First of all you might wonder why to go skiing at night. That is a question pretty easy to answer.
I love to experience the art and power of nature. And to do that in the silence of mountain with a good friend is just amazing.
I have had the idea of an image combining skiing and Northern light for a long time. To capture this I knew I needed time. Last February I spent one month in Senja, a Norwegian island located far up North in this elongated country. It was said that 2013 would be an a really good year for Northern light, due to the activity on the suns surface. According to some Northern light hunters we met, that wasn’t the case. Winter 2013/2014 will most likely be better.
I got really obsessed with Northern light forecasts, and checked Aurora Forecast daily. On the 10th of February 2013 it looked good, so Oscar Hübinette and I headed up in the mountains.
In addition to all the ski touring gear I brought this in my camera backpack:
Oscar and I started to skin up the mountain. So far no Northern light, but a crystal clear black sky with millions of stars. We headed up about 400 vertical meters and suddenly the Northern light started. The green light wondered the sky and we couldn’t stop staring until I broke the silence and said “Oscar, we need to capture some photos!”
I found a spot straight away; a good slope with an amazing backdrop of mountains and sky. I threw a snowball so Oscar knew where to make the turn. This snowball also helped me to get the focus right as well as making my desired composition possible. Oscar headed up (so he could get speed for the photo) while I started to arranged with all the photo gear. I put the flash on the monopod, connected it to the battery pack and placed it aiming towards the snowball. I checked the memory card and the battery of the camera. I put the camera on the tripod, set the focus, made the final composition and also checked that the remote trigger system worked. I checked that the remote trigger system for the camera worked. I also checked that the flash fired when I pressed the button on the transmitter. Finally I checked the exposure via the histogram of a test image. Now I was ready with the remote transmitter for the flash in my left hand and so was a cold Oscar. He had been waiting in the cold while I was making myself ready.
This was the procedure to capture the first image:
The first image was a failed one due to Oscar’s position cutting the horizon. His legs and skis are looking good, but his upper body looks like a ghost. This is because I got too much light from the sky before Oscar was captured doing his turn. And this is really hard to predict.
Lesson learned: Oscar need a solid and preferably dark background while making the turn!
We made another try and I put him in front of a darker background.
And the result was much better!
Now I am going to tell you why I almost caught the perfect image.
It all goes down to white balance. A light source transmits light in different temperatures measured in Kelvin (K). The flash I used transmitted light in 5.500K. If I want white to be white I need to set the cameras white balance on 5.500K. Here is the problem I didn’t think of. As I did the editing of the images, I realized the sky and the Northern light looked best at app.3.300K, but if I tune in 3.300K on the image the sky looks great but the snow and the skier gets blue.
Lesson learned: To get the sky to look good the flash need a filter decreasing the temperature to app. 3.300K.
We tried hard to capture our perfect ski image in Northern light. We almost got it. I thought I planned it well, but I didn’t think about the Kelvin-challenge. I guess we go for
another try next year. Still so many photos to capture in Northern light. I always aim for the perfect image, but never get there.
And that I like!