volvo and the aurora

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    • #420390

      i’m on the tail end of a 10 day trip around iceland.  it’s been raining or foggy for most of the trip, but it cleared up enough two nights ago to see the aurora.  i was staying in an old school house converted into a nice 6 apartment hotel, the owner kept his classic car collection out back so i was able to use one of his volvos as the foreground.

      fuji 50r & 32-64mm.

      40 sec, f/4, iso 1000

    • #420397

      Excellent choice using the Car , the whole scene is class looking beth , nice share and enjoy the views it is a beautiful country.

      Have Fun 😉

      • #420419

        thanks patrick.  it’s been a great trip.  i fly out tomorrow and i really don’t want to go.

    • #420411
      Graham Hart

      What a great shot Beth. I’m trying to learn more about this genre which I have yet to try so I’m wondering if I may ask a few questions? The EXIF interests me a lot. When setting up for a shot like this;

      • did you calculate exposure for the scene as a whole or did you have to consider the car separately because of its reflective surface?
      • I thought long exposure shots commonly used ISO100 for maximum sensitivity so did you use ISO1000 because you wanted the long 40sec exposure specifically to capture the Aurora better without blowing out the car?
      • f4 seems fast for a distant sky shot. Does this mean you were using Shutter Priority (to get the 40secs) and the camera chose f4?

      Only way to learn is to ask questions I reckon so hope you don’t mind my inquisitiveness.

      • #420421

        thanks graham.  i’ve had the same questions as you in the past so i don’t answering what i can for you.  sorry, i’ve answered your questions out of order and clumped together because they are all closely related with why i picked certain settings.

        normally with astro shots you want iso 1600-3200 and your widest aperture.  f/4 was my widest (on a medium format so it acts like a wider full frame lens).  for the shutter speed you want to go with something faster than (500/35mm equiv. focal length).

        i shot at 32mm.  my full frame equivalent focal length is 25.6mm.  500/25.6 gives me roughly 20 seconds, so to keep the stars from moving i wanted to shoot at 20 seconds or faster.

        you also use manual focus and set the focus to infinity.  i was lucky enough that at the distance i was shooting everything from the car to the sky was in focus.  otherwise it would have taken two shots, one for the foreground, one for the sky.

        i’ve read you can capture a strong aurora in 10-15 seconds.

        in reality the aurora was not strong, it was very weak.  to the naked eye it looked like a thin wispy cloud with no color.  i’m not sure if you ever see color in the aurora but it’s definitely not what you see in photos.  10-15 seconds at a higher iso wasn’t going to cut it.  20 seconds gave me a single streak of pale green color.  40 seconds gave me some unwanted movement to the stars, but it gave the aurora more time to move around and give me what you see here.

        i didn’t do anything different to the car, though if it had blown out i would have shot it separately and blended the two exposures.  same thing with the focus, if i couldn’t get it in focus i would have shot two frames and blended them.  the car was lit by the light from the hotel.  a larger hotel would have resulted in a blown out car.  i got really lucky with the hotel light, all i had to do was cool it down in lightroom.

        if i used iso 100 vs. iso 1000 i would have had to have a much longer exposure time which would have resulted in longer star trails.  iso 100 is a great choice for the typical long exposure like a waterfall.  but for astro you start around iso 1600-3200.  if i’d used iso 100 my shutter speed would have gone from 40 seconds to over 300 seconds (3 1/3 stops of light longer).  if i had gone higher to iso 1600 or 3200 which i normally would have done for a milky way shot then my shutter speed would be around 20 seconds (the ideal shutter speed for eliminating star trails at this focal length) there wouldn’t have been as much time for the aurora to move around.  so it was a lot of trial and error and playing around.


        notes for when you try some astro (not aurora) photography for yourself.

        high iso – 1600-3200

        widest maximum aperture and manual focus at infinity (double check in the viewfinder if you can)

        shutter speed  = 500/35mm equiv. focal length or faster to eliminate star trails

        tripod and shutter release cable.

        shoot a second shot for the foreground.  this is the only astro shot i’ve ever taken that worked in one exposure.

        • #420520
          Graham Hart

          Thanks so much for the info Beth. I think I got my wires crossed about the ISO. Of course 100 would not be the setting to use in a night shot (give self 20 gangster slaps!).

          Widest aperture possible also makes sense for an astro shot. As you said, normally a second shot for foreground exposure is used so this is indeed a unique shot.

          I have a feeling it’ll take a few goes before I get anywhere close once I try this genre. Thanks again for the advice and info.

          • #420688

            it takes a few tries to get it right.  and a lot of the milky way stuff is done in post.  the one thing you want to do is get a star app or software to figure out where the milky way will be at what time.

            the 27th was the last night of the trip.  the aurora was amazing that night.  i was capturing it with 5 second exposures.  still used f/4 and iso 1000-1600.  i could see it moving and see green in the sky.

    • #420412
      Robert Apple

      Nice photo Beth, though I’m having trouble processing a Volvo as a Classic Car.

      • #420420

        thanks robert.  haha, i figured the volvo’s older than me by a few decades so it must be a classic.

    • #420449
      Dahlia Ambrose

      Great image Beth. Love it so much 🙂

      • #420689

        thanks dahlia

    • #420481

      Nice one Beth, well done!

      • #420690

        thanks tobie

    • #420482
      John Thompson

      Well done Beth!  I envy you on your trip to Iceland.  I visited once while living in Europe.  I really enjoyed it.

      • #420693

        thanks john.  iceland is every bit as wonderful as i imagined it would be.  i bet you’ve seen a lot of great countries in your time.

    • #420502
      Rob Eyers

      Nice one Beth. I just returned from Iceland yesterday myself so it’ll be interesting to see your images. We only had two nights with some aurora too.

      • #420692

        thanks rob.  we saw it the night before this was taken but missed it because we thought it was a cloud.  the night i took this it looked like a weird cloud because it stretched across the sky in a v shape.  so i tried taking some shots and found out it wasn’t a cloud.

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