left to the extreme right. Then I tried to combine them in Photoshop and make a panorama.


And this image was the result.

Aurora Borealis photography in Iceland
‘Volcano Viridescent’ Three frame panorama taken on Feb 28, 2019 near the Langaholt Guesthouse on the Snaeffellsnes Peninsula in western Iceland. The lights of Brimsilsvellir and Grundafjordur can be seen behind the mountain range that runs along the Peninsula’s spine.

I was honestly stunned. The combined image managed to display the entire mass of the aurora and looked like a green volcano erupting into space. And the fire-like glow of distant towns reflecting off a halo of clouds hugging the mountains just added to the illusion.

Just goes to show you. Perspective is key. Any one frame that was used to compose this panorama is just okay, but the combined view is far more than the sum of its parts. I seem to learn life-lessons from photography every day!


Cheers!
Jeff

If you would like to read an in-depth article with tips about how to shoot the aurora, click here.

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. That is an awesome image, Jeff. The panorama stitching worked well, especially for such a wide angle lens.

    1. Thanks Ed. It was quite the challenge. Different ISOs on different parts of the frame. But the challenge was half the fun!

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