Opening image: The Southern Lights, looking south from Elliston, South Australia. Photo SA Rips

“THE SKY WAS ON FIRE”: HAYDEN RICHARDS ON THE SOUTHERN LIGHTS

South Australian surf photographer, Hayden Richards (who shoots under the photo credit SA Rips) recounts stumbling on the Aurora Australis atmospheric phenomenon after waking up in the middle of the night and walking outside to take a leak.

 

“I’m generally out and about every full moon, shooting all night up and down the coast, looking for new angles. But I had no idea this was happening. No idea at all.

 

“We’re renting in town in Elliston at the moment, and our daughter Kirra had friends down over the weekend from Roxby Downs, so we gave them our bedroom and were sleeping the night out in the caravan.

Hayden Richards spends most full moons driving the coast along the Eyre Peninsula, looking to capture the coastline under a monochromatic silver light. Saturday night was something else again. Photo SA Rips 

“Well, I got up for a piss at four in the morning and walked outside and just went... whoa. What the f... is this? The sky was on fire. It was popping off red and green and purple and just moving and flaring. I was just tripping out. There's never rave parties down on the oval at Ellison, but that's what I thought was going on. It was so vivid. So, I ran inside and woke Fiona up and said, ‘Am I seeing things here?’ We're both standing out the back of the caravan, looking up, just speechless, tripping. 

“So, we drove straight up to the cliff above town near Camel’s place. But I didn't have the cameras and lenses I wanted because they were all in our bedroom and we didn’t want to wake Kirra up. So, I got a couple of shots that night, but then I found out there was another night. So that next night, I managed to compose myself a bit more and they turned out all right.

“I was just tripping out,” recalls Richo. “There's never rave parties down on the oval at Ellison, but that's what I thought was going on.” Photo SA Rips 

“Usually when I’m driving around at night shooting, I never see a single soul, but that night there were cars driving around everywhere. People checking it out. Who knows when the next one is coming?” * 

* The solar storms that caused the weekend’s exaggerated Aurora Australis work around the sun’s 11-year solar magnetic activity cycle. Occasionally visible from Tasmania, the storms this time were so strong the phenomenon was visible as far north as Queensland.

Opening image: The Southern Lights, looking south from Elliston, South Australia. Photo SA Rips

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