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.
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.
My son and I spent a couple of hours down on the beach watching the stars and playing around with some longer exposures. It was a beautiful night made infinitely better with him there.
(Please click the image to open a higher resolution version)
I walked along the Elbow River early this morning with one of our hounds. The stars were shining, twinkling, immeasurable and incredible. My dog seemed to take little notice but I was spellbound.
Settings: Canon 5DIII + Canon 24mm f/1.4L II at f/4 for 15.0 seconds on ISO 3200
The afternoon I spent at Red Rock Crossing was a fun trek along Oak Creek but when the shadows lengthened, I trotted back to where I could have a view of Cathedral Rock. It’s an iconic location and with the evening light moving into deep reds I was enthralled by her beautiful cliffs and spires.
After a couple minutes of splashing around, the red color disappeared quickly, leaving pink clouds above and darkening rock below. It did not take very long for the stars to start standing out against evening’s blanket. A beautiful evening in Sedona, Arizona.
Canon 5DIII camera with a Canon 24mm f/1.4 lens: 2 seconds at f/2 on ISO 1600
One more from the Northern Lights that I watched from my backyard last month. There was a pile of photographs from that night which I had not yet looked at. A few days ago, I worked through them and this one stood out for me.
Canon 5DIII camera with a Canon 24 f/1.4 lens: 1.3 seconds at f/1.8 on ISO 2500
The Northern Lights were very active last night. For three hours I was outside watching the show in the sky and it was the best I have seen so far this year. This image is from a particularly wild period where there were many streams of light rippling together beneath the stars.
If the image looks pixelated, please click the picture to open up a higher resolution version.
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.
We had a great weekend which included visiting my family in the Crowsnest Pass, spending the best part of the evening light with a bald eagle out in the Foothills and a hike with my wife and children around Fenland Trail in Banff.
Many photographs to work through, a magazine article to write, two workshops to plan and market – much to do but, when I came across this image during a licensing request, it got me to put down the keyboard and go outside and look at the stars for a while.
I made this while I was taking long exposures up at the Elbow Falls in Kananaskis. Towards the end of my night in the mountains, I pointed the lens up at the stars and then zoomed through the range for a few seconds to generate some warp speed lines.
More posts on the Tonquin, Moraine Lake, a cliff jumper I met and the eagle soon.