What Makes Tim Tick #1 - Chasing Aurora


EDIT: Thank you to everyone for the overwhelming response to this video (scroll down and click on the Chasing Aurora pic). It's an odd thing when you set out to write a blog post for your wedding celebrancy website and the video ends up with over 400k views from facebook shares, news website posts and tweets. Thanks! 

Working with a wedding celebrant is a unique relationship. Unless you are lucky enough to have a good friend who is also a celebrant, chances are your celebrant is going to be the person at your wedding that you have known for the shortest length of time.

They will also be the person talking the most! So it’s good if you’ve had the chance to get to know them.

With my blog, along with sharing stories of my ceremonies (on the way), I hope to provide a window into my world, and show what makes me tick – so I’m less of a stranger. I’d like to share my experiences, interests, achievements and just general brain bubblings.

To start, I’d love to share this spectacular aurora experience I had on a clear evening in April 2018.

[Click below to view timelapse in HD]


Living in Hobart, Tasmania I am so lucky to be exposed to so many natural wonders. Hands down, my absolute favourite is the Aurora Australis, or “southern lights”. Within a 5 minutes’ drive from the Hobart CBD, you can see this mesmerising display through a camera. Travel a little bit further afield, like to my favourite viewing spot at South Arm, and with the right conditions you can see the aurora with your own naked eye. Tuesday 10 April 2018 was one of those special nights, where the tall dancing light beams could be seen without a camera. So amazing! I’m super glad I DID bring my camera though.

Of course, this is not a very glamourous endeavour. For four hours, on the edge of a cliff, I sat on a shopping bag to stop my bum from getting muddy. The thundering southern ocean was crashing below me. Luckily for me, the mosquitos stayed away this time; although the possums that live in the sea cliffs came out to say hello.

I’ve been chasing auroras for just a year now. It’s embarrassing to think that I had been living in Tasmania for over 15 years, without knowing you could witness this phenomenon in my new home State. It has become quite addictive; trying to capture a better photo each time. Trying out different lenses and camera settings. Learning about how to focus to true infinity. Scouting out new locations. So far in 2018, I had gone out at least a dozen times, but cloud has always gotten in the way. But this time the cloud cleared and BAM!

This was the first aurora experience which I intentionally set out to create a time-lapse of, rather than just still images. There was a shot of adrenaline and a moment of both glee and panic when I took my first test shot. It was 7:10pm and the display was already happening! I had to decide on my composition and settings quickly. I would not be able to change them once they were set.

For those interested, those settings were:
Camera: Nikon D750
Lens: Samyang 24mm f1.4
Shutter speed: 13 seconds
Aperture: f2.2 (to try and keep some sharpness in the cliffs)
ISO: 4000
WB: 4550k

To save battery, I only reviewed images from time to time. There was stunning colour all night, with what appeared to be a yellow/red/yellow layering.

Being a school night, I had planned to stay out for only a few hours. BUT.IT.JUST.KEPT.GOING.

At 10pm, it was beginning to thin out and I decided to wait a few minutes before packing up. All of the online gauges and forecast apps were saying it was all over. Then, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, there were beams shooting all over the sky! I was staying put.

At 11pm, it was still pulsing, but alas my battery was at its end (I did have a fully charged spare, but I really had to get home) and so it was time to pack up.

All up, just under 4 hours of cosmic fireworks. What a night!

The question everyone asks about the aurora is whether you can just see it, or if it’s as colourful as the photos. The answer is sometimes and no.

If you are far enough away from light pollution (even a city like Hobart has light pollution), and there is no moon and the aurora is dancing, then what you see can be described as smudged chalk marks on a blackboard. It’s generally grey; only sometimes with a hint of colour. Quite often, you can see just a glow of grey on the horizon.

The photos that you see are coming out of a camera that can take in information over an extended period of time. The video above had a shutter speed of 13 seconds. Our eyes just can’t do that. Also, images have been processed in programs like Lightroom, to really bring out the colours.

So, if you can’t see the colours, is it worth going out to look at a smudged blackboard? Yes. Absolutely yes!