Dinotopia artist James Gurney often posts at his blog “Gurney Journey” about interesting light and atmospheric effects like sun pillars. I often see sun pillars here in Sweden in the summertime, but I took a photo of this rarer (for me) wintertime pillar back in winter 2011.
On the evening of December 2rd, 2012, my wife and I left our art studio and noticed a strange and ethereal shimmering quality in the very cold air. It was innumerable very tiny ice crystals… so fine that one couldn’t quite make them out without looking in just the right way. We looked out over the lake and saw pillars of light rising from the lights on the far shore.
At first, I thought it might be happening in my eyeglasses, but when I removed them, the pillars were still there. The night was dark, so I tried to capture them using the NightCap app on my iPhone. These shots are not ideal, but at least I was able to record this startling phenomenon. It’s easy to imagine that this effect is some kind of lens flare taking place in-camera, but this is indeed how it looked to the naked eye:
When we walked further down the street, I looked back, and now the lights were blocked by the row of flats facing the lake – but we could still see the pillars extending up from behind the buildings!
The next day, many people observed and took pictures of some glorious halo effects in the sky, but unless you were lucky enough to be out late on the evening of the 2nd, you may well have missed these strange and beautiful lights!
Here is a last picture taken by Sam Hellerström that appeared in Aftonbladet. It really shows how surreal this phenomenon was: