Photographer Shocked to See Northern Lights from Southern California

northern lights in Death Valley
The aurora lights seen from Death Valley, California

A photographer was shocked to capture the northern lights as far south as she was in Death Valley, California.

Shari Hunt was out on the Mesquite Flat Dunes trying to shoot pictures of the Milky Way Galaxy with her friend Kathy Chassie.

“Due to the storm in California, it had been mostly cloudy the entire trip,” Hunt tells PetaPixel. “This was our last chance to photograph the night sky with little clouds on the horizon.”

Aurora from Death Valley

aurora map
Map showing how far south the aurora can usually be observed, circled is Death Valley | NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center graphic

After giving up on imaging the Milky Way Galaxy, Hunt decided to point her lens elsewhere in the night sky to see what else was going on.

“I pointed my camera north and took a shot,” she explains. “Immediately, I saw the back of the camera and I thought I must have left it on auto white balance as the colors, which I initially thought was just airglow, were too insane.

“I shot again and saw pillar-like structures. I asked my friend Kathy to check it out — as I really thought something was up with my camera. We were shocked and immediately checked the aurora maps.

“Kathy shoots in Maine quite a bit and is more familiar with the auroras. As I look back on my shots, I can see the movement of the lights. I’ve never seen them before and was even planning a trip to do this for next year while the sun is in this cycle. Needless to say, we were stoked.”

panoramic of the northern lights

Hunt caught stunning purples and mellow greens dancing above the horizon with the arch of the Milky Way above.

The aurora lights are usually found in the Arctic circle, far away from the Californian desert which is better known for its record-breaking heat.

The phenomenon is being pinned on strong solar winds with southern England also being bathed in the aurora lights earlier this week.

More of Hunt’s work can be found on her website and Instagram.

Image credits: All photos by Shari Hunt.