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Fire It Up
Fire It Up
Last night after I got done watching a movie at the theater, I drove out to the First Curve on M116 at the Ludington State Park to see if the Northern Lights were out. I knew they had been out the night before, but the clouds were so thick in our area, you couldn't get a good photo of them. The application, Aurora Forecast, that I use on my iPhone, was measuring a level 5 on the KP scale. Usually at a level 5, you can see a tiny bit of color with a trained eye and some of the white pillars if they are out, but your camera will pick up the color much better. Standing in the parking lot of the First Curve, I could see the white pillars, but no color. It took me a few minutes to get my boots, warm clothes, headlamp, and hat on and to get my camera pre-set at the truck. I hustled up the small dune to the north of where I parked with my camera and tripod and this was the first exposure I made. It turned out to be the best shot of the night because the light show was short lived. The red light in the foreground is from a car's headlights as it was approaching from behind me at the very end of the exposure. I was fired up to say the least.
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Northern Lights Over Ludington
Northern Lights Over Ludington
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Tree of Light
Tree of Light
I had the luck of the Irish tonight while chasing the northern lights over Hamlin Lake with our manager Rachel and her sister Sarah. We were all fortunate to make images of the northern lights before they disappeared. My best image of the night was my first image. This was a St. Patrick's Day I will never forget.
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Milky Way Aurora
Milky Way Aurora
While my son Brad was focusing on Northern Lights over Big Sable Point Lighthouse, I have concentrated my attention on the Milky Way decorating the Aurora sky.
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Northern Lights At Big Sable Point
Northern Lights At Big Sable Point
Northern Lights At Big Sable Point
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Ludington Magic
At 4:32am this morning my cell phone woke me up with a text alert from my northern lights application Aurora Pro. It indicated that the current KP index over the Ludington area was a level 7. I then looked at the weather application on my phone and it said the skies over Ludington were currently clear. I shot out of bed and rushed to the Ludington State Park. From the top of the second tall dune north of the Beach House, I made this 40-minute exposure of northern lights over the dunes and Lake Michigan. Big Sable Point Lighthouse was also shining bright in the distance. I knew from experience, with a long enough exposure, the stars would appear to move in a circle around the North Star. It was a magical morning all alone on that dune today! Nikon D850. F4 at 2427 seconds, ISO 100. 14-24mm lens at 24mm. On a tripod without a flash. March 20, 2021, at 5:33am.
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Ludington Light Show
When I made this image of Northern Lights on October 24, 2011, I was the lone photographer on the Ludington South Breakwater. In recent years, since the advent of Facebook and cell phone apps to alert photographers to the presence of Aurora Borealis, or the potential for them to appear, I am seldom alone whenever I travel to the Lake Michigan shoreline to attempt to catch a light show.
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Northern Lights Show
Northern Lights Show
One of my ultimate dreams in photography has been to capture the Northern Lights with my camera. On Dec. 14, 2006, my dream was realized. Around 8:30 pm I trekked to the top of a large dune within Ludington State Park. Five minutes later, the entire evening sky over Lake Michigan erupted into a bright red and green palette of color. As I was exposing this photograph, two large meteors blazed through the sky. The rush of emotions I felt that night were overwhelming.
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Royale Experience

Being on Isle Royale is an incredible Michigan outdoors experience. Just getting to Michigan’s only national park is an adventure involving a seaplane ride or a potentially rocky boat ride on Lake Superior. But look at what awaited me during my first trip to America’s least visited national park in September 2014.

Brad and I were exhausted from hiking and photographing Isle Royale for 18 hours straight, but we were not about to pass up the chance to view the Aurora Borealis from a spot without lights anywhere in sight. When we emerged from the wooded trail to unlit Tobin Lake, we could already clearly see yellow-green and purple hues in the sky. We separately and quietly found shooting spots that fit our own ideas for building images. I decided to include a seaplane moored along the shore that I could not see at that time but had clearly seen earlier that day. As my eyes continued to adjust to the darkness, I could just see a faint glimmer of light from the Northern Lights reflected off the leading edge of the wing. I made a test shot of four minutes and determined I loved the composition. However, my histogram proved my exposure was still well short of ideal. I made another two shots to fine-tune the exposure. Unfortunately, upon checking to make certain the focus was perfect, I discovered that neither of the shots was sharp. I had only about 10 minutes left before midnight, time for only one more seven-minute exposure before it would be past midnight and any image I made after that would not be eligible for inclusion in our upcoming book, Todd and Brad Reed’s Michigan: Wednesdays in the Mitten.

This was no time to chance failure. Our ethics would not allow any bending of the truth or cheating of the clock. I made a smart decision. I woke up Brad, who was napping on the end of the dock after, as usual, finishing making a strong image before me. Brad ran to my assistance, quickly and decisively fine-tuning my near-sighted, near-focus, and returned to nap time while I made my one-and-only, all-important good shot. When we chose the resulting image for the back cover of the book, Brad resisted my attempt to give him half the credit for the image because it had been a team effort. Over the years, Brad and I have been eager to logistically help each other turn each other’s visions into good art. Teamwork is a big reason for the individual and collective success of Brad and me and all our other staff members past and present. I love being part of a great team—Team Reed. 

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Midnight Aurora
Midnight Aurora
I made this image of the northern lights last night while standing next to my dad on a tall dune near the Beach House inside the Ludington State Park. The lights were barely visible for several hours, but they erupted for less than one minute near midnight. I have never seen as many stars in the sky as I did that night.
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Northern Lights Dream
Northern Lights Dream
Before I went to bed last night I saw on Facebook that the Northern Lights might appear during the night or the early morning and I texted my dad to let him know. I fell asleep early. A few hours into the night I dreamed a friend yelled to me in my sleep that the Northern Lights were out. In my dream, I shot out of bed and literally flew through my house and outside to my truck. The sky was raging with color. When I woke up in real life at 1:20 a.m., I went into my son's bedroom and looked out his window to the north. No Northern Lights were visible. I was disappointed and got back into bed. Unable to fall back asleep, I got on Facebook. About 20 minutes later I stumbled upon someone's post that they could see the Northern Lights. At that moment I shot back out of bed, threw on my clothes, and was off to the Ludington State Park. I texted my dad on the way and when I arrived at the First Curve the lights were barely visible. I knew I had to call my dad to wake him up, but my cell phone wouldn't work at the park. It always works there, but maybe the Northern Lights were interfering with the cell signal. I debated what to do. Since this was a Tuesday, I decided that I would gamble and not shoot any photos at that point and drive back into town until I had a cell signal to call my dad. I drove, and drove, and drove and still had no signal. I ended up at our gallery in downtown Ludington and used the landline to call him. I told him the good news and I headed back out to the First Curve at the Ludington State Park. Just after I arrived the Northern Lights started exploding. I put on my warm clothes and darted across M116 and into the nearest open field across from the First Curve parking lot. I made my image "Northern Lights Dream" at 2:17 a.m. Week 17 of "Tuesdays with Todd and Brad Reed: A Michigan Tribute" was starting off with a bang. F2.8 at 30 seconds, ISO 400, 18-50mm lens at 18mm
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Auroras Magic
It is a strange feeling hiking a half-mile out on a pier half-asleep in the middle of the night in almost complete darkness, especially when the sky appears to be otherworldly as you go. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. So into the night I hike out onto the Ludington South Breakwater until reaching the spot I had previsualized. As I had hoped, the waves are not too big for me to safely get near the South Breakwater Light. It is cold and windy but I am not cold anymore. All I can think about is getting this shot before Aurora's magic show diminishes. I quickly set the tripod up for an insurance shot, not certain yet of focus and exposure. Thirty seconds later, at 2:41 a.m. Tuesday, April 24, 2012, I analyze the results of my insurance/test shot. It looks sharp and the horizon line is straight, which can be tough to determine in the dark. I make two more identically composed shots over the next 10 minutes. My exposure is better on both of them but the Northern Lights are not dancing near as intensely. Thank God I quickly made that insurance shot; the other shots, although better technically, do not look nearly as out of this world. Thanks also to our Silver Lake photography friend Louise Olson for alerting us by Facebook that she was seeing the lights. What a spectacular start to our shooting day on this 17th Tuesday of "Tuesdays with Todd and Brad Reed: A Michigan Tribute." F4.5 at 30 seconds, ISO 800, 14-24mm lens at 18mm
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Jetty Lights
Jetty Lights
For my second composition of the morning, I ran down to the edge of Lake Michigan and set my tripod up in the cold water. I made sure to have the tallest parts of the old jetties high enough in my viewfinder to break the horizon line of the photograph. I knew this would help tie my foreground elements to my background, which in turn would make my photograph look and feel more three-dimensional. I used my remote shutter release and my iPhone for a stopwatch. Based on the exposure I used to make "Northern Lights Dream" earlier, I calculated that I needed about 18 minutes for my shutter speed. With that long of a shutter speed, I knew the stars would spin in a circle around the North Star. I could see with my eye this fat white beam of light that appeared to be coming from the ground and aiming directly at the North Star. You can see it pretty clearly in the photograph. I have no idea what was causing that beam of light, but it sure makes my composition a whole lot cooler. My dad could even see it five miles south of me as he was photographing from near the end of the Ludington South Breakwater. I made this image at 2:45 a.m. F5.6 at 18 minutes 5 seconds, ISO 200, 18-50mm lens at 18mm
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Brad’s Day 344 of 366 - December 9, 2020
Nikon D850. F2.8 at 42.0 seconds, ISO 3200. 14-24mm lens at 24mm. December 9, 2020 at 11:15pm.
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Close Encounter
Close Encounter
I have to admit that every time I witness the Northern Lights I get a little bit nervous that I am going to have a close encounter with aliens. The lights are beautiful and mesmerizing, but a little spooky sometimes. F2.8 at 166 seconds, ISO 400, 18-50mm lens at 18mm
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Northern Lights Over the Beach House
Northern Lights Over the Beach House
This is the second major Northern Lights show on a Tuesday this year. Thanks to a 9:00 p.m. text message from Don Klemm informing me of the light show, I drove to the Ludington State Park and made this image over the Beach House. F2.8 at 151 seconds, ISO 400, 18-50mm lens at 20mm
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Aurora Heart
A crazy story - As many people know, the news was predicting a good Northern Lights show for a lot of Michigan on Saturday evening, including the Ludington Area. Saturday afternoon during the Michigan State vs. Michigan game, my app, Aurora Pro, alerted me that the current KP was a 7. Of course, because it was mid-day and sunny, you couldn’t see the Northern Lights overhead. I have seen the Northern Lights in Ludington at least twenty times, but only twice with a KP of 7 or higher. Both of those shows were out of this world and the lights were super visible to the human eye. So after a fun family gathering at my dad and stepmom’s for pizza Saturday night, I eagerly headed to the Ludington State Park to try and photograph the Northern Lights. I put on all my warmest heavy weather gear and got into position 30 yards south of the Beach House and stood right on the Lake Michigan shoreline. I knew I couldn’t see the Northern Lights with my eyes, but thought maybe my camera would pick them up. I made my first exposure at 8:26pm. That exposure was 70 seconds long. The camera picked up no Northern Lights. I was bummed, but I shot a few more images just to be sure. Still no luck. It was a beautiful, cold, clear night and the stars and Milky Way looked beautiful. I decided to move my camera on the tripod and aim straight West and almost straight up above my head to capture a long exposure of the Milky Way. I had my camera on manual metering like always. I adjusted my shutter speed to the Bulb setting. I had my aperture at F8 and my ISO at 800. I had my camera set to mirror lockup. That way, once I pushed the trigger on my cable release and locked it in, my camera would “shoot” a picture as long as the trigger was locked. After a few minutes of standing next to my camera as it was exposing, I decided to lay down on the shoreline and use my camera bag as a pillow to watch for shooting stars as my camera continued to expose the night sky. In true Brad fashion, I quickly fell asleep. I slept for an hour and ten minutes or so and woke up a bit dazed and confused. That seems to happen a lot since having Covid a few weeks ago. I slowly came to my feet and reached over and grabbed my cable release and unlocked the trigger and ended my exposure. That exposure was 4,415 seconds. The image that appeared on the back of the camera was mostly white, but I could see that it had picked up some star trails. We always shoot in camera raw. My dad, Rachel, and I all shoot with Nikon D850 camera bodies. I usually shoot the Northern Lights with my Nikkor 14-24mm lens at 14mm and that was the lens I had used Saturday night. The way D-SLR cameras work is when you shoot in camera raw, the camera body has it’s own processor inside of it (which is kind of its own version of Photoshop). The camera processes that raw image and spits out a pretty horrible looking jpeg on the back of the LCD screen. Those bad looking jpegs on the LCD screen always look washed out, anemic, with very little color, and “foggy”. We have learned to not base much in terms of quality off our LCD screens in the last 17 years of shooting digitally. I was not expecting much from my photo shoot Saturday night as I walked back to my truck. It was a nice night on the beach and it was a good nap. Fast forward to Monday afternoon. I finally downloaded my images yesterday at our gallery in downtown Ludington. I have attached a screen capture of the original raw file how it looked on the back of my camera and how it looked on my computer screen yesterday. You can see it looks white and washed out. Then I opened that raw file and made our standard moves to that image. You can see that screen capture as well. Again, these are our basic moves. The only three minor changes to this file versus our standard camera raw presets is I moved the clarity from 30 to 99. I moved the texture to 17 to help with the noise. I moved the blacks from -70 to -100. I moved the shadows from +70 to +100. These are standard moves for our Northern Light images. To my total shock, with those standard moves, the image showed an immense amount of red, orange, and yellow. The other cool thing I didn’t expect was that the stars seem to be moving in two different circles. I have never seen that before in one of our long exposure night sky images. Usually, the stars are all moving around the North Star. The other thing Rachel spotted instantly while looking at my computer screen with me was the giant red heart in the upper right portion of the photo. I am not a scientist or a Northern Lights expert, but I am pretty sure that my 73 and a half minute exposure did indeed pick up the Northern Lights.
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Electric Light Orchestra
Electric Light Orchestra
One of the most surreal Northern Lights shows I have ever seen dances across the sky on the Ludington waterfront. Thanks, Brad, for waking me up. I had turned in early after a long day of shooting. Now I am back outdoors with my camera living the dream. F2.8 at 30 seconds, ISO 800, 24-70mm lens at 24mm
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Lights of Ludington
Lights of Ludington
One of the beauties of living in Ludington is that we are close enough to the North Pole to occasionally be bathed in the colorful northern exposure of the Northern Lights. Ludington is aglow tonight with city lights and Northern Lights. F3.5 at 25 seconds, ISO 800, 24-70mm lens at 24mm
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