Northern Lights

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Looking into the branch patterns of spruce and fir against a dark sky, I noticed a faint glow to the north. It was the kind of light a distant city might give off—like Santa Fe does ten miles from home—but there were no cities of any size to the north. Duluth was west, and too far away. I wondered if it might be the gentle glow of the Northern Lights—nothing big and fancy, not the feathery flames you sometimes see flickering across the sky, just gentle. I figured my camera might give me the answer, so I made an exposure of around thirty seconds, which confirmed it was the Aurora Borealis, but it wasn’t making much of a photograph—a baby glow at the bottom and dots of stars. Our eyes and our cameras see the world differently. Learning to  visualize the way a camera builds up color and light over time led me to a second idea—a thirty minute exposure, with the hope that star trails around the North Star might fill the frame and create more interest, also allowing the Northern Lights, which were too small to flicker and flame, expose into a surreal green band.