FREE shipping for the island of Ireland

Buy two or more products and get €5 off

Northern Lights

As you must have heard by now, the Northern Lights made a rare appearance in the Irish skies on Friday night.

I was one of the lucky ones who was still awake when photos started to appear on social media. The prospect of a massive magnetic storm had been well flagged, but in Ireland, you can never be confident of a clear sky.

The display was excellent, I have been lucky enough to see the Northern Lights twice before in Ireland, but this was on another level, with visible shafts of light.

This was the biggest magnetic storm for twenty years and it was interesting to note how much phone camera technology has improved in that time. It wasn’t that long ago that it would have been impossible to capture the lights on a phone, with only a DSLR with a long shutter speed and wide open aperture able to capture the detail.

As is clear from social media phones are now well able to take excellent photos of the lights, and the professional shots only really stand out for their composition.

However, as social media is a largely visual medium with massive competition for attention there is a temptation to over-process images in order to catch people’s eye. It’s very tempting to keep increasing the saturation. Most strike a good balance, but some images are completely over the top.  So I though it would be interesting to share four versions of a photo I took on Friday night.

This photo has been processed so that it looks approximately how it looked to my eye. There was only a very subtle hint of colour, but the shafts were quite visible. This was taken in suburban Dublin and my eyes hadn’t adjusted to the dark so in a slightly different scenario they could have looked more impressive.

This is what the unprocessed image looked like. Clearly the colour saturation is much higher.

With a long exposure of about 20 seconds the camera is able to take in a huge amount more light than the human eye. So inevitably photos are going to make the lights appear more impressive.

The image with some relatively subtle adjustments in Adobe Lightroom. Mostly just an increase in contrast and clarity. Obviously this is more striking than what I saw.

A more heavily processed image. The saturation and vibrance have been increased significantly in this one. I think images like these give people a false impression of what to expect from the lights, but it is very subjective.