What We're Reading: Dora Redman's Northern Lights, and More Space Sightings

By David Schonauer   Wednesday April 14, 2021

It’s rare to see the highest peak in North America.

Denali, about 60 miles fro the town of Talkeetna, Alaska, often hides behind a patchwork of clouds — Denali National Park estimates that only one in three visitors to Alaska see the peak fully on their trip. But for Alaska resident Bailey Berg, an even greater rarity is seeing the northern lights.

“I’ve been a card-carrying Alaskan for nearly six years and have seen Denali hundreds of times,” Berg noted recently at The Washington Post. “However, I can count the number of times I’ve borne witness to the northern lights, more properly known as the aurora borealis, on one hand. They’re so elusive it’s almost mythical, particularly if, as I do, you dwell in Anchorage, a city just a bit too far south and entirely too bright. On the few occasions I did see the aurora, the photo evidence looked more like a spectral fog than ribbons of luminescence.”

To get a better view, Berg traveled to Talkeetna, situated on the southern edge of the auroral oval, “a band hugging the northernmost latitudes where the aurora is most common.” Visitors, she noted, have a 90-percent chance of catching at least a glimpse of the northern lights as long as they stay a minimum of three nights within the auroral oval.

She was also armed with a secret weapon: Dora Redman, a professional photographer (aka "Aurora Dora") who offers lessons in capturing the lights. Redman, noted Berg, has dedicated the past 20 year to chasing the aurora.

Berg goes on to describe her own lessons with Redman — using two strings of LED lights, one green and one purple.

Meanwhile, Scientific American recently spotlighted the work of Miguel Claro, a Portuguese astral photographer who shoots images like those from NASA’s space telescopes — except, of course Claro shoots his from here on Earth.

Claro goes to great lengths to distill fragments of the night sky, and the results, note SA, have earned him positions at the European Southern Observatory and as the photographer for the Alqueva Dark Sky Reserve, the world’s first starlight tourist destination.

Closer to us here on our beautiful planet is the Moon, which is something photographers have been photographing since cameras were invented. (In 1840, John William Draper, a physician and professor of chemistry at New York University, produced the first successful daguerreotype of the Moon; though it didn’t reveal much in the way of detail or advance our knowledge of the Moon, it stands as a remarkable achievement, notes the Museum of Modern Art, which has Draper’s image in its collection.) If you’d like to create more dramatic images of the Moon, YouTuber Brent Hall has some ideas.

Hall tries out three different ways to photograph the Moon and you can see which one works best.
At top: from Brent Hall’s video “3 Ways To PHOTOGRAPH THE MOON From Start To Finish”


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