Elbow Falls: stars and starlight

I went up to Elbow Falls to see if the aurora borealis wanted to come out and play.  Recently I have been dreaming of images of the falls with the northern lights reflecting off of the water and casting an unusual glow on the land.  So, I sat on a snow-covered boulder for a couple of hours after sunset waiting.  The ionosphere was quiet while I was there and I didn’t see any trace of the lights (I checked AuroraMax the next day for the night’s activity and things picked up around 11:30, an hour after I left my perch above the river).  However, the sky fading into night was beautiful to watch and when the stars emerged from the thin haze above the valley they were brilliant.  Here, Betelgeuse is the orange star above the three stars that form Orion’s Belt and the large star above the ridge is Canis Major.

With time on my hands waiting, I kept busy photographing the river from a couple of spots and shooting the sky.  Two great subjects to work with.  In the image above, a high ISO and wide aperture setting allowed for a relatively short exposure in the darkness which kept the stars from tracing their march across the sky while allowing the water and clouds to stretch and blur.  The grain in the image doesn’t work for some people but I like it here and I chose to leave most of it in during the processing.

Turning my back to the falls, I was facing east out of the mountains towards Calgary.  The urban glow was faint to the human eye but I tried a long exposure and was struck by the colors and textures captured by the haze and wispy clouds.  I played around with settings trying to get as many of the stars as possible to be visible as they created a great pattern amid the colorful sky. 

So, I’ll be back up at Elbow Falls again to watch for the northern lights soon.  The peak of the sun’s current active phase if forecasted to be in 2013 so there should be great opportunities to realize at least a few of the visuals rolling around in my head.

11 responses

  1. It’s a pity you don’t have a donate button!
    I’d certainly donate to this fantastic blog! I suppose for now i’ll settle for bookmarking and adding your RSS feed to my Google account.
    I look forward to new updates and will talk about this site
    with my Facebook group. Chat soon!

    March 13, 2013 at 3:53 pm

    • Thank you for your very kind comment. I hope you enjoy the photographs when you stop by.

      March 23, 2013 at 4:25 pm

  2. Pingback: Moonlight at Elbow Falls | Christopher Martin Photography

  3. Mom & Dad

    Another side of Elbow Falls that you have the talent and desire to share with the rest of us. Thank you again, Love Mom

    April 11, 2011 at 10:24 pm

  4. Oh very nice.

    April 7, 2011 at 10:09 am

  5. Stunningly beautiful images. The urban glow is awesome and the night sky in the first image is excellent, almost like a painting
    Much Love
    Astra Wally

    April 6, 2011 at 3:42 pm

    • Thanks Astra – I didn’t get the northern lights but the alternatives were pretty good subjects to work with.

      April 15, 2011 at 11:27 am

  6. beautiful!

    April 6, 2011 at 1:52 pm

  7. Hi, Christopher. These are beautiful shots. I’m curious about the technical specs. So, if you don’t mind giving away your secrets, what focal length lens did you use and what aperture, shutter speed, and ISO?


    April 6, 2011 at 1:49 pm

    • Hi Brian,

      No trade secrets here. For both of the images, I used a 17-40mm lens set to 17mm (equivalent to 22.1mm full frame) with the aperture opened wide to F/4.0 and the focus set to infinity. Using mirror lockup and a timer release, the shutter was open for 30 seconds (exposures much longer than this will start to show star trails so that was the deciding factor for shutter speed). The camera was set to ISO 3200, the maximum for my camera without using extended settings (I don’t like the noise characteristics of my camera’s files at ISO 6400).



      April 6, 2011 at 3:26 pm

      • Thanks so much. Now I just need to find a place where I can see stars — not so easy to do in New York City.

        April 7, 2011 at 7:44 am

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