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The Unexpected Lightshow

A close-up of "The Unexpected Lightshow" by Scott Dimond: an ultra-high-resolution VAST photo.
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191 megapixels! A very high resolution, large-format VAST photo of an eerie creepy abandoned house under the Aurora Borealis Northern Lights; fine art landscape photo created by Scott Dimond in Alberta, Canada

The Unexpected Lightshow

Alberta, Canada
If you want to photograph dramatic aurora borealis (northern lights) you have to go far north. Or so I thought.

I live in Calgary, Alberta, Canada which is about 140 miles north of the border with the US state of Montana. Some might consider it northerly, but at a latitude of 51 degrees, it is still a very long way from the Arctic Circle (66 degrees). I have specifically travelled the long distances to parts of northern Canada on many occasions to photograph auroras, but on this particular evening, I was headed to the south of Calgary without the thought of auroras on my mind.

I was going to photograph sunset at one of my favorite old abandoned farm houses. The house has a great deal of charm and faces east so it is a great location to capture dramatic colorful skies to the west.

After the sun had set, I headed over to an old barn a few miles away to photograph it in the fading light. Even though it was still twilight, with a hint of blue remaining in the sky, I could see a strange vertical cloud faintly appearing high in the northern sky. I knew from my experiences in northern Canada that it had all the earmarks of aurora. But it seemed impossible. I was about an hour’s drive south of Calgary, and even north of the city, away from the light pollution, auroras usually only appear as a green glow on the horizon - and never the overhead dancing lights, like I had experienced in northern Canada. But there it was. As the night sky grew darker, a fantastic aurora lightshow became visible.

Aurora borealis can be very fleeting, there one minute and gone the next. I dare not risk changing locations, for fear of finding that the best show happened while I was stuck behind the wheel. But after seeing that this night’s geomagnetic storm was one for the record books and exhausting all the compositions I could think of at the old barn, I made the decision to race back to that favorite old farmhouse.

Once there, I grabbed the special equipment I needed to create a VAST photo and set it up in front. The lightshow did not disappoint; it was as active as any I have ever experienced. I used a flashlight to illuminate the old farmhouse and let the aurora take care of illuminating the sky with green and purple.

At about 2am, I could shoot no longer. I was exhausted but exhilarated. It had been an unexpectedly long evening, with a magnificent aurora lightshow in the most unexpected of locations, resulting in the creation of an exceptional, once in a lifetime photograph.
Date & TimeMay 8, 2016:  2:37am
LocationAlberta, Canada
Coordinates50.241660, -113.148750
Focal Length24mm
Shutter Speed2.5 sec
Number of Exposures5

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Total Pixels191,018,108
Horizontal Pixels18,041
Vertical Pixels10,588
Aspect Ratio1.7 : 1
File Size1,092 MB
Width @ 300ppi (perfect)5.01 feet
Height @ 300ppi2.94 feet
Width @ 150ppi (near-perfect)10.02 feet
Height @ 150ppi5.88 feet

Date & TimeMay 8, 2016:  2:37am
LocationAlberta, Canada
Coordinates50.241660, -113.148750
Focal Length24mm
Shutter Speed2.5 sec
Number of Exposures5

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Photo id: 10235