Seeing the Northern Lights near Toronto

Seeing the Northern Lights near Toronto

In late June, there was a very strong solar storm that hit Earth. I would not care too much about it, except that it strongly increases the chances of seeing the Aurora (in my case, the Northern Lights). It actually makes it possible to see it a lot further from the arctic circle than usual. In North America, people saw it in the U.S., which is highly unusual.

It happened on a Monday, so the Northern light were extremely strong on that night. Unfortunately, it was completely cloudy in Toronto, so I did not even try to get out. It was a bummer, because the aurora actually turned red, which is quite rare.

The Color Of The Aurora | Cedar Hill Park - Big Bay, ON

The Color Of The Aurora | Cedar Hill Park – Big Bay, ON

The next day, it looked like there was still a lot of solar activity, and the weather was great, so we rented a car and drove 3 hours north of Toronto to Big Bay, near Owen Sound. The goal was to go up to Lake Huron, so there would not be any light pollution over the lake to the North. We found the spot I had looked online, but there was a lamp-post. No way to see the night sky. We drove a few kilometers further and found a nice spot near the lake.

There was another car before us, but after 5 minutes they left. Literally 10 minutes after, the northern lights started above the horizon. I guess those guys just missed it! We stayed for 2 hours and the aurora was still going when we left around 2am.

The Shades Of Green | Cedar Hill Park - Big Bay, ON

The Shades Of Green | Cedar Hill Park – Big Bay, ON

What was really surprising to me is that we saw the lights as white / grey, with only hints of green. My camera, however, was showing green and blue/purple colors without any adjustment. Apparently this is common, but I had never heard of it before. A lot of people talk about the dancing aurora, and it is quite true. The light bounce from one spot to another in the sky, it is absolutely amazing!

As for shooting it, I was quite limited because of my slow lens (f/3.5-5.6) and my cropped-sensor with crazy noise. I shot at ISO 6400 so the exposure would not be too long and I would not blur the northern lights too much.

Before we left, I couldn’t resist and shot the Milky Way (which was to the South) with our Autoshare car:

Milky Way Autoshare | Cedar Hill Park - Big Bay, ON

Milky Way Autoshare | Cedar Hill Park – Big Bay, ON

Autoshare In The Wild | Cedar Hill Park - Big Bay, ON

Autoshare In The Wild | Cedar Hill Park – Big Bay, ON

It was our first time seeing the Northern Lights and it was absolutely fantastic. I really want to plan a trip to Iceland for next year to try to see them in better conditions.

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