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Photographer Captures Aurora Borealis Using film Only

No Digital Here

Dennis Anderson is only one of a very few photographers to generate an income by photographing the aurora borealis using film only.

Dennis Andersonís moment of Auroral Revelation came about during the nighttime of April 1, 1975, when he was just 14 and he was looking north from his Livingston, Montana home as he saw the night sky explode. "There were numerous rays, curtains, arcs and bands all in motion. It was nearly a religious encounter to be caught up in in the center of all of that, seeing the entire sky dancing and on fire," says Anderson, who is now 51 and lives in Homer, Alaska.

"Ghost Tree" was created by Dennis Anderson in 2003 using conventional photo equipment. He now shoots with custom cameras.

Stirred by that feeling of marvel, Anderson now does his worshiping at the aurora borealis altar night after lengthy frigid night, all though out the Alaskan winters using 10 to 12 cameras.

Anderson is only one of a very few photographers to generate an income by photographing the fleeting aurora borealis using film as only film results in the the high-resolution photographs he is after. Although we live in the digital world of today, Anderson's world is purely analog.

"No Electronics, no batteries," he says. His most prized camera is a made by hand giant he has labeled "Franken-Cam." Each film frame measures about 21 / 2 x 31 / 2 inches, way larger than film used in traditional cameras with Its images having a 40 megapixel resolution, about double the megapixels of high end digital cameras.

He ran across the oversize lens at an at a Switzerland auction, a finely rounded hunk of surveyorís glass that was rumored to being flown on reconnaissance of French fighter jet planes and on Israeli drones. Hey says the price of $1,500, just happened to be "a real bargain." Andersonís cameras have no shutters, as he needs manual control over the long exposure times. Instead, he gets ready to shoot by taking off the lens cap while subsequently holding a coffee can with a black-painted bottom at the aperture's front and then waiting until a sky dance begins, only then does he remove back this "black lid," to let the magic stream onto the film.

In order to acquire these extraordinary photographs on film, Anderson must get into 'basic survival mode". He has a place for sleeping although he doesn't necessarily have a source of heat. If he is out somewhere the temperature is going to be 30, 40, 50 or more below, he might just stay close to hisv ehicle and leave it running. He says he's lens-capping they way our great-great-grandfathers did it 100 years ago.

This is extremist aurora photography

When aurora calls, Anderson packs his van and heads north, hour on end, trying to find a location that heís been previously and imagined as being a pristine sky show frame. No doubt heíll locate it once more, some copse with the opening pointed at the sawtoothed Denali profile; or that tiny lake with the spiked Wrangell Mountains as a backdrop; or that cabin sitting stilts, with virgin snow sloping towards it, pines in a row like mute sentinels. "The main point is to put in the time," he says. "Maybe it wonít occur tonight or even tomorrow night." Maybe he'll get lucky while it could happen next week. Sometimes he runs out of time making him have to return the following year.

Survival mode

Sparked by a fidgety sun, these auroras may occur year-round. However by May, Alaskan days become long, the nights extremely short. So Anderson works throughout the winter months. Sometimes heís gone from his home and his wife two to three weeks in a row. Basically he's camping, but in survival mode. He has a place for sleeping although he doesn't necessarily have a source of heat. If he is out somewhere the temperature is going to be 30, 40, 50 or more below, he might just stay close to his vehicle and leave it running. If he shuts it off just for a couple of days, maybe it won't even restart.

He scrapes the snow away just to pitch his tent. He cuts branches, gathers kindling. He boils water using the engine of the van, adds an egg to make some soup. He settles in his tripods on hard patches. Carefully he loads his film; with some of it costing $35 for each exposure. He frames his shot, just so. Then he hunkers down and waits.

And every now and then, as the sun turns properly fitful while the clouds become obligingly scarce, nature does it's performance: undulating yellow sheets, bursting skies of green, red ribbons, with cosmic curtains waving about in the stellar gusts. Then the sun rises, the auroral lights dim, and Anderson checks the shot from his list.

Only twice have tendrils of blue descended down from the heavens and the Franken-Cam acquired this rare auroral showing of hues. "It was utterly vivid, the bluest of all blues," he says. He's spent thousands upon thousands of hours capturing auroras. You think he's seen everything, then suddenly there's something new."

Aurora: The Mysterious Northern Lights In her book Ms Savage very credibly introduces the Aurora Borealis for the average person. The book starts out with a historical perspective of the aurora and different ways the peoples of the region see the lights then works up to the physics of these lights. The most wonderful pictures of the lights along with pithy quotes are Interspersed throughout the book .

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