Capturing the Aurora in the Grampians

On a recent hike to the summit of Boronia, I was set on capturing 3 images. Firstly, the Sunset, the Aurora Australis (or just the Milky Way) and then the Sunrise. The hike itself takes about 1-1.5 hours each way and it has fantastic views of Halls Gap and the mountain ranges surrounding it. I had been here before and I knew that I was in for great views.

Location Scouting

My plan behind choosing this location was based around the fact that the view to the south is simply stunning. I was to focus on the mountains to the south, with views over Lake Bellfield towards Mt William as the subject. complementing elements like the striking rock formations or some native wildflowers as the foreground. I had been waiting for the right conditions for some time. It was warm evening, with clear skies, no wind and the moon was barely visible – perfect conditions for capturing the Milky Way and hopefully the elusive Southern Lights.

Photographic Equipment

I commenced my hike with the usual supply of a variety of healthy and unhealthy snacks, coffee, water and I decided to spoil myself and have breakfast up there too. My camera kit for these types of trips includes my trusty Sony A7R mirrorless camera, with ZEISS Batis 18mm ƒ2.8. I also take a carbon Manfrotto 190CX3 Tripod, 3 Legged Thing AirHed 360 Ballhead. For power, I use an extended battery grip with 2 spare batteries and I take a number of powerbanks to keep everything charged up. That is essentially my base kit – absolutely field tested and I would recommend all of these to anyone interested in remote, high quality photographic work. In addition, I had my Canon 135mm ƒ2.0 L series lens with a metabones adapter. For this trip I decided to leave my Syrp Genie and Syrp Genie minis with a Carbon Slider at home – my kit was already pretty heavy and I was in for a long night.

Photograph 1: Sunset

For the sunset shot, I spent some time evaluating locations on the ridge with Astro-Photography in the back of mind. I knew the sun would be falling behind the western range which would give me about 30 minutes of light before last light. I was fortunate with some beautiful tones coming from the setting sun and clouds high enough to gather some great colours.

Boronia Peak Sunset, Grampians NP, Victoria, Australia

It is funny, for the sunset I was hoping that clouds would appear to give the sky some interest and colour but in the back of my mind, I wanted them to disappear for capturing the night sky later that evening – all they had to do is reappear before first light for the perfect sunrise shot – that’s not asking for too much surely? Or is it? Either way, my hopes were met – and exceeded by the appearance of the Southern Lights!

Photograph 2: Aurora Australis and the Milky Way

I was amazed at what happened next. I had spent some time reading a book, eating the majority of my snacks and waiting patiently for the light to be dark enough to capture the night sky. Truth be known, I was hoping that the Milky Way would stand vertically above the lake but I was more than happy to capture the amount of colour from this amazing phenomenon so far north. The Grampians is 200km north of the coast of Victoria (approx 37° South) aka a long way from the South Pole.

I couldn’t believe it, at 1am I was starting to notice a strong glow in the horizon – was I dreaming? Nope, and I knew that it wasn’t from any of the small towns around the area. The light was similar to what I’ve witnessed in Tasmania previously. The Solar forecast was correct. I was witnessing the Southern Lights in the Grampians!?

Southern lights (aurora australis) and the Milky Way at Boronia Peak, Grampians National Park, Victoria, Australia

Continue reading about the Aurora Australis (Southern Lights) captured from the summit of Boronia Peak.

Photograph 3: The Sunrise

For the sunrise shot, I had the hopes that the rising sun would create a beautiful light on the Grampians Peaks to the west and the clouds reappeared as I had hoped!

Boronia Peak Sunrise, Grampians NP, Victoria, Australia

Continue reading about the Sunrise at Boronia Peak here.

The Grampians had turned on a spectacular night, one that I will remember for a long time.

Boronia Peak is the Eastern ridge above the town of Halls Gap in the heart of the Grampians National Park, Victoria, Australia.

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