A Sometimes Early Riser

It’s not often that I’m the early bird. Night owl, absolutely. But when you stay up late like we do, you don’t tend to race the sun in the morning. When I do happen to be awake early in the morning, it’s almost always because we’ve got early plans…or I woke up early and found the sights out our upstairs windows too inspirational not to grab the camera.

Last night, I knew we had a chance of northern lights, so I was watching my online feeds to see if I should venture out with my camera. Around midnight, we started the bedtime routine with our furry house companions, and decided we’d let our text messaging service alert us if the solar storm ramped up. After all, we had plans for some routine maintenance on the car in Traverse City around 10:00, so our usual 9:00am wake time wasn’t going to cut it.

Sometime shortly after 4:00 Tony’s phone rang. He didn’t recognize the number, but it woke us up enough to check on the aurora alerts. As luck would have it, the storm was expected to surge in about 50 minutes. I grabbed all my gear – including layers because it was 45-degrees! – and headed for Torch Lake.

I huddled on a bench on the south end of Torch for over an hour, capturing over 100 images of the dancing northern lights. Normally I’d be disappointed in any cloud cover, but I actually quite like the little bit of color the Alden light pollution adds (Alden is the little town on the right side of the image whose marina lights are painting the photo orange). As the storm wound down, I packed my gear, and headed back to bed.

One of the first photos I shot
aurora 8-28 beginning

A photo about halfway through the set
aurora 8-28 middle

The last photo before I called it quits
aurora 8-28 end

And while I very much enjoy these aurora photos, I can’t help but wish I had played my usual night owl; despite the storm intensity being greater around 5:00am, there was more of a light display in the hours I slept through. I’m still happy with these. These are enough 🙂

15-second time-lapse. Please ignore the way oversaturated image that youtube created for this. Link to the same video on Flickr follows for those who can’t view youtube. Enjoy!

Aurora Excitement

Man o man, I’m excited! I spent some time over the weekend editing the hundreds of aurora photos I took at the very beginning of October. I had good intentions – I planned to edit them quickly and then share them out. Only I got busy making and sharing other images, and hanging out with people I rarely get to see, and going places I don’t often go. Which is all a way of saying life got in the way.

But, I made time, and progressed a bit on the learning curve of time-lapse video making. I’ve still got a ways to go (not sure why the video is so grainy – the photos that went into it were not…), but I’m going to take my time and enjoy the process.

I hope you enjoy the video. I’m pretty proud of my efforts. And you know what? This isn’t a bad substitute for color and sunshine what with November being itself 😉

(If you can’t see YouTube videos for any reason, I’ve also uploaded this one to my Facebook page along with more images, and I’ll be getting it up on Flickr sometime in the not-too-distant future.)

The Porkies Pay Off

After our morning stops, we arrived at the Porcupine Mountains State Park and prepared for a Lake of the Clouds hike. We tossed some health food (crackers, pepperoni, and highly cheese slices) and water in our packs and consulted a map. From a previous trip, we knew we wanted to see a few things in the park, so we opted for an out-and-back walk along the escarpment adjacent to the Lake of the Clouds instead of a giant loop.
Carp River - Porcupines

Fall color is a funny thing close to the lakeshore. Move inland just a bit and red and oranges abound. But near the coast, where the water moderates weather changes, and the leaves retain much of their green pigment.

Lake of the Clouds

I’m not sure what the winds were like elsewhere, but terrific gusts accompanied our trek. The trail meandered onto rocky outcroppings and through hardwood forest. The leaves overhead clattered, but the woods still seemed quiet by comparison to the blustery exposed trail.

The wind holds Meg up. You know how you can blow across the top of a bottle and make it whistle? I have a photo of Meg doing this same thing by turning her open mouth just so in the wind. I’m a decent friend, though, so I only shared it with her. But, seriously, it was windy.
Meg at Lake of the Clouds
Lake of the Clouds-2

At some point, we checked the time and decided to turn back so we could enjoy some different scenery. Not that this was hard on the eyes – we just had limited daylight and another hike beckoned.
Lake of the Clouds pano

After a wrong turn, we arrived at the southwestern end of the park in late afternoon. The normally tame Presque Isle River roared with input from recent rains. I had looked forward to playing in the riverbed, but I didn’t struggle to enjoy this unexpected change in scenery.

We arrived on the shores of Lake Superior in the golden hour before sunset. Should we stay to watch the show, or head back on the other side of the river while there’s still sun to light the trail? Sunset.
sunset promise

awash in gold

Tony and Meg sidled up to a piece of driftwood, and I wandered around with my camera.
best seat in the houseLake Superior Sunset
liquid and gold

Lake Superior Sunset-4

We loitered on the beach until only the last vestiges of light remained, safe in the knowledge that we could walk the nearby paved road back to the car.
Lake Superior Sunset-3

We snacked on the remains of our healthy munchies in full dark before beginning the long drive back to Munising. As we crossed back into cell phone territory, our phones all chimed with missed notifications – the kind of thing you generally ought to ignore when you’re with real people. But not when the notifications alert you to aurora, and you’re near the Lake Superior coast, and seeing the aurora is on your friend’s bucket list.

aurora over Lake Superior-2
aurora over Lake Superior-3

We didn’t catch the brightest showing of the lights on Lake Superior, but wrapped in fleece blankies among the gentle shoreline breezes, we enjoyed what we could see. And as my friend Carol says, that’s enough. More than enough, actually.

See the Big Dipper?
aurora over Lake Superior-4

If you want to check them out, many of these images are available larger and in much higher quality in my Upper Peninsula Flickr set.

Simply Astonishing

The kind, watchful folks at NOAA issued a minor magnetic storm watch on September 30 – to take place from late last night and through the following 48 hours. Then they upgraded the storm from minor to moderate. And they also forecasted that the storm would actually arrive late today. But I’ve (at least a little) learned my lesson about cameras and readiness. I had an empty memory card and two batteries charged for the evening. And I wasn’t disappointed.

I had just crawled between the sheets, prepared to wind down for the night – you know, like normal people do at midnight 😉 – with some Harry Potter. And then someone texted Tony. Frustration didn’t even occur to me. I knew exactly who would be texting that late. I read about 10 pages of Harry’s next adventure before donning outdoor attire and hitting the road.

We have seen taller aurora, and we have seen more active aurora (though it did change character much later in the night, doing the whole strobing thing that I swear should make noise, but doesn’t), but we have never seen more colorful aurora. I have hundreds more photos, but these are some of the prettiest, and they show a fun progression. Taken from 12:46am – 12:48am. I’m including both a slideshow (for speed-clickthrough fun) and large versions, which link to even bigger versions on flickr if you want to check them out in ginormous form 😉

Hope these make your day just a teensy bit brighter (And for those who ask – feel free to share the love.) 🙂

Click any image for the super-size version
Torch Lake Aurora

Torch Lake Aurora-2

Torch Lake Aurora-3

Torch Lake Aurora-4

Torch Lake Aurora-5

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