Tag Archives: Northern Lights

Northern Lights Memorial Day Weekend 2017 (video)

Lady Aurora danced over northern Minnesota this Memorial Day Weekend 2017. It was a great night to be out in the wilderness. I took both videos of the Northern Lights with my Sony A6000 with an ISO setting of 3,200. Normally folks do time lapse videos, but I was actually able to take “real time videos” ! In the second video you are able to hear Common Loons calling in the background. All night long the birds sang … confused by the bright light which made them think it was pre-dawn.

The first image was taken before true darkness … lingering light after sunset. Crazy Beautiful.

Little Stone Lake near Brimson, Minnesota (45 miles north of Duluth)

The Deeps (200 yards from the end of my driveway in Duluth)

The Videos …

Lady Aurora Danced at Midnight! (Northern Lights)

I watched Lady Aurora dance at midnight! She was shy at first, and forced me to wait for over 3 hours behind her “green glow”, but the queen of the night skies finally came out and performed!

My photos were taken last night (March 1/2) on a frozen lake in northern Minnesota. The temperature was 10F with a brisk wind starting to blow out of the Northwest. The Northern Lights display last night was NOT a “classic” rays shooting skyward. Instead bands of color turned on and off, sometimes blinking to appear only for a few seconds, followed by the lights flashing on in a totally different part of the sky. Totally cool … just different.

Finally, it pays to dress warmly. I had on thermal underclothes, a wool sweater, a jacket liner plus a heavy coat. In addition to gloves, I was wearing a pair of heavy mittens. The coup de grace were my Steger Mukluks. My toes were nice and warm the entire time I was outside!

On my Facebook page some friends asked me if I would share my photography settings. Here are the details for my selfie … ISO = 3200; Exposure = 10 seconds; Aperture = 2.0 with White Balance set to Auto. I was using a Sony A6000 mirrorless camera with a Rokinon 12 mm wide angle lens. My Northern Lights page gives much more details about viewing the Northern Lights and camera settings. These photograph settings were “not” what I started with last night, but a totally dark sky (no moon) caused me to up the ISO while an active Aurora allowed me to shorten the exposure.

In terms of the question … “Do these images approximate what I actually saw?”. The answer is “yes”. I do not like to push my light sensitivity up (ISO) and record something completely different than what I saw with my naked eye. If I am going to stand for hours in the extreme cold on frozen lakes, I want my camera images to reflect my actual experiences! In addition, it would have been extremely difficult to see last night’s display if I had not been in northern Minnesota in an area almost devoid of any light pollution. Unfortunately most Americans live either too far south, or in urban areas where cities lights do not allow one to experience the wonder of the night time skies.

Lady Aurora Dances

In a Frozen Bog … Waiting and Watching the Green Glow

Planning your Winter Minnesota Northern Lights Trip

While most folks dream of a trip to Iceland or Norway to view the Northern Lights, here in northern Minnesota we are able to frequently view the Aurora Borealis. This fact is not due to luck, but rather due to our closer proximity to the magnetic north pole than any other location in the United States. Thus, the question arises how is a person able to maximize their probability of seeing the Aurora in Minnesota? This post gives detailed instructions; however please understand that Lady Aurora is a fickle woman and even when predicted she may not dance across the sky. Thankfully here in northern Minnesota with our gorgeous wilderness including thousands of crystal clear lakes and huge forests, we are a dream location for the person who enjoys the outdoors.  Duluth was recently voted top outdoor city in America by Outside Magazine.

Why Northern Minnesota?

Simply put, because you can see the Northern Lights. Take a look at the two charts given immediately below. The Aurora is caused by the earth’s magnetic field, which is centered around the magnetic north pole which is located in Hudson’s Bay. Based upon past Auroras, scientists measure the intensity of the Northern Lights using a term called “Kp”. You are likely to see the Aurora Borealis in northern Minnesota near the Canadian border if the Kp is 4 or greater.

Aurora Borealis Viewing Oval

North America Kp Viewing Chart

Predicting When the Aurora will Dance

Aurora Borealis forecasts make weather forecasts appear “extremely reliable”. How many times have you been outside on what was forecast to be a sunny day only to get rained upon. Northern Lights forecasts are based upon the Solunar cycle and trying to measure the effect of sunspot activity directed towards earth. If the direction a sunspot shoots its power changes just a fraction of a degree differently than expected, the effect misses earth. It’s a big universe, and we don’t have anyone of the surface of the sun measuring sunspot outputs and direction.

  • Use the date sensitive tools on my main Northern Lights Viewing web page to plan ahead for your trip … from 28 days in advance to the current conditions.

My Two Favorite Winter Viewing Locations

Viewing the Aurora is fun, but temperatures in northern Minnesota often plunge to dangerously low levels. These two locations are within an hour’s drive of the northern edge of Duluth, and have very dark skies where you may watch the Northern Lights from inside your heated car. (in the Summer … mosquito free!).

DO NOT USE GPS or GOOGLE MAPS DIRECTIONS!!! If you follow my directions, you will safely reach each location via good roads. Google may put you on unpassable winter roads where you will get stuck miles from civilization. Your cell phone will not work. You will be off the grid.

Greenwood Lake Public Boat Access: Drive north from Two Harbors on Lake County #2. Shortly after you see a highway sign for Greenwood Creek (about 1/3 mile), the public boat access will be on your right. It is normally plowed out in the winter allowing you to park your car right against the shoreline pointed North / Northeast.

A photograph of the author, and also taken by the author (10 second shutter delay) at Greenwood Lake in August 2016 during a rare sunrise Aurora.

Little Stone Lake: Drive from the Duluth area using Pequaywan Lake Road to Rt. #611 (Hopper Road); Left onto Stone Lake Bridge Road; Left onto Drummond Rd (North Little Stone Lake Road). DO NOT TAKE Drummond Rd in the other direction. When you reach Little Stone Lake you will find yourself on an earthen dam road with great views to the North / Northeast. Just pull over towards the side of the road in the very unlikely event someone should need drive by you. At the end of the earthen dam their is a small plowed public boat access where you will be able to turn around your car.

A photograph taken by the author at Little Stone Lake during the St. Patrick’s Day 2015 Aurora. The Aurora is reflected in refreeze snow melt lake ice.