Home of the Northern Lights

By Jan Curtis

These images are intended for non-commercial, educational uses and are
copyrighted (1999, Jan Curtis).


Auroral Arc

Corona Formation

Curtain with Rays

My preference for aurora film is definitely Kodak's Ektapress 800 print (negative) film. Below is the results from November and December 1999.

Twenty minutes before the year 2000, as fireworks started up in celebration, I ventured outdoors at -45°F to capture an intense but brief storm. Exposure f/2 @ 5 sec.

Near the time of full moon, I am surprised at the photo opportunities when bright aurora are visible. Here is an example when a unexpected display, color corrected was captured on 24 December at 12:30AM. Exposure f/2, 8 sec.

Timing is everything. This brief storm lasted only 8 minutes on 6 December at 9PM. Note multiple bands which covered the entire sky. Looking east.

A few minutes later looking over northern horizon bright B-type aurora with cascading rays dominate sky.

I like activity overhead as well as on the horizon. Here is a complex formation of bright and dark lanes. Take on 5 December at 8:35PM, f/2 @ 15 sec.

As this display rose from the horizon, it took on subtle colors:
  • rising band
  • tall ray
  • tall ray...date unknown

    On 18 November, I captured the continuation of the storm under bright moonlight.
  • Colorful setting with band and tall rays. F/2, 12 secs, 35 mm lens.

    I similar shot as above but portrait orientation
  • Looking towards Ester Dome @ 10 sec.


    On 18 November, 1999, took a few shots at f/2, 10-12 seconds then storm began at 10:15 PM using Kodak's Royal Gold 400..
  • Curtain as observed to the east near maximum intensity.

    On 17 November, 1999, a few photos were taken between 9:15PM and 9:30PM under moonlit skies looking NW.
  • large band. Note how bright the snow looks on the road.

    On 23 October, 1999 at 10:30PM under full moon, captured what appears as daylight sky (except note stars) of
  • aurora to north.

    On 11 October, 1999, between 8:45PM-9:15PM moderately faint but very detailed display to NW. Captured tall drape with red using Royal Gold 400, f/1.4 (left: 12 sec, center 9 sec, right 5 sec).
  • colorful curtain. Enlarge of
  • 5 Second exposure. Note detail! A little bit later, the
  • Classic Alaskan scene.
  • Bright Surge

    Mid-September 1999, at 10PM A.D.T., even a less than spectacular display can result in an intersting photo opportunity. Same film used as on 15 September (below) except setting was f/8 @ 30 seconds.

  • stationary band...looking north with house lights on autumn foliage.


    During an unusual period of clear skies, the first half of September 1999 was impressive, with no fewer than 5 auroral storms occurring over Alaska. Below is just a sample of images from each storm.

    The following is my account of this night's activity:

    "On 15 September, 1999, using Ektapress 800, I took 20 exposures at f/2 from 4 to 15 seconds. Featured twilight band (moderate) on horizon from 0630UT (10:30 A.D.T.) (Pics: #1, #2, & #3), Storming at 07UT, captured full sky display (e & w) with strong reds lower border (pics #4 & #5). Quit observing at 07:50UT as display quieted with multiple bands (some rays within (pics: #6 & #7)."

  • PIX 1: band and rays with twilight...looking nw
  • PIX 2: band broadening...note satellite streak in bowl of big dipper...a minute later...color corrected from negative
  • PIX 3: band developing folds...looking ne
  • PIX 4: partial corona...looking overhead
  • PIX 5: Type B aurora...storm front hits with bright lower red on band.
  • PIX 6: multiple bands...as storm weakens
  • PIX 7: multiple bands...house lights trees

    The following is my account of this night's activity:

    "Minor storm at 10:50PM on 12 September 1999 lasted 10 minutes with nice reds on bottom arc. Observed from 10:45PM to 11:20PM. Photographed about 17 shots using Fuji 800 at f/2 and f/1.4, exposures from 5 to 12 seconds. Some thin clouds present. Color of aurora to eye lacked green and appeared mostly light yellow to white."

  • very bright band...looking ne
  • very bright band...looking nw
  • band becoming more defined...looking nw
  • most intense part of storm...looking nw
  • very bright band with red bottom (twilight on horizon). A few minutes later looking northwest. Yet another view of the display.

    Before midnight on 10 September 1999, a brief but intense aurora developed. Using Fuji's new 800 NHGII print film, 35 mm lens at f/2.0 (exposure under 10 seconds), I attempted to photograph some unusual formations as noted below:

  • broad spiraling band...looking ne (landscape), portrait orientation
  • broad band...looking to nw, then a few minutes later multi-bands...converging to nw horizon.

    Just after midnight (local time) on 7 September 1999, a major aurora storm was captured on film. All exposures were 12 seconds at f/2 using 35mm lens and Kodak's Ektapress 640 negative (print) film.

  • rays...extending towards the zenith
  • fully developed curtain...note bright rays embedded (Jupiter to left)
  • bright rays...as curtain becomes distorted
  • bright band...with multi-colored rays to right
  • red vs green...Jupiter just above center of shack & Saturn to its left

    Between 11PM and 11:30PM, A.D.T. on 31 August 1999, I captured a very vigorous northern lights display from atop of Ester Dome, just a few miles NW of Fairbanks and nearly 2,000 feet above the valley floor. Despite very strong twilight, I managed get some interesting shots. Used same film as on 7 Sep 99.

  • rays...tall rays merging with twilight
  • arc...nice arc over the antennae.
  • arcs...detached segments
  • arc...strong arc
  • Climax...at height of storm (last of twilight on horizon)

    More images from the 6 March 1999 aurora storm. Camera setting and film used is the same as from the first set of images below.

  • contrast...taken seconds apart (rayed arc)
  • rays...fine structure
  • bright glow...snow in trees resemble small animals
  • corona...unusual red surrounding green formation
  • band...very bright through trees
  • band...with rays (trees lit by driveway light)

    On 6 March 1999, the first significant aurora storm to occur this winter was captured during the time a nearly full moon was rising. Exposures were 10 to 15 seconds at f/2.0, using my 35 mm lens and Kodak's PJM-2 (Ektapress, multi-speed film, developed at ASA 640). Star images are crisper by stopping down one f-stop from maximum aperture openning.

  • trees in Moonlight...Won Honorable Mention in WEATHERWISE Magazine's 1999 Photo Contest (dual copyright with Heldred Publications)
  • trees in Moonlight...
  • yellowish curtain on horizon...
  • curtain...contrast taken 15 secs apart
  • band...taken at most intense part of display
  • break-up...A spiral (also called a surge) formation typical just after maximum display
  • rays...multi-colored (green bottom, violet top) rays

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    Since 16 August 1999

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    Last updated: 30 April, 2001