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Photo: A show of lights

December was ushered in by the northern lights, pictured north of Cloquet on Keith Miernicki's Christmas tree farm at about 10 p.m. Friday,

Dec. 1. Photographer Dan Malkovich said the half-moon had risen, offering just enough light to make out nearby trees. "The silence was broken by the recurrent hooting of a nearby owl," he said. "It was another relatively mild evening, with absolutely no air movement, but still cold enough to vaporize the moisture in my breath. It hung like fog about my head and camera, so that I had to hold my breath while I took a prolonged exposure."

The lights were visible across the state, north and south. Most of Wisconsin and parts of North Dakota were treated as well. Minnesota Public Radio News collected several images for its web site, including the one seen here, with red joining the typical green, taken by Ryan Borgan near Milaca in Mille Lacs County. MPR News spoke with one of its photographers, Ben Hovland, about settings on cameras for getting shots of the aurora borealis. To truly capture the northern lights in a photo, you'll need a slower exposure time, he said. That means you'll need to mount your camera on a tripod, and you'll need a shutter speed measured in seconds rather than fractions of a second. On a lens set to 16mm, Hovlads uses an aperture at f/2.8, ISO 6400, and a 6" shutter speed. "Generally, I set my exposure to keep the shutter speed as short as possible," he said. "This means opening up the aperture and raising the ISO, or digital sensitivity."

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