Check out this incredible video of the Southern Lights from space

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German astronaut Alexander Gerst captured an amazing timelapse of the Aurora Australis, aka the Southern Lights, glittering from the International Space Station. 

The video shows 38 seconds of electric green lights dancing energetically to the tune of an upbeat piano song somewhere over the south pole.

According to the European Space Agency (ESA), the video is made up of nearly 1,000 images taken in rapid succession and was taken during one of the 16 orbits the ISS makes daily. 

Gerst tweeted out his awe at the experience. 

Aurora Australis is the southern version of the more famous Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights.  

Both are gaseous interactions between molecules hovering between 60 and 200 miles above the Earth and electrically charged particles from the sun, according to NASA

Nitrogen causes a purple or blue aura. Yellow-green lights like those seen in the video above are caused by a collision of oxygen molecules found at about 60 miles above Earth. And red lights, though extremely rare, are caused by high-altitude oxygen collisions, NASA explained

SEE ALSO: Astronauts rocketing into space at 18,000 mph look incredibly chill about it

This phenomenon can take place at either magnetic pole, but the best place to see them without scientific equipment is in northern countries such as Canada or Iceland. 

This isn’t the first time Gerst has been able to capture mother nature at her best from the space station. 

In 2014, Gerst flew through the lights and was able to capture incredible pictures — hence, the ESA astronaut calling the lights his “old friend.”

He tweeted his reaction to seeing the lights from space for the first time.

Gerst frequently sets the camera to an automatic timer while he works, so here’s hoping we get another glimpse of the lights before he returns to Earth at the end of his mission later this year. 

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Beginner’s Guide to Natural Light in Landscape Photography

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Photography is all about light. The same scene with the same composition can look completely boring under one set of lighting conditions and very dramatic under different conditions. Good light makes the difference.

But does that imply there is also such a thing as bad light? I don’t think there is such a thing. The key is to understand what kinds of images to make under the lighting conditions you are presented with when you are photographing.

White House in Arnarstapi Harbor, Iceland - Beginner’s Guide to Natural Light in Landscape Photography

An overcast sky creates a soft landscape with no shadows.

Understanding the three characteristics of natural light will help you use the light to your advantage and make images with an impact no matter what conditions you have to work with.

The Quality of Light

By quality of light, I am referring to how hard or soft the light is.

Hard light happens during midday when the sun is high in the sky and there are no clouds to filter the light. This kind of light is harsh and bright, but it can also create interesting shadows and contrast.

Shadow on the Dunes - Beginner’s Guide to Natural Light in Landscape Photography

Harsh mid-afternoon light casts a dramatic shadow on this sand dune emphasizing its shape.

Soft light happens on a cloudy day when the clouds diffuse the light making it even with no shadows or bright spots. It also occurs in the shade.

Even on a day when there are no clouds, when the sun is lower in the sky the light passes through more atmosphere which softens the light. This is why golden light at the edges of the day is softer then midday light.

The Color of Light

The color of natural light from the sun changes during the course of the day. Before the sun rises, when the first light of the day appears in the sky, the light is a cool blue. During sunrise, the light is golden. As the sun gets higher in the sky, it is bright with little color tint at all.

Organ Pipe Cactus - Beginner’s Guide to Natural Light in Landscape Photography

During Golden Hour, the last of the day’s light casts a warm golden light on these cacti.

At the end of the day the opposite thing happens. When the sun is low on the horizon before sunset, you get the golden glow. After sunset is twilight when the light is a cool blue (blue hour).

Saguaro Cactus by Anne McKinnell - Beginner’s Guide to Natural Light in Landscape Photography

Once the sun has set, the light becomes a cool blue and the landscape is soft with no shadows.

The Direction of Light

Front light is when the light comes from behind you and hits the front of your subject directly. Front light can be unforgiving, washing out colors and minimizing textures. So if you are going to use it, it’s best to do so when the sun is low in the sky when it is warmer and softer.

Angel Peak New Mexico by Anne McKinnell - Beginner’s Guide to Natural Light in Landscape Photography

Front light hits the mountain, but it is a soft light since it is also at golden hour.

Backlight is when the sun is directly in front of you and behind your subject, lighting it from behind. I love backlight because the deep contrast between the highlights and shadows is so dramatic.

Backlighting is also perfect for making silhouettes when you have subjects with great shapes.

Organ Pipe Cactus by Anne McKinnell - Beginner’s Guide to Natural Light in Landscape Photography

The cactus is lit from behind creating an interesting silhouette during sunset.

Sidelight is when the sun is beside you, lighting your subject from the side. This kind of light is excellent for emphasizing shape and texture.

The sidelight on this saguaro cactus emphasizes it’s shape and texture.

What to do when …

So how do you use this information to your benefit? When you are out photographing consider the characteristics of the light you are presented with and use that to decide what kinds of photographs to make.

Harsh mid-afternoon light

The light is high in the sky, extremely bright and harsh with only a little color. This is a good time to look for shadows or photograph in the shade.

Shadow Patterns by Anne McKinnell - Beginner’s Guide to Natural Light in Landscape Photography

Harsh mid-afternoon light can create interesting shadows.

An overcast day with dull light

This kind of midday light has little color, but it is soft with no shadows; think soft. This kind of light is perfect for making soft flower photos, close-ups with even light, or waterfall photos where direct light would cause unwelcome bright spots.

If there is any texture to the clouds in the sky, that is good. But if the sky is pure white, eliminate it from the frame.

Skogafoss Iceland by Anne McKinnell - Beginner’s Guide to Natural Light in Landscape Photography

Waterfalls are a perfect subject for an overcast day.

Golden Hour

The sun is low in the sky casting beautiful soft warm light at golden hour, so it’s hard to go wrong in this situation. Think about the direction of light. Front light will create a warm glow on buildings and mountains, sidelight will emphasize the shape of hills, backlight will create dramatic silhouettes and you could create a sunburst by using a small aperture.

Spider Rock, Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Arizona - Beginner’s Guide to Natural Light in Landscape Photography

The day’s last light casts a golden glow on the edge of the canyon.

Blue Hour

The sun is below the horizon giving you soft, even, cool light. The direction of light does not apply here. Combine this type of light with a long exposure to emphasize the soft feeling if you have any moving elements like water or clouds. Combine twilight with city lights for more drama.

Li River and Karst Mountains in Guilin, China - Beginner’s Guide to Natural Light in Landscape Photography

There was barely any light in the sky at all during this 15-second exposure.

The best way to learn how different types of light affect your images is to photograph the same subject under various conditions. Pick something that is easily accessible to you and photograph it with front light, sidelight, and backlight. Photograph it at midday, during golden hour and at twilight. Photograph it under harsh mid-afternoon light and on a cloudy day when the light is soft.

Understanding these characteristics of natural light will ensure that you can make the most of the lighting conditions you have and create photos with impact at any time of day.

The post Beginner’s Guide to Natural Light in Landscape Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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The Best Burning Man Travel Tips From Our Readers

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This week Hack Your City went to Black Rock City, the seasonal settlement that fills up every August for Burning Man. Readers gave tips for surviving the heat, the dust, and the sensory overload. Honestly it sounds like literal hell to me, but people seem to have a good time there! Read all the comments on the original post, or catch the highlights below.

  • “Don’t set your expectations too high. The burn may or may not be life-changing for you (or not in the way you think, or as quickly as you think, etc. etc.), and that’s OK. Sometimes a great party is just a great party.”—dr_bombay
  • “If you drive there have a total change of clothes that you leave in your car. When you get back to it leave all your burner clothes outside the car, and put them in a trash bag. Seal it. Dispose of sensibly. You won’t want them again.”—treessimon
  • “Wear loose-fitting clothing or as little as possible, because sand and dust gathers in elastic bandings of underwear and will chafe and drive you crazy.”—jcn-txct
  • “Consider attending one of the smaller regional burns before heading to Black Rock. They’re great fun and an excellent way to learn about the Principles, community, volunteering, and more general stuff like what to bring.”—PshNope
  • “Whenever you leave camp, take your scarf and dunk it in ice cold cooler water for a few seconds, then throw it over your head when you get on your bike. Instant A/C.”—Mike F
  • “As tradition goes, bring a bottle of whiskey or a pack or two of PBR for the Gate crew. It’s always best to keep the Gate family happy.”—Blahblahwoo
  • Bring apple cider vinegar for your hair. “It will rinse out a lot of the dust and gunk and grease,” says M-B, when you don’t have enough water for a shower and shampoo.
  • “Thursday Night Meltdown Awareness. By Thursday it will all be too much and you will sink in a puddle of over-stimulation and fatigue and emotions. Be kind to yourself on Thursday. Take an extra nap.”—melosond
  • “Pickles are a blessing, especially on a hot day when you’ve sweated out all your electrolytes. The juice is also really good for the same reason.”—silveroracle 

Thanks to all the experienced Burners who gave advice! All the best comments are featured in the Staff tab under the original post. (Comments saying “don’t go to Burning Man because I personally don’t like it” are not featured in the Staff tab, and we don’t understand why anyone wastes their lives writing them.) If you have more Burning Man advice, comment below. And come back next week, when Hack Your City goes to South Africa.

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