Our friend Eric is pretty well consumed by being a full time student and working a full time job. So it came as a bit of a pleasant surprise when I got a text message from him asking if I would be interested in trying to shoot the aurora borealis… assuming it appeared. I couldn’t see passing up two good opportunities.. a chance to catch up with Eric for a few hours and a chance to shoot the northern lights from Portland. We agreed that we’d head to the top of Larch Mountain and hope that the aurora appeared. As we headed out from Portland we saw that the sky was heavily obscured by a moisture haze. Both of us figured that the aurora stood little chance of being seen through the mist. Our plans changed slightly and we headed to the Vista House in an attempt to catch the brilliant setting sun. Just missed that spectacle by a about 5 minutes. So we settled in and started waiting to see what the darkness would bring.
We started playing with some shots of the Vista House and soon our flashlights came out. We tried painting the interior of the building with light as the other shot. Then we started painting our light on the building itself. Neither of us had done this before so the results were both varied and magical. Having reviewed my results on a monitor I can say that I need to find a way to get focus. Shining a light on the subject to allow the camera to focus or to get focus manually should be a standard practice. 99% of my shots are hitting the trash due to lousy focus. Lesson learned.
When I moved to the east side of the building to put the city of Portland behind it the sky turned brilliant color. I was a major pain for some folks who were sitting on the front porch of the building waiting for the aurora. I apologized but also figured that I had some right to be there as well. Turns out that it was really a circus of approaching and retreating cars and people milling around the area during our long exposures. Another lesson learned. If I want a clean scene don’t go to a popular area when there is a chance of an unusual event. T’was a bit frustrating but, really, what are you going to do? I put the whole effort down as a learning experience. A new form of photography and some time with a friend…. a nice way to spend a few hours on a warm summer night in Portland, Oregon.