I have seen the aurora borealis (aka northern lights) before. In 2018 I spent 11 days in Iceland and was treated to many spectacular showings. To this day, I think about what I saw on that island in the North Atlantic and am still amazed. That far north, the defined ribbons of the aurora are awe-inspiring.
Northern Lights are visible down in Door County, Wisconsin, where I live. However, I had never been able to capture it. I have been extremely unlucky when it comes to “aurora chasing” this far south. Whenever the data looked good for a show and I actually made it out, the show would be a dud. If I was out traveling, or decided to sleep because the data didn’t look all that promising, I would wake up to some fantastic photos from some of the other talented photographers in Door County.
This went on for years. I even started consoling my FOMO by saying things like, “I’ve seen the aurora in Iceland. Anything here would be a disappointment in comparison.”
Finally. Finally! On Sunday, April 23, 2023 the data started to go off the charts! Extremely high KP of over 7 (damn close to 8!) and a Bz of -30 occurred and my aurora apps started to go off. There was going to be a show!
One problem… clouds. The weather forecast showed clouds until about 12am or 1am. Should I bother? Should I sleep until 12am and then check again? I shot an out-of-town wedding the day before, so I was extraordinarily fatigued (IYKYK. And wedding photographers know). Sleep, even a few hours, sounded quite appealing.
No. I forced myself out of the house and headed out.
Clouds were out, but it wasn’t overcast. Northern lights were visible to the naked eye. The faint aurora looked more like a thin cloud at this point, but I knew the camera would be able to see it much better.
Sure enough, even with the clouds, the camera could see plenty of aurora so I captured a few compositions over Kangaroo Lake, near my home in Baileys Harbor.
I finally had a decent image of Northern Lights in Door County!
Driving further north to Gills Rock..
Around 11pm-12am is when the solar storm’s peak hit earth. Aurora was everywhere! Any direction you looked would reveal the green of the northern lights along with pulsing waves of light. When I got out of the car in Gills Rock, I just watched before even getting the camera out.
Looking off to the horizon, the lights looked fantastic. The photo above was taken with my camera pointed west towards Garrett Bay.
The most amazing part of the evening was around midnight, looking straight up.
For these two shots, I had my camera pointed directly overhead. The lights were dancing!
I checked out the show from a few other dark parts of the peninsula, including Newport State Park, Door County’s dark sky park.
By this time, the northern lights were fading a bit. There seemed to be a lull in the storm as the lights were no longer as strong overhead as the previous hour. However, the show was not over yet!
After a little while at Newport State Park, I headed to Sister Bay.
From the beach, even looking south, the aurora still looked great. In the time it took to get to Sister Bay from Newport State Park, the activity had picked up slightly.
With such visible aurora facing south, there was a nearby spot I knew I had to get a photo of.
This spot in Ephraim appears in many of my photos. I always day Anderson Dock is one of my favorite spots in all of Door County. I come here often looking for new ways to photograph a popular spot. Having the northern lights in a photo was quite the treat!
After a few hours of aurora “chasing”, I couldn’t take it anymore. I was too sleep deprived to stay out any longer. Even though the storm was still going strong, I took one more shot before heading home.
Northern Lights Over Door County
Capturing the northern lights over Door County was pretty cool! It was one of those “white whale” type of photography goals that had always alluded me.
Was it as good of a show as Iceland? Actually, yes! The defined ribbons you’ll see in the far north weren’t quite the same. But with the activity as high as it was, the experience of seeing the glows and flashes in all directions was just as breathtaking.
If you are interested in prints of any of the photos above, check out my print store: https://www.lukecollinsphotography.com/store/product-category/new-images/