Northern Lights (Images of the Aurora Borealis)My fascination with the northern lights began when I was a kid and my Great Uncle Charlie from Alaska would visit my family in New York every few years. He was always telling stories about his adventures in this last frontier and sooner or later a story about the aurora was inevitable. He spoke about displays being so intense that he could actually read a newspaper by them in the middle of the night and he insisted that he could really hear them crackle, pop, and hiss. Science has never proven that sound traveling through space is possible since the aurora occurs where there is no air to allow sound waves to form. While I viewed weak displays in the Lower-48 over the years, when the opportunity enabled me to move to Alaska, I would finally live out my long held dream to see intense northern lights. My wife Linda and I arrived in Fairbanks (64°N latitude) on the first day of summer and had to wait until the 3rd week in August for the effects of all night twilight to fade enough to see the lights. I clearly remember waking up on August 24, 1995 at 3:30 a.m. (while still in deep twilight) to see the aurora hanging almost motionless over the northern horizon. It was just staring at me, saying, come take my picture and so I did.
15 Minutes of Fame
I have the distinction of being one of the first to post their aurora images on the Internet in 1995. By 2001, I had over one million hits and even after many years of inactivity, in 2008 I still recorded over 67,000 hits. Back links to my main web page number over ~1,200. When my images were featured on "Astronomy Picture of the Day" (e.g., type in Jan Curtis), I'd receive well over 1000 visitors to my website on that day. I easily captured the attention of music producers, textbook publishers, and even electric company executives, all of whom have borrowed or bought my photographs. I have had requests from families asking to use them on memorial Web sites. Canadian painter Glen Scrimshaw was inspired enough to incorporate my images into his art. Over the years, I have contributed my images to NASA's solar outreach projects. However, my real thrill in all this recognition was when the Director of the International Arctic Research Center, Dr. Syun-Ichi Akasofu invited me to collaborate with him and Jack Finch on a book entitled, Secrets of the Aurora Borealis. Photo on right (from left to right) shows Dr. Akasofu, myself, Dr. John Walsh, and Dr. Alexeev taken in 2001.
I have been interviewed about my aurora photography by numerous radio and TV stations as well as being featured in newspapers and magazines around the world. My photos have been used as front covers on Nature and National Geographic (Japanese issue), and the aurora was ranked as the top natural phenomena on The Learning Channel's Top-10 Series (Natural Wonders) where I was filmed saying that "Looking at the aurora is like looking into God's eye". While I have experienced many wonderful and dramatic natural events, viewing the northern lights is by far the most captivating and spiritual. Just imagine being alone, when the northern lights start to dance wildly, the distant wolves and coyotes begin howling at the lights and the stillness of the moment is broken. The chills one gets from this unique experience isn't due to the cold!
The anatomy of negative film (proper use of PhotoShop)
This uncorrected negative is severely damaged, but with Photoshop -
The corrected negative is restored to the "TRUE" naked eye view.
While there are many features in Photoshop that are automatic, I recommend that you manually walk through each feature and strike a balance as to what you remember the image or scene appeared like. Correcting color involves subtle adjustments to brightness, hue, contrast, saturation, and noise reduction. The sooner you scan your negative, the more likely you will capture what you actually saw. While the film attempts to record reality, the "TRUTH" is that the eye will respond much differently to light (visible spectrum) than film. Additionally, while digital cameras reproduce light perhaps better than film, it still requires some subjective tweaking to approach the naked reality.
All my images on these web pages are reproduced as closely as I saw them.
© 2009 Jan Curtis northern lights images. All rights reserved.