Wild Horses | Washington

A storm brews 8 minutes away, as light travels, and the entire polar ends of the hemispheres see the storm’s wrath. The aurora, named after the Roman goddess of dawn, are cosmic rays and solar winds that bring (technically, they are) energy from the sun. The magnetic poles grab these winds and keep them from slamming into us, and equally important, our mobiles. The energy excites the particles in our atmosphere causing them to give off light. Sort of like the way electricity excites tungsten creating amber light. Different amounts of energy affecting different particles in the atmosphere cause different colors of light.

The storms can bring epic skies. When I heard of their forecasted approach I immediately began searching for north facing vistas with prominent foregrounds. However, being so far south as Washington state, my expectations for seeing the majesty that awaited me was low.

Wild Horses Monument on the Columbia River Gorge was a fantastic choice and I owe it to the guys to who helped me find this site. When we arrived atop this steep rattle snake habitat of a plateau in the middle of the night I immediately went for the cliff where I knew I’d find this horse and I knew I’d be alone. The catch, was that to capture this equestrian I had to stand on a speck of rock jutting from the face of cliff in the dark. All I had was a Canon 7D and a 35mm lens, there was barely enough room for my tripod, and open air on all sides.

“But did you die?”

No. I managed this 15 image panoramic with barely more than a few scrapes and a handful of scares. The sky was awash of translucent and slightly green and purple curtains of light. This far south, if Washington can be considered “south,” the colors of the goddess are not usually visible to the naked eye. That I saw any color at all was an unusual treat for someone who hasn’t seen the northern lights since I served on Eielson Air Force Base, in North Pole, Alaska in 2005. The camera, however, soaks up all the wild beauty of aurora!

Boreas is the purple winged greek god of the north wind who takes the form of a horse in mythology. He brings winter from the cold north once a year and, on occasion, tows the winds of Aurora. I made that last part up. But, its mythology and, well, I feel like it’s appropriate. When you stand before Wild Horses imagine Boreas, the mightiest of equestrians, changing down from the heavens.

Canon 7D
35mm prime
f1.4 30s x15 exposures


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