Imagine stepping into the night and seeing beams of light that shoot from the earth straight into the atmosphere. You might suspect alien spaceships, but light pillars are of this world.
When a blast of cold weather comes down from the Arctic, flat ice crystals form in the air and hang there like pixie dust. Any source of light reflects off the crystals, creating a dazzling display of brightly colored rods of light known as light pillars.
On a late night in January, Ray Majoran was sitting on his couch when he got a text from his friend with a photo of the sky. “My phone does not come close to doing it justice,” he said.
Majoran didn’t hesitate. He grabbed his camera and took off down the main highway in search of light pillars. He turned his eyes to the sky and at first saw darkness.
“Then it happened,” Majoran said.
“The sky became littered with light pillars. There were stars above me, yet there were little crystals of ice falling like manna from heaven,” he said.
He turned off the highway, set up a tripod, and photographed the sky for the next two hours.
“It was like something you imagine in the movies or a science-fiction show,” Majoran said.
He covered about six miles over the next two hours, pulling over wherever he found stunning views. As cars passed by, light pillars shot from the headlights to the sky.
The crystals reflect natural and artificial light, and the light pillars take on the color of whatever is being reflected. Street lamps produced rays in yellow and orange hues.
Majoran said the light pillars were bright enough to shoot with a phone. But he used a Nikon D850 on a tripod and optimised the settings for a long exposure to create sharper images.
Majoran said many people who saw his photos asked if they were Photoshopped. When they realised that’s how the pillars really look, he said, “the common response was, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me right now.'”
“To see something so rarely seen anywhere in the world … is unreal,” Majoran said.
Majoran wrote a blog post about his experience capturing light pillars. Click here to read.
This article was originally published by Business Insider.