8 Dec 2022

NZers' stunning aurora pics featured in international collection

10:07 am on 8 December 2022

By John Lewis of Otago Daily Times

Aurora and the Milky Way at Nugget Point lighthouse.

An aurora as seen from the Nugget Point lighthouse in Otago. Photo: Douglas Thorne

Douglas Thorne had two choices - toss and turn in bed for hours trying to get some sleep, or take one of the world's best photos of an aurora.

The Te Anau-based photographer chose the latter, although he had no idea at the time that his photo would end up being included in the 2022 Northern Lights Photographer of the Year publication.

He was one of two New Zealand photographers included in the publication with photos of auroras in Otago. The other was Dunedin-based Kavan Chay.

Thorne said he was having trouble sleeping one night, so he decided to drive from Te Anau to Nugget Point on the Otago coast to take a photo of the Milky Way above the Nugget Point lighthouse.

"I was getting restless in bed and I knew the stars would be nice and clear because there was no cloud.

"It's a shot I've wanted to do for years. So I decided to go."

Once he got to the lighthouse, he noticed a bonus - an aurora forming off to the right.

"It changed my whole shot.

"It's pretty special for me.

"It was certainly worth missing out on the sleep."

Chay said he photographed the night sky a lot, but his photograph of an aurora over Taieri Beach in April this year was his best so far.

An aurora at Taieri Beach, with the Milky Way.

An aurora at Taieri Beach. Photo: Otago Daily Times / Kavan Chay

"You don't really know how auroras are going to respond or behave.

"You can kind of plan the photo a little bit, but they're so unpredictable.

"I find this one special because I'm actually happy with it.

"It's composed better."

Like Thorne, Chay was surprised to have been selected for the publication.

Both were contacted "out of the blue" by the organisers after they had seen their photographs on social media and asked them to submit them for the awards.

They are among 25 photographers, mainly from the northern hemisphere, to have been selected.

Chay was delighted to be included

"The collection of photos is incredible.

"The quality is ridiculously good.

"It's very surreal to be part of that collection."

- This story was first published on the Otago Daily Times

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