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Aurora in the Mournes

A Spectacular Night Under the Aurora Lights: Chasing Nature’s Masterpiece

Date: May 10th, 2024

On the evening of Friday, May 10th, 2024, whispers began circulating about a potential sighting of the Aurora lights in the UK and Ireland. As the night progressed, what started as mere speculation transformed into a tangible reality, with notifications flooding social media platforms and the Aurora watch app about a celestial spectacle unseen at such low latitudes before.

Eager to seize this rare opportunity, I gathered my camera gear, checked all batteries, cards and kit and got prepared. Brainstorming what essentials I might need for the impending adventure. I reached out to my photography pal Ian, and together, we strategised a plan for the night.

Our journey Started at Spelga Dam, nestled high in the majestic Mourne Mountains. Anticipating crowds and busy roads, we veered towards the less-traveled path, ascending Pigeon Rock Mountain to the left of Spelga Dam giving us a better vantage point of the reservoir with less light pollution. Little did we know, what awaited us would surpass all expectations.

With all eyes set northward, hoping to catch a glimpse of the famed Northern Lights, we were instead met with an awe-inspiring display of vibrant hues above us dancing across the night sky, from west to east. Nature’s canvas unfolded before us, painting the darkness with strokes of emerald green, sapphire blue, and fiery crimson.

Camera: Nikon Z7ii 

Lens: Nikon Z 14-24mm f2.8 S Lens

Tripod: Manfrotto Befree Advanced

Undeterred by the fading brilliance, we embarked on our next destination: Castlewellan Forest Park. We first visited the tranquil Peace Maze, we found ourselves amidst a faint glow of the Aurora, albeit slightly overshadowed by the glow of urban light pollution. Nevertheless, the spectacle remained breathtaking, a testament to the resilience of nature’s beauty against the backdrop of modernity.

Castlewellan Peace maze

Descending towards Castlewellan Lake, we positioned ourselves to capture the ethereal lights against the backdrop of Castlewellan Castle. As the night wore on, each click of the shutter immortalised the fleeting moments of this celestial ballet, preserving memories that would last a lifetime.

In retrospect, our night under the Aurora lights was nothing short of magical—a reminder of nature’s boundless wonders and the thrill of chasing the extraordinary. At this point it was nearing 3am and I was fading like the batteries in my camera and the lights above me so it was time to call it a night however as we bid farewell to the night sky ablaze with colour, we carried with us not only photographs but also a profound sense of gratitude for bearing witness to such a remarkable phenomenon.

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Tips for capturing the Aurora in Ireland

For aspiring photographers eager to capture the Aurora lights in all their glory, preparation and planning is key. Firstly, research the optimal conditions  using the Aurora watch app for viewing and photographing the Aurora in your area, considering factors such as geomagnetic activity and light pollution levels. Equip yourself with a sturdy tripod to ensure stability during long exposures, and a wide-angle lens to capture the expansive beauty of the night sky. Experiment with different exposure settings, starting with a higher ISO to capture the faintest glimmers of light, then gradually adjusting to longer exposures as the intensity of the Aurora increases. Patience is everything—wait for the perfect moment when the Aurora’s dance reaches its peak, and be ready to adapt your composition on the go. Remember to dress warmly and pack essentials such as spare batteries and memory cards for your shooting session. Above all, approach the experience with a sense of wonder and reverence, allowing yourself to be fully immersed in the awe-inspiring spectacle unfolding before you.

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