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Old March 10th, 2006, 11:32 AM   #1
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Aurora/Northern lights

Hello All:

I did a search and did find some information related to shooting video of the northern lights, however there were no hints or ideas presented in the threads I found.

The deal is that the temperatures here have moved up enough that I can get out and do some work without freezing myself and or the camera.

Right now the sun still sets and the temperature is still low enough that we get some darn good light shows at night.

My question is does anyone have some tricks and or hints that I can try. I use the XL2 as my main camera.

Any help would be greatly appriciated....need it quick, soon it will be 24 hours of daylight and the question will be mute.

Brian
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Old March 10th, 2006, 11:55 AM   #2
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Northern Lights

Hi Brian

Everything on auto, except focus? Seriously, you may be pushing the EV's with the XL2, I've got one and it's not the best for low light stuff.

How static or fluid are they? If they are relatively static then turn the shutter right down; any added gain will really spoil the image, so best avoided, I know this from shooting owls at twilight.

Best of Luck

Keep Warm

Rod C

UK
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Old March 10th, 2006, 01:09 PM   #3
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Hello Rodney:

Interesting and worthy of a try. On the question of static vs fluid it's interesting on some nights you would swear the sky was alive and on others I think the video would look like a string of stills. My desire is to get out on a night that there's lots of activity in an attempt to collect the true feeling of the color changes and wave action.

Thanks for your input, I hope others will throw in there two cents worth as well. If I get the right effect I will be pleased to post the footage for all to see.

Brian
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Old March 10th, 2006, 01:40 PM   #4
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Thought I'd throw this web address up so you can get some idea of the intensity of the lights at my location. The page belongs to by partner in crime he's the stills man. The video he shows is more of a time lapse than a video it's a sequence of stills strung together.

www.Kivalliq.com/Aurora/aurora.html

Brian
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Old March 10th, 2006, 02:02 PM   #5
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Getting good images of auroras on video requires a camera with a lux of at least 2 or 1. I have had good results with the VX2100, but even with shutter speed at 1/4 second and iris open all the way, I've still had to lighten it up some in post to get a satisfactory image. I've tried shooting these with the TRV900 (4 lux) with very poor results that couldn't be enhanced in post.

Of course not all aurora displays are created equal, some are brighter than others, but most are going to require only the best-performing low light cams.
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Old March 10th, 2006, 02:49 PM   #6
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I've been shooting Aurora borealis for years, although not have had that many chances to get good shots. However, couple times have been lucky.

First of all XL2 is not sensitive enough to shoot Northern lights. I recommend a digital still camera and taking a sequence of still photos which are then put together in post. To see what I mean, typical values on a digital SLR are TV=10-20s, AV=2.8-4.0, ISO400-800. That's far more light per "frame" than what you can ever get on the CCD with XL1, XL2 or XL H1.

Also, adjusting the white balance is important. A lot of the photos which are around have a greenish sky, and in my experience, this is a consequence of poorly set WB. The WB may depend on the location, but hear, as low values as 2800-3000 K seem to produce beautiful green (and sometimes red) Northern lights on a deep blue sky, which is very close to what is observed by the eye.

Finally, when you stand there in the darkness and view your images on the small display of a digital camera, you easily get the impression that you have overexposured your shots. I still recommend to stay cool and to fully rely on the camera. Although one get the impression that the Northern lights are really bright, that's not the case. Our eyes, however, get adjusted there in the darkness, and as a result the image of a small display appears like the bi-xeon lights of a modern car.
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Old March 10th, 2006, 11:26 PM   #7
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Hello Lauri:

Like you I have had great success in capturing the lights in stills. I more or less knew it would be tough with the XL2 but was hoping someone in the higher latitudes like yourself had found the secret.

I'll do some messing around just for the heck of it and see what results from it.

Thanks for your input. I still have my fingers crossed that some one has found a trick or two that may help.

Again thanks for the reply.

Brian
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Old March 11th, 2006, 12:58 AM   #8
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Brian, I've tried myself to push XL1 and XL2 to its limits to see how close one can get to take footages of the dark sky. (Have not yet experimented with XL H1.) This is what I've found: if you set gain to maximum, the longest shutter time, and set black=stretch, then indeed, you do get footages of stars or of aurora borealis. Furthermore, if you adjust the curve in post to strengthen the blakcs, the stars/Northern lights become even more visible on the display. But, the output is very noisy, and thus, not that appealing.

The EVF may also cause problems outdoors. The sensitivity of the EVF is rather low, so it's difficult to see anything in it when one shoots stars/northern lights. Focusing is also almost next to impossible without some external display amplifying the signal.

In my understanding the question is of a technical restriction, and there is no way around it unless one had long shutter speeds (say 5-30s) available.
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Old March 11th, 2006, 06:11 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lauri Kettunen
I've been shooting Aurora borealis for years, although not have had that many chances to get good shots. However, couple times have been lucky.

... typical values on a digital SLR are TV=10-20s, AV=2.8-4.0, ISO400-800. That's far more light per "frame" than what you can ever get on the CCD with XL1, XL2 or XL H1.

Also, adjusting the white balance is important. A lot of the photos which are around have a greenish sky, and in my experience, this is a consequence of poorly set WB. .... as low values as 2800-3000 K seem to produce beautiful green (and sometimes red) Northern lights on a deep blue sky, which is very close to what is observed by the eye.

Finally, when you stand there in the darkness and view your images on the small display of a digital camera, you easily get the impression that you have overexposured your shots. I still recommend to stay cool and to fully rely on the camera. Although one get the impression that the Northern lights are really bright, that's not the case. Our eyes, however, get adjusted there in the darkness, and as a result the image of a small display appears like the bi-xeon lights of a modern car.
... this is most instructive Lauri, thank you. I enjoy learning slowly.
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Old March 11th, 2006, 09:10 AM   #10
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In my understanding the question is of a technical restriction, and there is no way around it unless one had long shutter speeds (say 5-30s) available.[/QUOTE]


Your statement above indeed seems to be the truth of the matter. However it's a challenge and there's nothing I enjoy more than a good challenge. I think I'll wait for one of those nights that there bright enough to read a book by and give it a go. This is most often in the fall when the temperatures start to drop. This time of year we get plenty of displays but most often they have a dull glow rather than the crisp even light. I guess it will be September/October before I try.

Thanks for your advice it's much appriciated.

Brian
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