Night Photography

The Northern Lights over southern Alberta

Aurora Borealis above the forest  - © Christopher Martin-5571

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.

Redwood Aurora - © Christopher Martin-5561

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.

Redwood Aurora - © Christopher Martin-5643-2

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.

Redwood Aurora - © Christopher Martin-5612


Aurora over the prairie

Aurora Borealis over Nanton  - © Christopher Martin-3907

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.

Aurora Borealis over Nanton  - © Christopher Martin-3745

(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.

Aurora Borealis over Nanton  - © Christopher Martin-3923

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.

Aurora Borealis over Nanton  - © Christopher Martin-3900

I found a quiet field several miles away and the timing worked out as the spikes in the Aurora had just started to appear.

Aurora Borealis over Nanton  - © Christopher Martin-3910

The Northern Lights were still glowing as dawn started to push into the sky and before 4 AM I was transitioning into sunrise landscapes.

Aurora Borealis over Nanton  - © Christopher Martin-3953


A night at the Athabasca Glacier – sparkling stars, blurred clouds, glowing skies and jagged peaks

Athabasca Glacier under the stars - © Christopher Martin Photography-0666

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.

Athabasca Glacier under the stars - © Christopher Martin Photography-0663

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!

Mount Andromeda under the stars - © Christopher Martin Photography-0660-2

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.

Athabasca Glacier under the stars - © Christopher Martin Photography-0676

Sparkling stars, blurred clouds, glowing skies and jagged peaks – it was a special night.


The Northern Lights and a bank of clouds

Midnight Aurora - © Christopher Martin-5099

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.

Midnight Aurora - © Christopher Martin-5102


Northern Lights in Bragg Creek

Aurora over Bragg Creek - © Christopher Martin-4180

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.

Aurora over Bragg Creek - © Christopher Martin-4153

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.

Aurora over Bragg Creek - © Christopher Martin-4262

Aurora over Bragg Creek - © Christopher Martin-4201

 

Aurora over Bragg Creek - © Christopher Martin-4220

 


Night Flight

Night owl - © Christopher Martin-4069-4

I found an owl hunting after dusk had settled over Bragg Creek.  It was getting dark quickly and I had go back to my car  for a flash at one point.  I started to photograph this Great Gray around a stand of trees on the edge of a field.  After a while she moved out onto the yellow grass and then went to perch on a fencepost.

Night owl - © Christopher Martin-3923

Retrieving the light, I mounted it in the hotshoe and it didn’t take long to relocate her.  We then spent an hour together as she hunted on either side of the fence line while I watched from 40′ away.  She was very comfortable with me there and flew to a post closer to me on a couple of occasions.  It was challenging to shoot the owl in flight but a lot of fun.

Night owl - © Christopher Martin-4059

At one point we traveled along the fence with her stopping every 100′ until I caught up.  When we had returned to the edge of the trees, the owl flew back out towards the field.  It was a very powerful encounter for me.

Night owl - © Christopher Martin-4049

 


A blood moon missed

 

A sliver of the Blood Moon - © Christopher Martin-3456

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 Northern Lights over Southern Alberta

Spring Equinox Aurora - © Christopher Martin-2319
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.

Spring Equinox Aurora - © Christopher Martin-2522

– Spring Equinox Aurora - © Christopher Martin-2382-2

 –

Spring Equinox Aurora - © Christopher Martin-2572

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.

Spring Equinox Aurora - © Christopher Martin-2549

Spring Equinox Aurora - © Christopher Martin-2539

Spring Equinox Aurora - © Christopher Martin-2491

Spring Equinox Aurora - © Christopher Martin-2505

Spring Equinox Aurora - © Christopher Martin-2383

Spring Equinox Aurora - © Christopher Martin-2529

Spring Equinox Aurora - © Christopher Martin-2472


Aurora over the Elbow River

 

Spring Equinox Aurora - © Christopher Martin-2500-3

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.


Saint Patrick’s Aurora

Saint Patrick's Aurora - © Christopher Martin-2473
Canon 5DIII – 24mm lens: 2.5 seconds on f/1.8 at ISO 6400

The night after St. Patrick’s Day brought out the Aurora Borealis over southern Alberta.  Along the Elbow River, west of Calgary, the bands of color rippled in the sky and on the surface of the water for several hours.  I met two photographers, Stacey and Clif, out on the berm.  They had come out to Redwood Meadows in search of the Northern Lights.  The show took a little while to start so it was nice to chat while we waited.  When the lights did start to dance it was beautiful.  I will share more images from the night soon as the colours and mood changed throughout the night and allowed for great variety.


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