Burning bush

Northern Michigan is one of the few places in North America that gets regular Aurora shows. That being said, numerous factors, but mainly the lack of clear nights makes them a challenge to capture. I check solarham which provides continuous solar weather data as well as Twitter and a midwest aurora Facebook group to try to read the tea leaves and see if lights will be visible. This was the last truly excellent display I was able to capture. March of 2021.

Specific Feedback Requested

Any and all would be welcome. I always find post processing of astrophotography and the aurora to be a challenge. There always seems to be a point where the noise reduction switches from feeling noisy to feeling like some ran a wet paint brush over the shot and it gets all flat and bizarre looking.

Technical Details

17mm 8sec f2.8 ISO 2500. Processing in Lightroom. I reduced the contrast, increased the vibrance, clarity and dehaze. I also applied some dehaze.


Cameron, this is a great catch of the Aurora. The bare branches add very well to the drama. The vertical color shift looks great as do the pillars of glow. I got to see a very mild version of the light pillars last fall in Southern Montana, which was a true delight. The smaller versions look great (from the noise pov), with only the largest view showing noticeable noise. (Noise is a given in a night sky shot like this.) It’s a personal choice, but I’d be tempted to clone out the two bright lights on the far lakeshore.

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Thanks Mark. I’m alright with some minor background cloning. A few comments I’ve had here have made me realize I need some more awareness of what is happening in my backgrounds. Have a great day.

Wow, this is so cool, Cameron. I love the tree in the foreground. It’s powerful for setting place and scale, but doesn’t intrude on that fantastic sky. Congrats!

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Thanks David!

Amazing colors, with the yellows and greens transitioning into reds. Personally I’m not bothered by a bit of noise as long as it is consistent across the frame, which is what you have. Topaz DeNoise AI seems to be well liked by a lot of people but I haven’t tried it out myself.


Amazing capture!! I love the shape of the tree and don’t remember seeing these vertical streaks in an aurora shot before. I was puzzled by some of the branches being soft but I assume it was windy? Noise doesn’t look bad, but I find Topaz Denoise is amazing. The only technical thing I see is that the horizon is a little off-level.

I’m curious what the lens was as the stars are very pleasingly round with no noticeable distortions in the corners.

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Thanks Dean. I keep hearing about Topaz since I started with NPN. I’ll have to look into it.

Thanks Diane. It was a very windy night on the lake so the blur in the trees was from the wind. The lens is a Tamron 17-28. Thank you as well for the tip on Topaz. I’ll have to look into it.

Beautiful photo! I love the comp and color. Well done!

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I recommend running Topaz Denoise on each image first thing after you open it in PS, or at least before any cloning or patching that will change the noise in certain areas. I like to start with a clean image. Run it on a duplicate layer so if it overdoes any areas (which is not usual) you can mask them with a low-opacity brush to bring back a small amount of noise. The newest, and I think best, algorithms are Low Light and Severe Noise. I always use the default settings for any of them, and you get a small amount of sharpening in the bargain. Scan around in 100% view and check for any areas of uneven reduction, which seem puzzling but can occur. I’ve found a different algorithm will always work in that case.

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Thanks Diane! Really appreciate the advice.

Thank you Scott!

Beautiful image Cameron. The colour blend of greens to reds is great. I also tend to have issues with my trade off between acceptable amounts of noise, and smooth mush. I think you handled it well here.
I would have liked to crop a small amount on the left side to get the tree more centered but you would probably loose some of the light tower.

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Thanks Andre! I’m going to try the Topaz AI that people have been recommending.

I totally relate to this comment! For me it’s easier said then done though. :hot_face:

I love this image! Very well done! I agree with Mark’s comments about cloning the lights.

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Thanks Steve. I’m mostly self taught and this group has already made me aware of a number of things I just haven’t thought about much in my photos.

Thanks Mark for the editors pick. I appreciate the welcome i have gotten in this community. Have a great day.

Nice work @Cameron_Wilcox

I like how you silhouetted the tree against the sky. I’ve photographed the aurora quite a bit and I’ve found that the best way to minimize noise is to make sure that I haven’t underexposed the shot. Even if it’s over exposed in the field, as long as I have a solid histogram I can bring my exposure back down and recover everything. The problem starts when we underexpose the shot and then have to raise the exposure in post. When we’re shooting a higher ISO the noise is worse where it’s dark.

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Thank you for the advice Gary. I think underexposing is a problem I need to work on. I often have to bump my exposure in post.

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