Capturing the aurora borealis at Botany Bay - March 2023
It is hard to even find the words right now to describe how it feels to have captured the aurora borealis from my motherland, so far south at Botany Bay in Broadstairs, Kent, UK!
When the alert came through, there was a moment where I thought to myself ‘it's been raining, it is blowing a hoolie and it will be cloudy’ and then I just got up and looked out.
I could see stars, ‘whaaaaaa oh my’ I muttered as I raced for my camera! I took a hand held test shot towards the north, and when saw the preview pop up on the back of the camera, I started shaking! The gaps in the cloud were almost completely pink.
So I grabbed my tripod and started shooting. The sky was full of aurora up to about 60 degrees, and within a few moments, I was in the car heading to the north coast to get a better view of this moment that I’d waited so long for.
I could actually see the green arc and the rays with my eye, I always wondered if it would be something that would be an in camera only experience or one that you could possibly make out. It is utterly mind blowing to have seen them this far south.
What is exciting is that the sun goes through a cycle of peak activity every 11 years or so, and we are still 2-ish years away from the peak and so we are likely to have more nights like this for the next few years!
As you might have guessed, I for one, can’t wait!
I’ve been up all night editing these images and shooting it from home a lot more too. The aurora borealis was active all the way before first light of dawn cracked across the sky and ended the show!
Fine Art Prints of the Aurora Borealis sighting at Botany Bay
If you’d like one of the most unique photos of our coastline, I have added these images to my PRINT SHOP - sustainably created Fine Art Prints delivered to your door with 10% going to Marine Conservation Society - VIEW GALLERY & BUY PRINTS HERE.
I wonder if a photo of the aurora from Thanet exists… It is a pretty niche thing to capture - ha! Of all the attempts I’ve made over the last 8 years to try and capture it from here, I have finally hit the jackpot night!
These images are available for feature - please DM me or email firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss. I may not be able to reply until noon as I am going to be getting my head down for some kip shortly so please bear with me!
BUZZZZZZING!! How amazing is this?!
I created a time lapse with a succession of images... It is so beautiful to see the aurora borealis moving like this from Thanet!! Oh my gosh, I think I have completed life!! Ha!!
Aurora Borealis chasing & photography tips
My aurora imagery and citizen science writing has been featured in National Geographic, Ernest Journal & Iceland Monitor and I've been interviewed live by BBC Radio Kent on several occasions, as well as producing audio during aurora chases that was featured at a later date.
If there is a specialist subject to ask me about, aurora chasing is it! And it is that knowledge I have distilled to guide you on your own aurora adventure.
If you want to know how to see and shoot the aurora borealis, there's a chance they will be active again tonight (24/03/2023) and tomorrow night (25/03/23), so learn how to be an expert here!
How do you see the aurora borealis with your eyes?
Seeing the aurora is something that is a totally unforgettable experience. I remember the first time I saw them, I screamed and rejoiced so much I lost my voice! We’d photographed them on a couple of evenings but couldn’t really make them out with our eyes.
On my travels in Iceland I have spoken to a lot of people who haven’t seen the aurora but we were all out on the same night and that got me thinking. Photos of aurora really do show off the display, but its important to remember that a camera is far more light-sensitive than your eyes and so what it picks up and shows is a lot more vivid that what you see with the naked eye.
I have had a few people comment on how disappointed they were when they learned there was such a big difference on nights of weak aurora. If you're lucky enough to witness a really strong display, then I think they always look better and brighter than any photo can capture.
What apps can I use to chase the aurora?
Aurora-alerts.uk – The Glendale App by Andy Stables - MORE ON THIS BELOW!
Iceland Met Office – for cloud cover in Iceland
Windy.com – again for weather and cloud cover mapping
NOAA – live space weather & 27 day forecast
Star Walk 2 – hold your phone up to the night sky and it will use GPS to locate you and plot the stars you can see in the sky, which is just wonderful for identifying things and getting your bearings.
Photo Pills – has AI that allows you to see where the moon will rise to plan night shots.
Live Aurora Network - cameras in the aurora zone sharing the aurora live. Great to check how clear skies are when you're there and even better to watch aurora when you're getting alerts and you're not in the aurora zone!
If the forecast is low, is it still worth trying?
Yes. If you’re only there for a limited amount of time and you have a clear sky it is so worth looking to see if there is any activity. I’ve used the Glendale app so many times, where there is very weak activity and have seen them. If you’ve got clear skies you can just enjoy the stars in awe, while you wait for the aurora to appear. In dark spots you will see the Milky Way with your eyes as they adjust to the darkness of the sky.
As amazing as the Aurora are, it is always worth looking away from them too as the night skies on a clear night are overwhelming and very humbling and you really do reflect on a lot as you take it all in.
Share this story