Northern Lights Arcing over Dublin Bay
I wrote a while back of my Aurora adventure in Co. Louth and since then I wondered if it would be possible to see the Northern Lights over my home patch of Dublin Bay . So when the notifications starting coming in thick and fast tonight from Aurora Alert Ireland - and the skies were unexpectedly clear - I headed out about 11pm to the north end of Killiney Hill overlooking Dalkey Quarry.
When I arrived there were certainly no dancing curtains of green - and I wondered if there was any chance with all of Dublin's light pollution. But there were lots of shots being tweeted from Northern Ireland, so I stuck with it for a while.
As my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I could see a faint grey glow above Howth Head which translated into a hint of green on the camera - nothing to tweet home about though! Gradually it brightened to a clear grey arc stretching from Dun Laoghaire Harbour to the Baily Lighthouse. Some colour was barely visible to the naked eye along with a few pillars of light stretching up to Polaris. I quickly started snapping and the camera was clearly seeing bright green! I used the phone camera to do a quick post of a "back of the camera shot" on Twitter - leading to useful help from Ronán on settings - 4 seconds at ISO 800, f2.8 at 55mm on the Canon EFS 17-5mm lens. The arc brightened further but colour was always more imagined than real . . . but the camera was seeing it strongly and I started doing sets of four shots to capture the sweep of light over the Bay.
It quickly tailed off so I soon headed home to develop the results on the computer screen. In Lightroom, auto white balance dealt with the orange glow from the street lighting (this was good on the camera as well for checking in the field). Then I used Lightroom's panorama merge function (Ctrl-M) to stitch my my sets of four. Finally, on the resulting digital negative (DNG) file, I used graduated filters for some dodging and burning to bring out the green in the sky - and to tone back the street lights. I also used the radial filter to tone down a few especially bright lights including the ship in the Bay.
It may not be as dramatic as the results from further north but I'm well pleased with the results of only my second Aurora shoot - especially in a such a light polluted area. Is this the first time anyone has captured the Northern Lights sweeping over Dublin Bay?
Here's a different processing - more colours in the sky but at the expense of of brighter streets.
Keywords: aurora borealis, dublin, dublin bay, dun laoghaire harbour, howth head, ireland, john coveney photography, killiney hill, night shot, northern lights, www.johncoveney.ie
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