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Remembering My Summer of 2015 – Photographically Speaking

February 7, 2016


Aurora Over the Straits-3-2

“Aurora Over the Straits” – July 23, 2015 at 4:18 a.m.

“Every summer has a story” ~ Unknown

For me, the story of my “Summer 2015” will be remembered as “The Summer of My Aurora Experiences”.

Opportunities for summer photography, were far and few between for me due to parental caregiving responsibilities.  In fact, I only got away twice during the summer, a two-week “Straits of Mackinac” cottage vacation in July and a long weekend in Michigan’s “Thumb” in August.  However, I will admit, I took advantage of those rare occasions and captured memories that will last a lifetime.  On both occasions, I experienced the Aurora Borealis, the famed “Northern Lights”!  And what an experience.

The above photo was captured during an hour-long, visible to the naked eye, unbelievable Aurora Borealis.  It was breathtaking!

Fortunately, I had my Android smart phone app, Aurora Alert, by Eagles Orbit, set to notify me of any Aurora activity and the alarm went off about 3:30 a.m. in the early morning of July 23, 2015, the second week of my stay at a lakefront cottage, just west of Mackinaw City, Michigan, along Wawatam Beach on Lake Michigan.  Despite my desire to remain asleep, I woke up, quickly dressed and tip-toed outside and made my way to the cottage beachfront to see if there was anything.  Much to my surprise, the night sky was dancing in green.  I called my brother who was asleep in the cottage to wake him up and literally ran back up to the cottage to get my camera gear.  I shot the above image with my Canon 60D, Tamron 10-24 f/3.5-4.5, focal length 10mm, f/5.6, 31.0 sec, ISO 800 on my Manfrotto 055XPROB tripod and Manfrotto 322RC2 Pistol Grip Ballhead, with a cable release, minimal Lightroom Creative Cloud (CC) edits.  And yes, that is a freighter in motion on the horizon.

I shot the below image with my Canon 60D, Tamron 10-24, focal length 10mm, f/3.5, 31.0 sec, ISO 1600 on my tripod with a cable release, minimal LR edits.  And yes, that is The Big Dipper in the night sky.

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“Aurora Over the Straits” – July 23, 2015 at 3:46 a.m.

What transpired over the next hour was magical!  We could not believe our eyes.  I can still feel the exhilaration just thinking about it.  I truly believe God had a hand in giving me this opportunity.

I last saw the Northern Lights over the Straits of Mackinac when I was a teenager.  At that time, I only had a Kodak Instamatic 110 camera and needless to say was not able to capture the magic.  Since then I have dreamed of photographing this natural phenomenon with a SLR and nowadays my DSLR.

On this particular vacation, I took my mom with me for the entire two weeks.  She had been receiving home hospice care since February of 2015 for lung cancer and I had been her primary caregiver.  I had already reserved the cottage time from the owner and decided we needed to get out of the house.  I still provided care to my mom during the two weeks and the local hospice checked in with us.  It was a lot of work but so worth it.  And that is the reason why I think God gave me this opportunity, to let me know that it was indeed worth it.  On a side note, my mom has since been discharged from home hospice as a living patient and is showing improvement everyday.  We strongly believe this trip was instrumental in kickstarting her continued remission.

On August 15, 2015, I had the opportunity to attend a “Night Sky” photography workshop in Port Hope (Michigan’s Thumb area).  The workshop was offered by Daniel Frei and Terry McKay II and the goal was to learn how to photograph the Milky Way.  After an evening of instruction, we awaited the night sky.  Shortly after 10:00 p.m., the Milky Way became visible and we all turned our cameras toward the southern sky and began shooting!  A few minutes later, my muted cell phone started vibrating.  I was shocked that it was an aurora alert.  About the same time, our instructor Dan must have received the same alert.  We both turned around and looked toward the northern sky and were astonished to see a bit of green haze.

As we all stood there, the haze began to shimmer and become brighter!  It was another amazing, forty-minute, visible to the naked eye, unbelievable Aurora Borealis.

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“Aurora Over Pte. Aux Barques” – August 15, 2015 at 10:26 p.m.

This above shot was taken from County Lighthouse Park at where the Point Aux Barques Lighthouse is located, near Port Hope, Michigan over Lake Huron on August 15, 2015, at 10:26 p.m.  I used my Canon 60D, Tamron 10-24, focal length 10mm, f/3.5, 30.0 sec, ISO 3200, on my tripod with a cable release, with minimal LR edits.

I shot the below vertical image was shot at 10:36 p.m. with my Canon 60D, tamron 10-24, focal length 10mm, f/3.5, 30.0 sec, ISO 3200, on my tripod with a cable release, and again with minimal LR edits.  This time, I shifted my focus a little more south to capture the some of the Aurora with some of the Milky Way.  Lake Huron is at the bottom of the image.

Aurora Over the Pte Aux Barques-12

“Nighttime Magic – Aurora Borealis and The Milky Way” – August 15, 2015 at 10:36 p.m.

My two Aurora Experiences were definitely “The Story of My Summer of 2015”!

Note: All images are available for purchase through




  1. Alice Maier permalink

    Wow! You captured some awesome shots!

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