CROUSEVILLE — The outside temperature is 9 below and falling as Paul Cyr parks his black Hummer on the side of the road in this one-street town. He connects his mini-tripod to the side of the driver’s seat window, setting up a shot that will capture a picturesque red-roofed barn as a backdrop. Cyr’s main concern, however, is the vast sky, glittering with stars, unpolluted by any light in this northern Maine outpost. He grabs one of his numerous Nikons from a box on the back seat and attaches it to the tripod. Then he gets to work, setting the aperture on the full-frame camera at an extremely large opening (such as f/1.4) to allow as much light as possible into the lens.
Cyr has already checked www.spaceweather.com and knows that solar activity is extremely low tonight, so the chance of seeing the northern lights is slim to none. Yet, the crisp night sky is still clear and the Milky Way seems to shine, especially compared with the dimly lighted suburban sky that I’m used to. Cyr, 60, reaches back and changes cameras, goes from a D800 to a D700, to try to frame land and sky just right and get that iconic shot — exactly as he did on Jan. 25, 2012, from 3 to 6 a.m.