The Northern Lights on the weekend were beautiful. On Friday morning they were active from 10 pm through to 5 am Saturday morning. Fiery, green ribbons rippled under the stars with faint echoes of blue and purple streaming skyward.
(for a higher resolution version, please click on any picture)
When I received an email from Aurora Watch’s alert service, I was in Calgary finishing dinner with my friend Jack. We headed up to a hill that overlooks downtown to check the sky. Even with the orange glow in the atmosphere from the city’s lights, we could see shimmering swaths of green. That whet the appetite and we headed west along the Trans Canada Highway out of the city and into the rolling hills to the west. A small marsh south of Cochrane being our destination to take in the lights.
By the time we were at the pond, it was after midnight and the early wisps of color had intensified in color and solidity. The thick bands stretched west and east, from one horizon to the other. With the Northern Lights reflected in the water, there were some interesting images available. I also posted another photograph separately called The Phantom Menace which is a favourite of mine from the night. You can see that image here.
The aurora was at its most discrete around 2 am with beautiful details etched into the fabric swimming between land and sky. The Cree named these colourful displays the Dance of the Spirits. I really like that. On this evening, the spirits enjoyed a long spell on their dance floor.
With the east starting to brighten ahead of the coming sunrise, we were a bit restless for another viewpoint so we followed the road west for a little while. This small industrial plant was overlooking the fields and when we stopped to have a look, the aurora was pulsing in what turned out to be the final flurry of the night.
The Aurora Borealis lit up for a couple of hours last night so Jack and I were out until 5 AM watching the ribbons stripe the night sky. There were few clouds and it turned out to be a very enjoyable performance.
A few images from the same night can be seen at this post.
As the moon waxed towards full this weekend, I spent an evening at Elbow Falls to photograph the landscape at night. The clear air allowed stars to shine even with a relatively short exposure and small aperture (10 seconds and f/8.0, respectively). Always a bit lonely sitting out there for a couple of hours but the stars are really good company.
The 6400 ISO and the bright moonlight allowed for some of the great details at this magical place in Kananaskis Country to show in the image. I am impressed with the improvements in the dSLR’s low-light capabilities over the last couple of years. A couple of years ago I spent another evening up at these falls. At that time I was using a Canon 1D Mark III and when compared with the image above and others where I used a 5D Mark III, the detail, structure of the noise and the color are all vastly improved. The technology is less and less of an obstacle to realizing the images I want to make. I like that a lot.
We stayed at Lake Louise a couple of weeks ago and I set up to take some photographs from my room of the ice sculptures lit up around the front lawn of the Chateau. It was then I noticed the stars and how wonderfully bright they were. With the reflection of lights from below there was a lot of distortion, refraction and general murk to wrestle with. The hazy arcs above the mountain are one of the interesting effects from the lamps around the pathways. I worked away for a little while and liked this somewhat abstract image of Mount Whyte under the night sky.
It was a quiet passage into 2013 at our house this year. We enjoyed the Redwood Meadows community fireworks (thank you to the team that put on the show – it was fantastic!) at 8 and then celebrated New Year’s with the East Coast of North America so that our kids could take part. At four and six years old, staying up until midnight in our own time zone seemed unlikely. We said goodbye to 2012 and wished each other and our family the very best in the new year. I would like to extend the same warm wishes to you and yours. Happy New Year!
For those interested, both of these photographs were taken with the camera on tripod using mirror lock up with the lens focused to infinity (works well with smaller apertures). When the firework missile streaked skyward, I triggered the shutter and used longer exposures to capture the explosion and the cascading streaks that followed. For the first image, I had the camera set on manual with a shutter speed of 13 seconds at f/11 on ISO 500 while the second image was 8 seconds at f/11 on ISO 800. As always, you can click on each image to open a page with a higher resolution version.
My friend Jeff and I spent some time experimenting with different light sources last night. Generally referred to as light painting, this is an area of photography that is drawing a lot of people’s creative energy right now. We confirmed how much fun this can be both to photograph and to play with the light. We wanted to play around with some of the common tools and see how they worked in practice. We took turns being the subject (and consequently light-wielder) – Jeff presented great symmetry in his movements which created interesting imagery. By the end, we had learned some things, definitely had fun and now we’re scheming about the images we really want to create.
Note: If you want to see this images larger you can visit this web gallery on my website.
A chaotic globe traced out by a sparkler
This suggested one of the dark creatures from the fantasy genre. For those who may have played Dungeons & Dragons, this seemed like a Nightshade to me.
Gloves with green, red and blue lights on the fingertips allowed Jeff to trace out arcs that reminded me a little bit of Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man drawing .
The photographs are presented in reverse chronological order (because the fiery ones look so cool so I wanted to put them up first). However, we approached this session with a measure of sanity and worked up from this glowing ball (one of the many balls in my children’s collective inventory) to the more exciting (read: burning) props. The image above is one of the first in the shoot where I was looking at ambient light in the area, the brightness of the ball and what flash added to (or detracted from) the scene.
The ball illuminates with red and blue LEDs that alternate creating purple tones in a long exposure. When Jeff was looking at the ball here it was hard not to be reminded of Gollum and “My Precious” from The Hobbit and The Lord Of The Rings.
Definitely my favourite photograph of the evening was with the sparks carving out lines of light. I converted it to black and white below and that changes the image in a different but, to me, equally interesting manner.