An aurora captured near Zaca Lake in Santa Barbara County on May 10, 2024. | Credit: Tom Rejzak

The Northern Lights were out Friday night, and Tom Rejzek captured this amazing photograph in Foxen Canyon near Zaca Lake. “Basically, I was looking for it and found it!” he wrote in an email to the Indy.

Rejzek said it was foggy when he headed out around 10 p.m. from Santa Maria, where he lives: “I’m a serious amateur photographer — and a Daily Nexus photographer from the 1980s — and reports were showing visible aurora in the states north of us. I headed inland on Foxen Canyon, and the fog finally broke just south of Alisos Canyon Road.

“It was pretty dark. Looking north, I could see some very faint vertical white lines on the horizon. Success! I set up my DSLR camera on a tripod and took a couple of test shots. I immediately saw the aurora on the camera preview screen.”

Rejzek said he spent an hour adjusting his camera speeds and focal lengths, taking 30-second exposures at a high ISO.

“The aurora ebbed and flowed over the next hour,” he said. “The unprocessed images had a distinct reddish hue. Once back home, I played with the color balance on the raw files in Photoshop and was able to pull out more colors.”

Rejzek said he’d seen an aurora before, at Mammoth in the 1990s, but he knew that the current solar storm was the sun’s largest coronal mass ejection in 20 years.

“I enjoy astro-photography, so it was special to capture this rare event.”

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