Julian Captures Incredible Aurora With Temple Island

Last Friday night, many residents took photos of the unusual aurora borealis after a huge geomagnetic storm gave northern lights over Henley and across the UK.  Those that missed it were left very disappointed it didn’t return on Saturday evening after forecasters said it would.

Resident, Julian Sansum definitely got the best picture (above) of Henley with Temple Island in the foreground which he shared on social media.  Julian said, “I had seen news online that it might be possible to see the northern lights in the south of the UK over the weekend of 10-12 May and that the display would be exceptional. I was keen to get a photo if possible. There is often excitement about potential aurora sightings. Indeed there had been an aurora visible over Henley on 3 March this year – it was an extremely faint glow just about visible to the naked eye but I had managed to capture a quick photo over St Mary’s Church tower (below) before it disappeared. Whilst that photo wasn’t great it helped me to work out what camera settings I needed when a bigger aurora appeared.”

To get a good photograph, you need a clear and dark sky which means after about 10pm at this time of year.  Julian explained, “To make the photo more interesting you also need something to anchor it to and the structure should be too bright either.  I knew the aurora was meant to appear in the north so I pulled my Ordnance Survey map out and noticed that the river runs pretty much due north up to Temple Island so I thought I might be able to get a photograph of the temple with the aurora in the background.”

Julian parked at Remenham Church at 11pm and wandered down to the river.  He said, “It was pitch black so I thought it should make good viewing and I could see some elements of the aurora above me. Once I got out on the river I could see that Temple Island was illuminated. My immediate concern was that would the floodlights prevent my idea from working because my photos would be overexposed.  I could see the aurora faintly in the sky and noticed some vertical lines. By wandering along the tow path I was able to position the aurora lines to appear to illuminate the temple whilst hiding as much of the floodlighting as possible. The final photographs give the illusion that the aurora is lighting up the temple when in fact there are a couple of floodlights just in front and largely hidden by bushes in my photo. These lights also create the reflection.”

Julian used a Sony A1 with a 14mm GM f1.8 lens to capture the photos with a shutter speed of 1.0-1.3s for the various photos. He commented, “I tried longer exposures which might have been better for the aurora but the light from the temple floodlights blew out the rest of the photo. I put the temple in the bottom corner and focussed on that. I have found through trial and error that ISO 800 works well with my set up.”


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