Big Dipper & Aurora Borealis reflection in Minnesota lake

northernlightsbigdipperThis shot of the Big Dipper was taken at 2 am a week ago in Hackensack, when I was visiting my family on Ten Mile Lake in northern Minnesota. Earlier that night there was a storm happening 65 miles away near Brainerd, and we watched it light up the southern skies with a beautiful show of brilliant colored clouds and lightning that lasted about an hour around midnight.

stormyskies(ISO 3200, f/3.5, 6 sec exposure)

Our front row seats on the dock were spectacular!


After parting ways and walking back to my cabin a little further down the lake, I wandered along the shore for a last look at the starry sky. Skies simply aren’t dark enough to see stars like this back home.  The Milky Way was fantastic. And the skies were alive with shooting stars…


(ISO 8000, f2/8, 20 sec exposure)

But what caught my eye was a reflection of the Big Dipper in the water. I crept out on the dock, swinging the beam of my flashlight to illuminate the way. Have to admit I was a little freaked out when a large splash suddenly sounded a few feet away. And then the eerie call of loons echoed around me. A haunting cry sounded louder as a pair emerged from the shadowy reeds directly in front of me and swam past the dock, drifting into the blackness.

I quickly set up my tripod. Didn’t have the right lens for astrophotography–my 14mm Rokinon was at home–so I used what I had, which was my Sony Zeiss 24-70mm, f.28. I dialed it to f/3.5 and kept it open 10 seconds at 8000 ISO. The biggest challenge was simply aiming the lens in the correct line to capture the entire Big Dipper formation, as the scene through the viewfinder was completely black. It took me four tries. And then my battery died.

This was my final image of the night (and trip). Imagine my surprise when I downloaded the image on my computer to see northern lights–cuz they weren’t visible to my naked eye!


I’ve since learned that northern lights often appear after a summer storm around midnight in northern Minnesota skies. Something I shall remember for next time!  😉


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