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Finding that elusive aurora light


November 29, 2019

Carla Goldschmidt

Carla Goldschmidt starting taking photos of auroras about a decade ago. She has a showing of her works opening Dec. 7.

Seeing the northern lights pulse and dance across the sky is a highlight of living in northern Minnesota. Some of us grew up with this amazing phenomena. For others, it is a lifetime dream to someday witness the aurora borealis.

"I grew up in Chicago, where I thought nothing about the night sky. When I first heard about the aurora (borealis) as a young person, I was amazed," Carla Goldschmidt said.

In 2000, Goldschmidt moved to Carlton County, when her husband was called to minister. On a fall evening in 2003, she was surprised and amazed to see the aurora in Cloquet. In April 2008, she saw photographs of the aurora that a friend had taken, and she was hooked.

"You can photograph the aurora? That had never occurred to me," she said. "I bought a better camera and joined two aurora hunter groups on Facebook. It took a while to learn the terminology. I photographed the aurora here, then traveled at different times to Saginaw, and Orr."

These aurora photographs are now on view at the Magnolia Café in Carlton. Goldschmidt originally connected with café owner Yvette Maijala through her nature photographs in and around Jay Cooke State Park. When Maijala heard about Goldschmidt's images of the aurora, she requested a show at Magnolia.

During the day, Goldschmidt is occupied with music, her other passion. She teaches private lessons and is a substitute teacher.

"Teaching music is teaching life," she said. "I believe we are all created in the image of the creator, we all have ways of expressing that. It's very meaningful to me, very emotional. Music is awesome, it helps kids express themselves, and helps them find what's meaningful to them. Photography is a way of expressing just as music is, expressing something deeply meaningful to me."

Goldschmidt is passionate about sharing the beauty of nature and our night skies with others. But it's not always easy.

"Growing up in a city, you have no idea what dark is. Being in the dark is not easy for me, it's part of my journey to overcome that fear. When I stay out at night photographing, I can see better after my eyes adjust. I become less afraid of the dark."

One thing Goldschmidt has noticed during her nighttime photography is light pollution.

"I am all for reducing light pollution and protecting our view of the night skies. Cameras gather more light than we can see, so you notice the lights that are on all night, and lights shining up from cities. We have too many lights."

Goldschmidt says people who start looking for aurora displays should educate themselves first.

Contributed photo

"Northern Lights of Minnesota," by Carla Goldschmidt is on display at Magnolia Cafe in Carlton.

"Look up a northern lights forecast and find out more about the aurora. The northern lights often don't look like what you see in a photo, unless it's a very high magnetic storm. You need to avoid lights or phone screens to acclimate your eyes, which can take 20 to 40 minutes."

And if you can't get out at night, or don't live where the lights shine?

"I'm happy to share with those who can't get out and see them," Goldschmidt said. "To me, photography is such a beautiful gift. I love doing it. I want to share and enjoy what we have right here, so hopefully people are more appreciative of what we have. And If I can be so bold, it points me toward the creator, and perhaps it can do that for others as well."

Writer Cynthia Lapp volunteers with Starry Skies Lake Superior, the local chapter of the International Dark Sky Association. Starry Skies' mission is to eliminate light pollution and educate, advocate and celebrate the night sky. Contact Cynthia at 218-343-2593 or [email protected]

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