Author Topic: Aurora, Storms, and Snowpants: An Icelandic Saga by Something Fishy, whYME, and ChAiM'l  (Read 55196 times)

Offline yakrot

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Online Something Fishy

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Next installment (auroras!) is done from my end. Chaim'l and whYME are adding their pictures and comments now.
Check out all my Trip Reports here!

Offline srap

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Next installment (auroras!) is done from my end. Chaim'l and whYME are adding their pictures and comments now.
Woohoo!  We're already drooling...

Offline benjie1305

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Next installment (auroras!) is done from my end. Chaim'l and whYME are adding their pictures and comments now.

Finally! Been waiting on this one. How many more installments are coming out? Think we will wrap this up before 2017?
Work hard, Play harder!

Offline AJK

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^ said no person ever who has put the time and effort into an above-average TR.
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Offline benjie1305

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Because it is actually questionable if it will be done by that time?

I love it and anticipate these TRs to the nth degree. As the end consumer of them I would love them to be published faster but totally understand that quality writing takes time especially when people work as well. Just excited about it. That's all.
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Offline Hershelsdeals

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@SF are you planning another trip?

Online Something Fishy

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^ said no person ever who has put the time and effort into an above-average TR.

Bingo, thanks.

@SF are you planning another trip?

Many things flying around my head, nothing concrete at this point.
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Offline Moshe123

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Next installment (auroras!) is done from my end. Chaim'l and whYME are adding their pictures and comments now.

Bump.

Hate me.

Offline PBaruch

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A Star Wars movie was made in shorter time than this TR.   :P
What do you do after your dreams come true?

Offline whYME

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A Star Wars movie was made in shorter time than this TR.   :P
Give me $100mm to work with and it'll be done in no time. :P

Online Something Fishy

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[Something Fishy] We had been on the road to Jokulsarlon for only a couple of minutes, when it started to snow >:(. If we weren't annoyed enough at the Icelandic weather, we definitely were now... The road was very well marked, with evenly spaced reflectors along both sides, but our progress slowed considerably.

Luckily, after about half an hour, we passed the area of bad weather and left the snow behind completely.

whYME was driving at the time,
([whYME] naturally :D) while I was in the passenger seat gloomily watching the sky for the aurora I knew was not coming. Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I thought I saw a point of light. It took me a couple of seconds to realize what it was - a star! This can't be right... the entire country is cloudy! whYME slammed on the brakes, turned off the lights, and I jumped out to investigate.

Thousands of stars were twinkling at me. Here and there a small patch of clouds still hung, but unbelievably, the sky had cleared!

Adrenaline pumping with excitement, we hit the road again, this time all three of us watching the sky intently. Not ten minutes later, I shouted for whYME to stop. Unless I was very much mistaken, I had just seen the faintest glimmer of green in the sky.

Again I jumped out of the van, rested my camera on the hood, and pointed it in the general direction. Lo and behold, there it was! While incredibly faint, there was no doubt about it. Even though it was hardly visible to us, my camera's long exposure had seen it clearly:




Like maniacs, we threw on whatever layers we could find, grabbed our cameras and tripods, and ran (literally) out into the night. We parked the van on a little outcropping of road, turned off all the lights, and sprinted to the other side of the road for a better composition.

We were a sight to behold. Three nutjobs, running and slipping across a frozen field, shouting instructions and tips over the wailing wind, trying to take a picture of what was really the lousiest aurora display you could imagine. Two minutes later the display brightened up a drop, and we had our primary objective for the trip completed: a picture of a real, live aurora. Sure, it was as meh a picture as I ever took, but at least we had seen something:






Let me digress for a moment and address the elephant in the room: the vast majority of the time, the aurora doesn't look as bright or as colorful as you see in all the pictures and time-lapse videos. Often, there is a lot of Photoshop put into each picture to bring out the aurora and show it the way people want to see it. Additionally, since a long exposure is needed to properly capture the lights, there are no videos to be had, only time-lapses (this has since changed with the introduction of the incredible Sony A7r camera). This means that the quick "dancing" we're used to seeing does not exist at all; reality is more like a shimmer, or a quick-moving cloud. Mercilessly, I kept on reminding Chaim'l and whYME about these facts; we must be prepared and not have our expectations exceed reality.

[whYME] Although I heard Something Fishy's warnings, it never quite registered with me because even though I knew not to expect it to look quite like the time lapses, I wasn't expecting it to be that bad.

[Something Fishy] As we were bundling back in the van, I mentioned this yet again. We were of course hoping that this display was just a teaser, but we know that it won't look like the videos we had seen ahead of time.

The above pictures are pretty much exactly the way we saw it in real life; as a demonstration, here's what they look like after some Photoshop wizardry:





 
Heading back to the van Chaim'l continued his clothing-losing streak, when his glove blew away into a pitch-dark, fenced-in field. From my end, my memory-card-losing trend appeared to be over, thankfully.

Our low spirits were now very definitely gone.


[whYME] Um, what? I guess SF and Chaim'l were happier, but me? That was quite another story.

Uch, such a disappointment. At this point, in a sense, I was even more disheartened and dejected than when we were looking at total cloud cover. And SF's insistence that this is how it often is didn't help matters. At least beforehand there was hope for the clouds to clear and we'd still see something, but now you're telling me that it's all a bunch of BS and I won't actually see the aurora looking anything like they appear in the pictures and videos?

Of course on one hand I was excited to have at least seen something, and was certainly hopeful and optimistic that we'd still get somewhat better views. On the other hand, with the full reality of Something Fishy's dire warnings setting in, I couldn't help but think "Really? that's what the fuss is all about? What a bummer."

Little did I know...


[Something Fishy] Back on the road, we got into the real hunting mode. We layered up everything we owned, from balaclavas to ice spikes for our boots. We set our cameras to manual mode, ISO 400, f/2.8, and 8 seconds (a good exposure starting point). We manually focused our lenses to infinity, and taped them down in that position. Bubble level in the hot shoe, wireless remotes receivers plugged in and set. We put our cameras on our tripods, fully extended legs their legs, and put those on our laps. The point of all this was simple: if the aurora appears again, we're ready to shoot in two seconds flat.

Turning off the car's heat so that we don't melt, we hit the road again. I don't remember who it was, but at this point someone pointed out that we must look like the yidden eating the korban pesach for the very first time - מָתְנֵיכֶ֣ם חֲגֻרִ֔ים נַֽעֲלֵיכֶם֙ בְּרַגְלֵיכֶ֔ם וּמַקֶּלְכֶ֖ם בְּיֶדְכֶ֑ם  ;D ;D ;D.

It was around half an hour later when the sky EXPLODED. We ran out into an otherworldly scene, one whose intensity took our breaths away. Auroras stretching from horizon to horizon; curtains of green, pink, and purple twisting, dancing in a cosmic dance. A thick green line drops, stretches, expands in all directions. It spreads into the vertical, the upper reaches changing from green to pink to purple. The dark, black landscape is transformed: the brightness of the aurora lights up even distant mountains; every patch of ice and snow glows eerily green. The silence was absolute; nothing could be heard but the melancholy wail of the wind.

Pictures? Who could think about pictures now.

We did however take some ;D. After drinking deeply of the incredible phenomenon before us, we now tried to capture it in camera. I should point out that these pictures are pretty much as we say it; other than the typical RAW adjustments (sharpness, contrast, etc.), these pictures are barely edited. We were truly luck to catch an exceptionally powerful display:




Photo by Chaim'l:



Photo by whYME:



Photo by Something Fishy:



Photo by Chaim'l:



Photo by Something Fishy:



Photo by Something Fishy:



Photo by whYME:



Photo by whYME:



Photo by Chaim'l:



Photo by Something Fishy:



[Something Fishy] For a couple of seconds, we even even lucky enough to see a somewhat rare coronal aurora, where the rays all appear to emanate from one point directly overhead:



Photo by whYME:



Photo by whYME:



Photo by whYME:



[Something Fishy] Once we had our shots, we put the cameras down and just watched.

In my opinion, this is something that everyone should see at least once in their lifetime. There's something spiritual about it; words cannot begin to describe the feeling of lying on the ice, in the middle of nowhere, in the freezing cold, and watching the spectacular display of Hashem's work. I don't think I've ever made as heartfelt a birchas Osah Massai Bereishis as I did that night.


[Chaim’l] There isn’t much I could add to SF’s excellent oratory. It was a most amazing experience, lying on the snowy ground beside my tripod in the stillness of the night, watching the most awesome display of dancing colours across the sky. At that moment you cannot help forgetting about lost gloves and any other trivialities. This was Nifla’os HaBorei at its best.

[whYME] Wow! Just wow.
There's not much for me to add other than after thinking of Something Fishy's earlier dire warnings, I've never in my life been so glad to be able to tell someone "Ha! you were wrong!"


[Chaim’l] I took the opportunity to capture some pictures of SF and whYME lying on the ground spellbound by the show.

Photo by Chaim'l:




Photo by whYME:



[Something Fishy] After 35 minutes, the show began winding down. With a final burst of pale green and pink, the display came to a close:



Absolutely exhilarated, we got back in the van. After such a disappointing weather forecast, to be witness to such a spectacle, was just beyond our wildest dreams.

Once again, we headed to Jokulsarlon.

Except that we didn't. Fourteen minutes into the journey we, once again, hightailed it off the road. That sky!




Photo by Chaim'l:



Photo by whYME:



[Something Fishy] This video I took - while absolutely abysmal in quality - allows you to get an idea how the aurora dances, shifts, and fades in real-time:



This display was quite short; after 11 minutes, this one, too, faded to black:



This was turning into a pattern, and no sir, we did not mind one little bit ;D. Back in the car, drive a couple of minutes, screech onto the side of the road, and see display after marvelous display:



Photo by Chaim'l:



[Something Fishy] Sometimes we didn't bother taking pictures. For example, at one point in this weird and wonderful night, there was no aurora to be seen save for single, thick, bright green stripe stretching from horizon to horizon. Like a giant celestial snake, just hanging there, overhead; sometimes still, sometimes hypnotically waving from side to side. No way a camera could capture this otherworldly apparition. But we stood there, spellbound, until it faded into a memory.

[whYME] Perhaps there was no way for a camera to capture it, but I was still willing to give it a try :):





Meanwhile Chaim'l and Something Fishy just enjoyed the show:



[Something Fishy] As the hours passed, something incredible happened. Unbelievably, we were getting aurora fatigue. Spoiled by utterly epic displays, we'd see a medium-sized aurora and say, "Eh, not worth stopping for. We've seen better than that". I think that's the only reason we actually made it to Jokulsarlon in the end, by forging on and ignoring multiple "lesser" displays.

[whYME] Some lessons learned while driving that night:

1. If you're the one driving, try and leave the sky-watching to the passengers. I know it's important to know if there's any new aurora displays, but it's more important to pay attention to the road.
2. When disobeying rule #1, if you're approaching a one-lane bridge, be extra cautious and make sure you're not about to hit a tractor trailer head-on.
3. When disobeying rule #2, you darn well better hope the tractor trailer flashes his high beams and honks his air horn at you to get your attention with enough time for you to stop before the bridge...


[Something Fishy] At around 3:00 AM, we finally pulled into the parking lot at Jokulsarlon. The weather had turned overcast again and the parking lot was deserted, save for two cars whose occupants were fast asleep. Our goal now was simple - get some sleep ourselves. Other than a 2-hour nap on the plane, we had all been up for 40-something hours at this point; we were running on pure adrenaline.

Now the real fun started. While the camper supposedly sleeps five, it only really fits three adults - on two beds. The bottom bunk was not bad: there was plenty of room for two, and a camera bag divider did a nice job of maintaining, uh, a secure Demarcation Line. The top bunk, on the other hand, while being plenty wide, only had a clearance of twelve inches or so :o. I volunteered to climb up and be the guinea pig.

Oh. My. Flipptin'. Felusa. You have never felt something as claustrophobic as this. Once I was in, my fate was sealed; no way I'm getting out of there without some major gymnastics. I couldn't roll over; I couldn't bring my arms up or down. In fact I woke up at one point in the middle of the night freezing cold, as my blanket had fallen down and there was simply no way for me to retrieve it.

And it goes without saying that the bed (shelf?) was not exactly long enough. Chaim'l and whYME were laughing for half an hour straight when they caught sight of this:




[Chaim’l] This was probably the most comical turn-ins I've ever experienced. Due to the cramped space inside and ferocious winds outside, it was nigh on impossible to get undressed properly. We went to sleep almost fully clothed save for our snow boots and mid-layer tops. Although not the most comfortable sleepwear, it kept us warm and meant that when we awoke we were almost ready to go.

On the note of ferocious winds, it is recommended to check the wind’s direction before answering nature’s call outdoors in these conditions. An airfield windsock attached to the vehicle would do nicely.


[whYME] Indeed, the wind can be a bit of an issue when standing at the edge of the water and aiming for an iceberg, but with a little effort it's doable :D.

[Something Fishy] Sunrise was scheduled for 8:54. That meant we wanted to be ready to shoot by 7 o'clock, the latest. By the time we had settled down it was 4:00; we had two whole hours to sleep before our alarms went off at 6:00.

We were asleep in seconds.
« Last Edit: October 29, 2017, 10:36:33 PM by Something Fishy »
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Offline David Smith

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Incredible. Your writing skills do; indeed bring this amazing trip to life. Worth every second of waiting. Wow.
Who do you think you are fooling? You think you are going to pull a quick one on your Creator? Good luck with that.
JTZ

Online LoLo

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Woooof, I'm out of words. What an amazing experience and write-up.

Now, if only there was a good way of predicting these shows, I'd be on the next plane..
Don't attribute to intelligence what can also be attributed to incompetence.  -Dan

Offline chff

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Wow, the pictures are beautiful! Keep em coming