Photographs by James Collett

Landscape Photography from Scotland

Aurora at A’Chleit

So last night my phone started binging like mad with aurora alerts, cue the made rush to pack my stuff and head out to capture the Aurora at A’Chleit in Kinyre.

My original thoughts were to head to a place I had been in the past and had good success but as I drove past A’Chleit I changed my mind and headed there, glad I did.

Be Reactive

As I was driving down the track to the A’Chleit church I was thinking I wanted an image with the church in it and the Aurora glowing behind.

I walked along the beach but couldn’t really find a decent foreground, the tide was coming in to high and fast. Along this area of the shoreline is pebbles and when the water comes in that fast and high the pebbles move, not ideal when you are shooting long exposures.

There was one composition I did like but there was no way I was risking the camera as the water would have tipped the tripod over and I would have got soaked, not ideal at 1°C.

So, at this point I decided to head to the Northside of the church to the rocks that were there. I remembered saying to myself years ago that it may make a decent night shoot from there as you have an unobstructed view to the North.

Rays Jamesy…Rays

I quickly found a composition I liked and got setup and a few test shots, well actually a lot of test shots. One thing about shooting the Northern Lights, especially as far South as we are in the UK is you never quite know when the aurora is showing, ok if you are experienced at shooting it then you can tell or at least think that it is showing.

My test shots were showing a slight green arc showing, I had not long received a red alert from the Glendale Twitter account, which is pretty accurate so I was a bit disappointed with what I was seeing.

I checked their app as this shows what other users are seeing at their locations and gives a really good indication if you will be able to see it also, if you have a clear night and not a full or near full moon.

A lot of people were seeing it so I kept waiting.

Last night we had a 71% moon, usually for Milkyway Photography I won’t bother with anything over a half moon as it really overpowers the light from the stars, but last night it actually helped.

I was about 45 minutes in and my patience starting to wear thin…I went for a wander.

I walked over the the rock and beach area to the West of the church to see if there was another composition, as I seen a decent area I looked to see if it was pointing to the North…wait, what’s that!!! Rays Jamesy…Rays!

Patience

My patience very nearly cost me here. I sprinted back to where thankfully I had left my camera setup. I could see the rays from the aurora start to dance in the sky with the naked eye, I was buzzing.

I shot away until this little burst from the aurora passed, it lasted between 5 and 10 minutes and I apologise to the residents at A’Chleit if they thought there was some crazy creature roaming around as I couldn’t contain my excitement as I jumped around making weird noises.

But, as I said I very nearly missed this. I said to myself take the camera over to the rocks over to the West but as I looked to the North again I decided to leave the camera where it was, just in case. What a decision that turned out to be.

As I said, it only lasted 5 to 10 minutes but in terms of the images that to me were the best out of the bunch I reckon I captured 3 in the space of a minute that I was really happy with where you see the red dancers also.

So, I need more patience when out shooting.

Canon RP, Samyang f2.8 14mm prime lens with the EF adapter shot at f2.8, ISO 2000 for 20 seconds.

Aurora at A'Chleit
Aurora at A’Chleit

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Photography Geek Talk

Most of this post has been photography talk but a little of the image itself.

As soon as I walked down the steps to the shore I could see the little bay with the rocks leading the viewer out to the North which was ideal for what I was wanting.

In terms of exposure I experimented quite a bit here, I went down to 10 seconds in some images and for sharpness in the stars it worked pretty well but in all honesty I wasn’t too bothered about the stars here, I wanted the aurora so went with the 20 second exposure.

I had various ISO settings also but just at the time I captured the image it was at 2000, no particular reason for that.

I also tried a few images at f4, with higher ISO to compensate for the 1 stop loss from f.2.8 but in terms of image sharpness I never really noticed much difference.

The final edit I went for was a 1:1 crop, I felt there was too much negative space at the sides as you can see in the rough image below:

16:9 version with negative space

Feel free to Contact me with any questions or queries and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.

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2 Comments

  1. Jane Lurie February 24, 2022

    Fantastic capture, James. It must be a thrill to see and photograph.

    • PbJC1250 February 26, 2022

      Thanks Jane,
      I don’t do it often enough so when I do go out and capture it and gets nights like this it makes it even better. Lucky where I stay as we have dark skies which helps a lot.

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