Photographer Justin Anderson shot a trio of beautiful celestial elements together. During the total lunar eclipse, he was able to capture the blood moon, aurora and milky way together in a stunning panorama.
While Anderson only picked up his first camera five years ago, he immediately found himself drawn to the vast landscapes and beauty of the sky. His original subjects were storms moving across the prairies near his home in southern Manitoba, Canada, but in 2019 he captured a huge geomagnetic storm and found himself stuck in the night sky.
“When I started getting involved with Facebook communities, I realized how useful they could be for someone who didn’t understand this phenomenon. I found people were constantly asking me if I was going to Iceland or Alaska for my photos, even though they were taken 10 minutes from my hometown,” Anderson says. PetaPixel.
“People wanted me to privately notify them when they were out, so with the help of my friend Ryan Lucenkiw, we decided to create Manitoba Aurora and Astronomy. We are a community filled with like-minded people, with one goal in mind: to make the night sky more accessible to Manitobans! »
In recent years, the northern lights community in Manitoba has grown to over 40,000 members, and Anderson hunts full-time northern lights. Anderson is also an ambassador for a NASA-funded project called Aurorasaurus, which helps study the Northern Lights.
Luck smiles on the prepared
A week before the lunar eclipse, Anderson says he was talking to members of his community about his desire to film the aurora during totality. He says he was really interested in capturing both an aurora and the eclipse in a single image, but realized that was unlikely.
“When I was planning a location, I would only venture 15 minutes from home,” he says. “I had planned to photograph the moon over a grain elevator in a small community. I didn’t think of a view from the north as the chances of aurora were pretty low.
On the night of the eclipse, Anderson arrived at his vantage point northwest of the elevator and set up his cameras.
“My Canon 6D Mark II was shooting with a Sigma 120-400mm f/4.5-5.6 lens, then my Canon 6D was shooting with a Samyang 85mm f/1.4 lens. I just let them film a timelapse while I sat back and enjoyed the show,” he explains.
“As I watched the eclipse, I looked north, where the sun was still setting and I could see faint dances on the horizon. Being a full-time hunter, I knew immediately that this was the dawn low on the horizon.
“I took my Sony Alpha 7S II and my Samyang 24mm f/1.4 lens and set it up facing north in hopes of catching a timelapse of the sunset and the dancing auroras,” explains he.
“As the sky continued to darken thanks to the setting Sun and the eclipse of the Moon, the aurora began to strengthen until it was 30 to 40 degrees above the At that point I ran to my vehicle and grabbed a Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens, the cheapest lens you can get from Canon, and put it on on my Canon 6D and shot left to right, capturing as many auroras as I could then panning out to the Milky Way and then the eclipse,” Anderson recalled.
“When I got to the eclipse I changed the settings so the Moon wasn’t overexposed, giving me an HDR-like image just for the Moon. At this point the auroras really started dancing with a lot of purple and blue, so I shifted gears and put on a wide-angle lens so I could capture as much of the show as possible.
While Anderson says he hoped he could capture the aurora and eclipse together, the event that actually unfolds still surprised him. Not only that, he was able to add the vastness of the Milky Way into the photo, which revealed itself once totality was reached.
“I hadn’t planned to capture the aurora during the eclipse, it was more of a happy coincidence,” he says. “However, when I decided to shoot the panorama, it was exactly what I was looking for. A photo that showed the view from my point of view with all three elements.
A colorblind aurora photographer
In an unusual twist, Anderson recently realized that while he loves the Northern Lights, he’s never seen them like most people.
“In February 2022, I learned that I am partially color blind. The green cones in my eyes pick up more red than green, so green is more gray to me,” he explains.
“I still see some green, however, it’s like someone is desaturating the green channel (around -40). Ever since I started chasing the Northern Lights, I knew I couldn’t see the green of the Northern Lights in person. While I can see purples, reds, pinks and blues, green has always looked gray to me. The photos I produce often look grayish green to me, while other people say the green is very saturated.
Anderson says when he chases the Northern Lights, it often looks like a cloud to him.
“Fortunately, I hunt auroras full time, so I trained my eye to distinguish the aurora from a cloud, but it can still be tricky at times.”
More of Anderson can be found on his Facebook, Instagram, Twitterand its website.
Picture credits: Photos by Justin Anderson.