Aurora in Analog
It's been a while since I have gone out for a night of shooting, out beneath the stars, long underwear and all but mild April weather and some lighthearted peer pressure got me in the mood to go and see some green snot in the sky.
Predictions indicated heavy activity and with clear sky forecast across the board, excitement was running high throughout the day as I crafted a plan with Herry. I charged my batteries, checked film, and made sure everything was packed before Tashia and I hit the road. Herry took care of scoping locations a la Google Maps and arranged a decent location by the time we picked him up.
This time was different. This time, I was set on shooting the northern lights on film, something I haven't done before. I packed up my last roll of Portra 800 to test my luck at catching something in the sky.
We ended up heading out to an area I have noticed in photos before but never been in person - Zehner, Saskatchewan. Technically, not actually a part of Zehner but a small church on the outer area of the locale (50.600638, -104.523396).
Luckily, we were alone and had the place all to ourselves and our creative expression. There we were, at the cutest little chapel on the prairies, aurora borealis burning up the night sky, and cameras waiting on tripods. To add to this seeming perfect setting, the moon provided effortless fill light for the foreground.
I was a bit nervous about nailing down the exposures, especially with the roll of Expired Provia 100F (Exp. 08-2005) that was currently in Victoria, my Hasselblad 500CM. To get a better idea of what exposure time I would need, I did ample testing with my trusty Canon 70D. Once I knew the exposure and set up a half-decent composition, I set my DSLR on continuous shooting to produce a smooth time lapse.
With my digital firing frames off as if there were no limit, I was free to start calculating exposures to make my image on a much slower medium - Expired Fuji Provia 100F. I decided to rate the film at EI 80, to make up for the 10+ years the film has been sitting for since it's recommended process-by date.
With the various calculations and justifications, I ended up shooting wide open at f/2.8 for 2 minutes and 30 seconds, using the time exposure feature. I stuck to this exposure schedule for the entire roll with the exception of one frame I completely forgot about. It didn't take long before the Provia was spent and it was on to the Portra 800. I have pushed this film two stops on another occasion and I was happy with the results, but these conditions were different than my usual types of subjects. Either way, I figured it was worth a try to capture sharper structure in the aurora and have a bit of grain than less grain and washy aurora.
It was a great few hours with clear skies but we were finally shut down when the clouds rolled in, which was probably a good thing, considering the hour. Now that I have processed and scanned the images, I can't wait for the next perfect opportunity like this to come around (it happens more than you would think); I'll be sure to bring more film.
Oh, yeah. I also did some time lapses!