Aurora Borealis and Corona Borealis

Aurora Borealis and Corona Borealis from Ajay Talwar on Vimeo.

Aurora sequences shot from a plane by Neelam. Route – Chicago to Delhi, which entails night flight over the Atlantic ocean on a eastward polar route. These sequences were shot flying over latitude 65°.

A few problems were encountered for this kind of photography. The sequences are shot through two layers of glass window on the plane. The innermost window is actually a plastic covering, and the outer window is a thick layered high pressure window. There are reflections that occur on the multiple surfaces from the cabin of the plane. Even the light from the camera reflects into the lens.

The window is actually very small, as this was shot through the aircraft door window and not through the regular passenger window, which is larger. A large suction cup was used to attach the camera to the aircraft door. The suction cup has a three axis tripod head attached on top. There is very limited movement that can be achieved with this setup, as well as limited choice of surface available to attache the suction cup. The surface is at a variety of angles near the window. You can see that the horizon is not horizontal in the movie.

Focusing is a real problem as you cannot find a fixed light on which to focus. The lens used in this case, is a manual lens and adjusting it to infinity is tedius. Focus is slightly off in the shoot. Shooting through multiple glass also aggravates the focusing problem.

Another problem in shooting on a plane is the inherent vibrations. Longer exposures are not possible, vibrations also make stars blurry over the extent of the exposure. Some of the exposures are entirely unusable because of vibrations.

There is one aspect that is not a problem at all. Flying at 39,000 feet above all clouds and city lights, the star light is bright. An exposure of just 0.8 seconds has captured the shimmiring Aurora nicely (at an aperture of f/1.4 and ISO of 6400).

This is the first attempt, more plane videos will come soon and we hope to reduce all the problems encountered.

Neelam & Ajay Talwar

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