Not a bad way to spend your day
Photo: Ross Franquemont

USAF U-2 instructor pilot Ross Franquemont recently shared a series of pictures taken at 70,000 feet of the Northern Lights:

 The photos most certainly show the greens and purples of the Aurora Borealis as they dance across the sky. They demonstrate just how vibrant the colors are, regardless of the altitude. And, of course, what better selfie moment is there than in a spy plane with the Northern Lights behind you? But Franquemont’s photo wizardry isn’t owed solely to the location. There’s a fair amount of skill involved in taking photographs in a vibrating plane traveling at 500 mph while wearing a space suit that restricts motion and visibility.

“To get somewhat crisp shots, I had to use a pretty fast shutter speed, no faster than about a second. My wide angle lens could open to f2.8 and to get anything usable, I had to bump the ISO up to about 8000. I knew that movement would be an issue but I wasn’t sure until I was shooting it what settings I would use. I found that to get even crisper shots, I had to speed up the shutter even more because of how fast the aurora itself was changing. This meant an even higher ISO. Most of the shots have a noticeable grain from the high ISO. Shooting the selfies was also a challenge. I actually took those on a whim and hadn’t planned on it.”