I came home late last night after watching the chuckwagon finals and the final grandstand show of the 2015 Calgary Stampede. That was a great night (thank you Larissa and Sean) and as I cleared the city driving home, it became that much better. From the Trans-Canada Highway, I looked northward and could easily see the glow of the Aurora Borealis stretched between Cochrane and Calgary.
Altering my course, I drove towards the Springbank airport and found a good hill to watch the sky from. While setting up my camera gear, lightning flashed from deep within the thunder clouds that hung low in the sky. The party was in full swing and I was excited to join in, albeit from a distance, and start photographing.
The auroras were rippling above these clouds and it made for an incredible experience.
I stayed out for two hours watching as the storms slowly wound down while the entire northern sky was painted on with ethereal beauty. Early on, the lightning streaked to the ground several times in different parts of the sky and ripped across the clouds regularly. In the second hour, the Aurora Borealis grew larger and brighter while the storm separated as the clouds spread out across the prairies.
I live in a forest community along the Elbow River near Bragg Creek in Alberta. I often enjoy watching the stars against the silhouette of the trees. When I saw the Aurora Borealis begin to shade the northern sky once dusk’s afterglow darkened, I raced around to set up my gear on the deck.
It turned out to be a very active aurora and I had a couple of hours to watch the colors ripple across different parts of the northern sky. The beauty above was met in equal measure by the sounds of the crickets and birds and the relaxed touch of a warm, summer wind.
The time drifted by without any ties to an actual clock and I felt pleasantly ensconced in my own little world. The Northern Lights seem to have that effect on me.
A little over a week ago, on June 13th, I spent a night out on the prairies near Nanton. I love the vast skies and many of the interesting things that fill them – above and below. I settled into my sleeping bag to watch the stars while I drifted off. That idea evaporated when I received an Aurora Red Alert indicating that there was a good chance of seeing the Northern Lights.
(If any images look a little grainy, please click on the picture to open a higher resolution version in a new window)
The image directly above was one of the first taken once I was set up. I used a long exposure of 30 seconds to stretch out the lights of a semi-trailer traveling north along Highway 2.
I played around there for a while before moving further east to reduce the golden glow on the undersides of the clouds resulting from High River’s lights.
I found a quiet field several miles away and the timing worked out as the spikes in the Aurora had just started to appear.
The Northern Lights were still glowing as dawn started to push into the sky and before 4 AM I was transitioning into sunrise landscapes.
When I ventured up to Jasper National Park in May, I spent the first night at the foot of the Athabasca Glacier. After laying my sleeping bag across the reclined passenger seat, I set up my tripod and camera along one of the trails that lead up to the edge of the ice.
Looking up the glacier, between the clouds as they slid by, a subtle green-blue glow was visible above the ice, rock and snow. With long exposures, the glow was more pronounced. I first thought it may be the Aurora Borealis but I was facing towards the southwest so I would have expected a show behind me more than where I was looking. It was a new moon that night so I’m not sure was responsible for the glow. Could it be the starlight on a clear night, free from light pollution, reflecting off of the ice? Maybe, but I really can’t explain it. It was hauntingly beautiful and I enjoyed spending a couple of hours in that place within this immeasurably vast universe – a night with the stars will get you thinking such things!
It was a great auditory experience as well, the ice cracks and rock falls echoed off the mountains and down the glacier field irregularly through the night which broke up the steady cries of the racing winds.
Sparkling stars, blurred clouds, glowing skies and jagged peaks – it was a special night.
After owling (and here) in the evening I went into Calgary for dinner and when I was close to Redwood Meadows found the Aurora Borealis were dancing to the north. The lights were partially hidden behind a large cloud bank which was an unusual sight for me that were impressive as they glowed above the fields.
After the Great gray owl and I parted ways it was very dark which helped me to notice a slight glow to the north. I drove to a field where I could get a better view of the sky and found the Aurora Borealis was just starting to brighten off the horizon. The lights rippled and stretched above valley for more than an hour.
As they began to wane, I went to nearby Wild Rose Lake and was able to catch the Aurora’s reflection in the water. As well as its glow mixing with the city light from Calgary. This was an unexpected, but gratefully welcomed, surprise and end to an already great night photographing out in the country.
This third of four blood moons in the current tetrad of lunar eclipses occurred before dawn on April 4th in southern Alberta. I walked along the Elbow River to a spot I had scouted the evening before and set up my camera as the Earth’s shadow was about a 1/4 across the moon. With the magnification of a telephoto lens, I noticed haze that softened the definition on the moon’s surface. Thin clouds were obscuring the event and I hoped they would pass before the moon was completely in shadow. I snapped this photograph about a half hour before totality and within a few minutes the clouds thickened and the eclipse was gone. It was a beautiful morning nonetheless and the clouds foretold the snow that has blanketed the area over the last 24 hours. I had much better luck with the weather during the last blood moon. We’ll see what the September one has in store.
The Aurora Borealis has been very strong for a few nights in a row, reaching southern Alberta regularly which comes after what has seemed like a very long absence. Perhaps it has just been me that was absent for shows since last year but being out for this one on the night of March 18-19. When I went out at 11pm, there was a dull green bow low in the sky towards Calgary. After a while, the arch began to glow brighter and stretch higher. Columns then started to separate from the green band and the arch itself dissolved. For the next couple of hours the lights shifted their shapes, colors and intensity.
I was out on the berm that sits between Redwood Meadows and the Elbow River. The height of the berm, the rocky shoreline and the snow remnants allowed for a variety of perspectives. The three and half hours that the Northern Lights performed allowed me the time to explore these. It was an amazing night.
Canon 5DIII – 24mm lens: 6 seconds on f/1.8 at ISO 3200
In the middle of the active Aurora that reached southern Alberta the lights were reflecting brightly over the waters of the Elbow River in Redwood Meadows.