Ian Barredo's light pillars

Here in Oz, especially at this time of year, seeing conditions can really be degraded by the atmosphere. Heat haze can play havoc with your images, especially if you’re using an autoguider. Most recently, bushfire smoke has been awful, and the effect has been similar to very severe light pollution, with an orange or brown cast over colour photos.

But Ian lives in Saskatchewan, which is in the Western part of Canada. It’s cold there. According to Ian, it was -16°C at the time. Yikes. Low temperatures can bring about beautiful viewing conditions, but they can have other unexpected side effects. This photo shows one of them.


Ian uses an ASI 1600 attached to a William Optics Z71 on a Sky-Watcher AZ-EQ6 (stop drooling, Bill!). While he was imaging the Jellyfish nebula, some approaching snow clouds caused changes in temperature and humidity, and these beauties appeared. They’re called light pillars.

Ice crystals form in a large range of shapes. In the right conditions, they form in two-dimensional planes, like tiny pieces of glass. These float gently down through the atmosphere, and the passing air causes them to line up horizontally, like a stack of mirrors. Any light on the ground (usually the sun below the horizon, but in this case, nearby street lights) is reflected by a vertical stack of crystals, causing the lines you see here.

For those with a technical interest, the photo was shot using a Nikon D750 with a 24-70mm zoom lens (set at 24mm). Aperture was f/2.8, ISO was 800 and exposure was 5 seconds.

Two sayings spring to mind with this photo. Photographers say that “if the eye can see it, you can photograph it”. Norwegians (and presumably others) say “there’s no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing”.

I know it might not have been your target, but it’s a wonderful shot, Ian!