A touch of Aurora

Northern lights are most common in the northern parts of Norway, but at times the sun activity is so strong that the lights are visible also where I live, that is, 60 km north of Oslo. On April the 22nd the Aurora forecast suggested kp 6 or 7 during the night/evening, which meant that the aurora might be visible pretty far south. I was anxious to further test out the Pentax K-1 and what it could deliver after dark had set in, so I headed out.

After waiting for about 1 1/2 hour it was sufficiently dark around 23.30 to actually see the greens coloring the northern horizon and I began shooting. Sky/highlights were 30 secs at iso 3200 and iso 6400 as it became increasingly darker. 30 secs turned out to be a tad too much since that resulted in slightly stretched stars in the corners at 15mm. 25 secs would have been better. My exposures for the shadows were at iso 3200 and 90 secs. All shot wide open, that is, f2.8. According to various reviews the Pentax 15-30 is one of the sharpest lenses out there wide open. At f2.8 it even beats the renowned Nikkor 14-24.

Have to admit I had a great time out there in the dark shooting various comps for almost two hours, and my at times bothersome fear of the dark was forgotten as I was embraced by the moments.

The next day I reviewed the raw files and as far as I can tell the Pentax was definitely on par with my Canon 6D which has been lauded for its very good high iso performance. Noise and color noise were very well controlled by the Pentax and it yielded images far more detailed than what the 6D delievers. My shadow exposures were crisp and clean, that is, no magenta color cast appeared in dark areas when bringing up the blacks and shadows sliders in Lightroom. I was also impressed by the dynamic range the Pentax offered at the two aforementioned iso settings.

The first image I have edited from that night (a blend of two exposures – under the tab “Learning” you find a link to how I blended the two):

NL pentax

Note: Only basic raw sharpening and noise reduction are applied to the image in Lightroom.

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