On the hunt for the Aurora Australis


23rd Of April – Alonnah and The Neck Lookout, South Bruny

Alonnah Pontoon, 300 steps from my block on Bruny Island
Picket fence beams
Moonrise from The Neck

My final night on Bruny Island before having to make the trip North to Davenport ready to catch the Spirit Of Tasmania the next day. At midday things weren’t looking promising at all, although kp was expected to reach 4 due to solar winds from an earth facing CH.   Upon checking again at 4pm things had changed and a sustained southward bz and decent looking density made for potential aurora after day 3 hours later.   Come 7pm I was set up on the Alonnah Pontoon waiting with whilst set up and shooting for timelapse.  About an hour later she made an appearance.  The solar winds were pretty slow at around 450km but the bz and density showed no signs of dropping off. Due to light pollution from the pub I decided to relocate to The Neck Lookout  – 10 minutes away. When I walked up the steps I was surprised to find 8 others trying to capture the aurora with iPhone s.  15 minutes later and a first for me – picket fence beams from a STEVE. The pickets appeared and disappeared 3 times over the next 45 minutes.  As  the aurora dropped in strength I continued with my timelapse in hope of the Aurora picking back up

21st of April – Cape Bruny Lighthouse, Tasmania

I made the decision to dive the 20 minutes from Alonnah in South Bruny to the Cape Bruny Lighthouse. Although it’s only 20km away’ it can be a fair effort with bad road conditions and animals making the drive difficult in the dark.  I had a plan to practice some light painting with the hope of a possible appearance from the aurora.   After trying a few different light painting techniques’ I noticed the slight glow from a far distant aurora started to make an appearance through my long exposures.  Being so far South (only about 30km from the Southern most point of Australia) viewing the aurora even on minimal strengths is possible.

17th of April Cloudy Bay, Bruny Island  –  Tasmania

With a week to spend working on my block at South Bruny’ I was hoping for some aurora action.  On my first night I got the opportunity, although actually getting a photo was to prove hard with the 100% full moon. The guages reached kp 4 with wind speed, density and Bz all favourable.  Sky’s stayed relatively clear and with a short exposure and low iso  I managed to capture the colour from this remote and stunning location.  Without such a strong moon it would of been a fantastic display, but I was happy with the results and was off to a great start to my week on Bruny.

10th April 2022

With the guages looking promising for Aurora’ I arrived at this location at around 11pm hoping to see a strong show. It never eventuated’ with only small beam and redish glow from the aurora. It was my first time at this location though’ and definitely one I’ll be trying from again soon.

31st March 2022

With another predicted strong aurora expected to arrive at earth that evening’ I headed to a new location for me – Harmers Haven, a small coastal town just South of Wonthaggi on the Bass Coast. With the clouds clearing and aurora visible as I arrived’ it looked like I was in for another great display. But it never happened and over the few hours I was there shooting’ the best of the action was in the first 20 minutes or so. Beautiful deep reds and a few beams were the highlights of this aurora.

14th March 2022

Another early morning surprise and lucky for me I didn’t have to work that day. Once again we were awaiting the affects of numerous CMEs that were expected to impact earth in some shape or another. And once again we went to bed without seeing any movement in the guages. I set alarm for 1:30 and 3:30am, waking at 1:30 and checking the websites indicated that aurora was starting to impact earth but I decided to get more sleep and check again in a few hours. By 3:30 the guages had improved – I was straight into my clothes and in the car. The kilcunda bridge us about 5 minutes from home, it’s not somewhere I’d usually head to due to the car traffic and popularity of the location. It seems everyone wants an Aurora photo with this bridge.. Anyway’ if ever there was a time to shoot from there then this was it. I arrived and as expected there was not a soul in sight. But there was no sign of Aurora, knowing what was predicted to arrive in the next 30 or so minutes I decided to stick around. I’m so glad I did! Soon colour was starting to build’ and 10 minutes later the aurora was fantastic. I moved around taking as many photos from as many locations as possible without missing out on to many beams. From 4am to 5:30am the display was strong, only the first glimpse of dawn would defeat the colour. And before long it was washed away entirely by the pending sunrise. Another amazing aurora display from coastal Victoria’ continuing our fantastic recent run of activity.

11th of February

Kilcunda headlands
Kilcunda surf beach

The great recent run of aurora activity continued with this nice display from kilcunda on the 11th of February.  Activity was predicted earlier in the evening before but never arrived.  It was coming  – just a matter of when?  I set my alarm for 12:30am and 2:30am when I would check the guages for any signs the affects from the recent CME were arriving at earth’s outer atmosphere.   Sure enough by 12:30 the guages had just bumped.. Now I just needed to wait.  1 hour later the alarm went again and the guages had held and even increased, aurora was on its way.  I jumped in the car at 2am and drove 5 minutes to kilcunda.  My first test shots revealed cloud and minimal signs if aurora. 5 minutes later and cloud was clearing and a slight tinge of red proved aurora was building.  I found a location and started shooting as the aurora built in strength and put on a display for over an hour. It held its colour for a while and gave me a chance to try a few new locations.   Another sneaky early morning aurora well worth the effort of getting up early for.

Back to Back, 4th of February

The Oaks,  Cape Patterson

Oaks Reflections

The second consecutive night of activity from the multiple M class flares with an earth directed component.  Although not as strong this time’ the pinks from thr previous night were still the dominant colour.  I tried a new location that has a fantastic clear to the South and minimal light pollution. Over the few hours I was there the aurora slowly built until a few beams popped up and danced across the horizon. After that I headed home tired due to consecutive late nights of Aurora chasing. Great signs the Solar Cycle 25 is really gaining in strength…

Cannon 6d, Samyang 24mm f2.0 13 seconds – iso 3400

The Pink Lady, 3rd February

Inverloch lagoon

What a night this turned out to be..  I arrived at the Inverloch foreshore before blue hour with high expectations. The guages had been strong kp5 and kp6 during the afternoon, but conditions had slowed a little. During late blue hour the aurora became visible and conditions improved, including a consistent negative bz.  It held’ and within a few hours the yellow in the horizon looked primed to pop.m. It did’ with the large pink beams reaching high into the sky moving from West and fading to the East.  Then all of a sudden beams everywhere! The bright pink beams were naked eye and amazing.  The show continued for 20 minutes before dropping back to previous levels, and goes down as one of the more unique and prettiest displays I have seen from either Victoria or Tasmania



2nd November  –  Mt Bishop

I’d been planning this for a few years before it finally came together.   Everything needs to line up perfectly to shoot aurora from the peaks of Wilsons Promontory National Park.   It’s very windy, attracts bad weather is over 3km each way walk – and the aurora needs to be active.  After a couple of failed attempts from the summit of Mt Bishop I was finally rewarded for effort.  Although it nearly didn’t happen…  I was watching the guages with interest from the car park below after driving 1.5 hours from home.  The guages weren’t looking promising’ but a CME from the sun days earlier was expected to push activity up to kp 6 levels.  It was an hour before dark and I had to make the call” bugger it – I’m going up.  I made it up in about 45 minutes and quickly set my tent up (on the track) and cooked dinner.  The guages had bumped  and aurora looked likely.  A few hours after dark and the aurora started building in strength.  For the next 30 minutes beams danced across the sky with some fantastic colours.   The only downside was I didn’t consider a time-lapse.   Oh well” I’ll just have to do it all again..

Other photo opportunities

There’s always something to photograph in Gippsland.  The Ghost mushrooms were blooming in late autumn and early winter.  This cluster were on an old rotting tree stumo and one of the better and popular finds of 2021′  On this occasion I received a location tip off from a fellow photographer friend about a great little cluster at Inverloch.  It didn’t disapoint and was very popular amongst the locals who had taken their kids out to have a look.

Canon 6d, Samyang 14mm f2.4  10 seconds iso 2400

12th May  –  Powlett River

For the first time in over a year conditions looked primed for an aurora from coastal Victoria.  A recent C class solar flare from the sun was directed towards earth.  Although not a strong CME it was a sure sign that our sun was coming out of solar minimum.  The terrestrial weather was also perfect’ and the direct hit made for a fantastic display from the mouth if the Powlett River.  The highlight being the Red SARC Arch that hung around for over an hour – It’s not overly common to see this from Victoria.

Canon 6d, Samyang 14mm f2.8    20 seconds iso 3200

Connellys Marsh, Tasmania

Staying on Bruny Island for the week in mid April of 2021′ I was keenly keeping an eye on an active Coronal Hole expected to be facing earth.  It was the last night of my trip by time the affects of the CH were bringing potential aurora to Southern Tasmania.  With cloud cover thick over Bruny’ I decided to head off the island to drive through Hobart and potentially head out to the Tasman Peninsula.   I sussed out google maps and drove to the quite little coastal village of Connellys Marsh, and walked the points looking for a location with a potential camp spot for the night. It looked fantastic!  I then drove back to Primrose Sands to kill a few hours at the beach.  With an hour before dark I once again was at Connellys Marsh’ walked 20 minutes around a few points and set my tent up before dark.  I had a lovely little bay all to myself and straight after blue hour the aurora was visible.  I photographed the aurora over the next 4 or 5 hours as it fluctuated in strength and patterns.  Finally i went to bed and managed about 3.5 hours of sleep.  Then at first light I was woken by a large angry dog growling at my tent.  To my relief I could hear it’s owner call it back  and they continued their morning walk.  I quickly packed up and was soon back at my car continuing my drive north to Davenport ready to head home to Victoria.

2020 Still Solar minimum?

Waiting patiently…

Cape Conran Milky Way
Bass Landing
Bioluminescent algae
San Remo
Lightning over Dalyston

Solar minimum dragged long into 2020 with only a couple of opportunities to capture aurora’ unfortunately total cloud cover washed away those chances. I needed something else to photograph’ and luckily there’s always plenty of options. During the later stages of summer 2020 we were lucky enough to have a sea sparkle bloom. The bioluminescent algae swept along the Bass Coast over a few days. It’s somewhat of a rarity in the cooler waters of Bass Strait, but with warmer water pushing in from the east’ conditions were perfect.

2019 – Solar minimum

Kilcunda 5th August

Shelly’s beach
Giant Blue Ray on the right

In what was somewhat of a rarity for 2019′ an active Coronal Hole had rotated into view of earth. The expected strength of this aurora was kp5 or G1. With clouds expected to hang over Bass Straight I thought I’d head up into the Bass Hills behind Kilcunda. Straight on dark the aurora was visible and building in strength. I stayed at the spot up in the hills for an hour or so until I then decided to move down to the coast. After driving 10 minutes I chose Shelly Beach as my location as there no light pollution and its generally pretty quiet. The a large yellow arch grew and at one stage had multiple arches. But the most distinctive aspect of this aurora was the giant Blue Ray beam off to the west side’ reaching hight into the upper atmosphere. It’s hardly visible the whole time – but it’s there. Unusually it lasted for hours and is something we don’t see to often. The Giant Blue Ray has only recently been named by the aurora buffing. Its considered a bit if a rarity to see it’ and is usually seen in middle lattitudes.


Verona Sands  –  Tasmania October 2018

Whilst stay at Verona Sands in Southern Tasmania for a few weeks’ I was lucky enough to be surprised by the Aurora. There wasn’t any noteworthy activity predicted and the moon was full. Low and behold the guages reached kp 4 fuled by an earth facing CH that we were feeling the effects from. I walked to the beach and struggled with my settings before figuring out how long an exposure I needed. It wasn’t a strong aurora but clearly visible through the moon. The beach there is such a fantastic place to shoot aurora from.

Fuji XT-2 Samyang 12mm f2.8 iso 1800 at 8 seconds

Cape Conran, April 2018

On this night I was camping in Far East Gippsland on a block of land that we owned at the time.  The expected aurora was starting to build in strength in the hours leading up to these photos. But clouds along the Far East Gippsland coastline ment I wasn’t very keen on my chances of seeing much. As alerts started coming in’ I set my camera up on the road outside my front gate. Being further north than I’d ever photographed aurora before’ I wasn’t expecting much.  To my total surprise my first shoot revealed the horizon was yellow with very strong growing aurora.  I quickly jumped in the car and drove the 5 minutes to Salmon Rocks  Cape Conran. As I was arriving I could see the glow from huge beams reaching far into the sky, I quickly set up and started to shoot off photos. Within minutes the aurora started to weaken and clouds came over. The show was finished.. I was a little disappointed that I happen to be in the most cloud covered location in Victoria at the time, but pleased I got what I did all things considered. Thus aurora was by far the strongest of 2018 and one of the stronger of Solar Cycle 24


29th September

The moonlight was still shining pretty strong on the night of the 29th of September 2017  Along with moonwash’ the density and bz were fading, I wasn’t expecting to much as I stood in the sand dunes near the Cape Woolamai surf lifesaving club.  I was just about to pack up and leave when activity suddenly increased, the burst of beams reached high and moved quickly from right to left bringing strong moon affected colour.  Within 10 minutes the beams had vanished and colour fading away.  The short but spectacular show was over..

27th September –  Returning CH

The same earth facing Coronal Hole from a month earlier had again brought solar changed particles into out atmosphere. This time solar wind speed was predicted to be higher and the affects last a few days.  Once again the full moon was close and this time the wind was blowing strong from the South west. Living so close to Cape Woolamai I once again head there, this time I had to hid up in the dunes for some protection from the wind.   The aurora showed up again, although the moonlight was overwhelming most of the colour.

Fuji XT-1 Samyang 12mm f2.4  iso 1600 @ 10 seconds

Moonlight Aurora  – 30th August

Green arch – Cape Woolamai
Distant beams
Strong beams through the moonlight

Arriving at the Cape Woolamai surf beach second car park’ I was very sceptical on what the night might bring. The guages were strong and the kp was hovering at 6, but the moon was at 93% Not long after though I was capturing a huge double arch aurora and the moon was only a few hours off setting for the night. Over the next few hours the Aurora continued to stay strong before slowing subsiding as the moon was setting. I had changed locations a few times and had plenty of photos to pick through. Capturing the aurora so well with such strong moonwash to light up the foreground really is a photographers dream. It gives the photographer a lot more opportunities for compositions.

Cloudy nights over Bass Straight

16th of July
29th of May

Mid 2017 saw some large active Coronal Holes facing earth resulting in solid aurora displays. Unfortunately for Southern Victoria the clouds and conditions that Bass Straight is famous for prevailed. I usually try and hang around for a bit to see if there’s any chance of gaps in the clouds, and sometimes it pays off. But not these times.

Boar Bay, San Remo. May 2017

Yellow arch, Boar Bay

This time the aurora well and truly produced more than was predicted. There was the chance of aurora showing, but expectations were of a strength of kp 4 – so pretty low. Kp should allow us to see some colour from Victoria, occasionally even yellow. But to see the yellow arch appear was bonus. It was such a beautiful night, so even if the aurora didn’t show then Milky Way was the options. I remember a few guys fishing on the beach just up from were I was. They had no idea what I was photographing.

Fuji XT-1 Samyang 12mm f2.4 iso 3200 at 20 seconds

Wonthaggi, April 2017

Aurora behind the clouds, Wonthaggi 2017

With clouds hugging the coast of South Gippsland’ my only opportunity to photograph the aurora on this night was to head inland. It’s always a gamble because you don’t want to spend hours driving inland only to then have no aurora show up. I decided to head inland from the coast without driving to far though. In hindsight I probably should of gone further inland but I really like this photo. It demonstrates that even with the light pollution and cloud cover’ it pays to put in the effort and take a drive.

Glenn Forbes, April 2017

Aurora rising above the Bass Hills

With a large Coronal Hole facing earth’ the aurora predictions were looking good – peaking at kp 6 As night approached a thick fog set in along our coastline, so I decided to head inland to find clearer sky’s. Down some backroads off the Bass Highway’ I found a nice quiet location. I waited the as darkness fell then scaled a few fences, the aurora was visible over the fog for a good few hours before dropping off. I went home to the comfort of bed after this, but the aurora did pick up again in the early hours of the next morning – putting on an even stronger display.

Ghost mushrooms

Rhyll, Phillip Island
Silverleaves, Phillip Island

2017 was the first year I photography Omphalotus nidiformis – aka the Ghost mushrooms. I’d seen a post on social media from Southern Victoria and straight away had to track down some of my own to photograph. Usually blooming in autumn or after rains and while there’s still some warmth and humidity around. There glow even to the naked eye, especially when at their peak. But be quick – it doesn’t take long for slugs to find them or rain to damage them. They love rotting stumps and tree roots of Banksia, Pine and Tea Tree

Fuji XT-1 Samyang 12mm f2.8 iso 3000 at 15 seconds

Tasmanian 28th March 2017           Back to Back..

All photos from Nubeena, Tasmania

Still at White Beach and recovering from minimal sleep from the night before’ the guages were still very promising and another aurora imminent. My location was up in the hills on some back road behind Nubeena, about 10 minutes drive from the cabin.  As the sun set once again there was blue hour aurora.  I watched and photographed another wonderful and vibrant display for a couple of hours before the aurora dropped in strength.  My two nights of Aurora had come to an end, but left me with memories for a lifetime.

Fuji XT-1  Samyang 12mm f2.4  iso 3000 13 seconds

Tasmanian 27th March 2017

Roaring beach overhead aurora
White beach boat ramp
White beach

My family and I were spending a few weeks travelling down the East Coast of Tasmania when I noticed a large Coronal Hole (CH) rotating towards earth.  We decided to stay in a cabin at White Beach for the last 5 nights of the trip. White Beach on the Tasman Peninsula has some fantastic views to the South.  A strong kp6 aurora was predicted for the night of the 27th, so I did some recon on a location to shoot from during the lead up.  On the night of the 27th I headed to Roaring Beach and set up early. As soon as the sun set I could see up hour aurora, over the next 6 hours or so I shoot off around 800 photos at a few different locations.  The aurora visible to the naked eye, at one stage almost overhead. I could see faint greens as the beams danced at a rapid pace.  I ended up at the beach adjacent to the caravan park and cabin we were staying at, crawling into bed at 4am as the aurora was still pumping.  This was the most amazing aurora I have seen and still is to date.  The guages got to kp7 and G2 strengths.


Other Aurora of 2016

All taken at different locations around Cape Woolamai, Phillip Island 2016
Anderson Hills, Bass

2016 was a fantastic year for Aurora chasing in Victoria.  There was a lot of opportunities to get out and try our luck.  Unfortunately the aurora doesn’t always work out how we’d like. There many occasions when it doesn’t show at all, or there’s a little glow but that’s it.  Then there’s the other occasions when theses clouds of bad weather to contend with, our the aurora just isn’t quite big enough to call amazing.  The above photos are from some of those times.

Full Moon Aurora

27th October 2016

Aussie track sand dunes – Cape Woolamai

Something very rare and challenging to photograph from Victoria is a full moon aurora.  Even through a cameras long exposure the full moons brightness will wash almost any chance of being able to photograph an aurora from such low latitudes (around 38).  It really take a strong aurora and great local weather conditions to have any chance to shine through that brightness.  On this occasion the apps were predicting a big aurora and the guages were rising swiftly as I packed up and headed to my location.  After setting up on top of a sand dune’ I continued to take test shots every few minutes until finally colour started to appear  through the moons brightness.  The guages reached kp 7 making this one of the stronger aurora seen from Victoria during solar cycle 24, and was clearly visible through the 97% moon light washout. 

Cape Liptrap Lighthouse

29th September 2016

Cape Liptrap, Walkerville South

This night and photo was a good reward for effort. Only a few days after the strong aurora of the 27th there was once again predicted to be a great chance of aurora from Southern Victoria.  I’d made the decision to drive the hour or so to Cape Liptrap lighthouse at South Walkerville but was apprehensive about the weather.  Along the way I stopped at Inverloch for some test shots as it was already getting dark.  All that the test shots revealed were clouds’ and that it was still about 30 minutes until astronomical dark.  So I continued on to the lighthouse hoping to be greated with the predicted clearing sky’s.  About 10 minutes before arriving I noticed flashes of lightning out over Bass Straight, then something eyes.  No way, surely not…  Yep – two huge pillars of light vertically reaching out from behind the storm clouds.  I knew it was aurora beams so rushed to the lighthouse and started shooting.  Unfortunately for me though I was pretty much clouded out and to late – the aurora was dropping away through the gaps in the clouds.   I could of packed up and left at any stage over the next 3 or 4 hours as the aurora was by now just a slight pink glow way off on the bottom of the Southern horizon.  But the clouds had cleared and all of a sudden at around 1am the aurora decided to reappear.  Not as strong as earlier’ but beautiful colours and orange beams moved slowly across the Southern sky’s in my cameras lenses. I was definitely glad I hung around and got the photos I was after. And will definitely be back to shoot from this location again

Cape Woolamai Phillip Island 27th September 2016

Blue hour Aurora Australis
Yellow arc and crowning beams
Stunning colours

I arrived at the Cape Woolamai surf beach second car park just as the sun was setting and darkness beginning to take hold.  The period as the sun sets until astronomical darkness is known  as blue hour.  Generally the camera will continue to pick up light from the setting sun as earth rotates and out of its view bringing us darkness.  It takes around one hour from sunset to full astronomical darkness.  My first hurried shots revealed a strong aurora already going off as the sun was setting in the West.  This was definitely blue hour aurora.  Over the next few hours the aurora produced a lovely display including a yellow arc and some beautiful orange to pink beams that moved in a westerly direction. Before long the aurora had diminished beyond the horizon leaving just a faint glow.

My first Aurora

Cape woolamai 16th August 2016

1st carpark – Cape Woolamai

My first time photographing the Aurora Australis was from Cape Woolamai, Phillip Island  – Victoria on the 16th of August 2016  I remember this night clearly as the hype and predictions had been for a strong storm after an earth directed CME headed our way.  What followed didn’t disapoint.  During the day I remember having to borrow a camera and lens from a friend, as my camera at the time (Fuji XT-1) was awaiting a new samyang 12mm lens. The borrowed Canon basic kit set up did do the job, but wasn’t the right set up for long low light exposures. Nevertheless it captured the strong colours, ranging from a large yellow double arc’ and at one stage two giant beams the reached high into the sky.  I was left spellbound as thr aurora danced from dusk to dawn.  This was the start of my passion and addiction for nightscape photography  – and looking back now I’d say that this aurora changed my life forever.