Aurora Borealis

Aurora Borealis in the Yukon

Last summer we went to Whitehorse to visit my girlfriend’s family.  One of the nights, we noticed a few lines of color waving in the sky above our patio.  We hopped in the car and drove out of town.  Whitehorse is a pretty small city but the urban lights were too bright for the display to stand out.  We followed a gravel road up a forested hill to a stony field that opened up.

The moon had not quite set when we set up so the first half an hour had the bright moonlight, illuminated clouds and muted northern lights blending across the night sky’s canvas.

The moon set and the aurora display intensified as well so that the greens, blues and traces of purple rippling above were mesmerizing.  We stayed there for a couple of hours.  That was my first time to the Yukon and it was wonderful to be able to enjoy the Northern Lights that far north.  I hope for the same kind of luck when we visit there next.


A faint light from the north

2 seconds at f/1.8 on ISO 4000

We are in the solar minimum and the Aurora Borealis displays at this latitude have been at a minimum as well.  On a night walk last night I noticed a bit of color in the sky.  Longer exposures showed a diffused haze of the Northern Lights.  Subtle but still beautiful.

5 seconds at f/2.0 on ISO 3200

The quiet show ended quickly.  It was very nice to see them once again.  As the aurora faded out I needed my headlamp to bring a bit of color to the last photograph.

2 seconds at f/1.8 on ISO 3200


Nightscapes in Kananaskis

A 25 second exposure and a fast lens (in this case, a Canon 24mm f/1.4 set at f/1.8) revealed wisps of clouds stretching east across the Kananaskis River valley a little after 4 in the morning on October 7th.  The soft green glow betrayed the Aurora Borealis pulsing low over the northern horizon.

Red light from my headlamp illuminated Highway 40 in this 10 second exposure that centered on the hazy Northern Lights.


Northern Lights… softly

On the weekend there was a minor geomagnetic storm which enveloped the Earth for a couple of days.  Around midnight on Sunday I could see a green glow along the northern horizon so I walked down to the Elbow River.  It runs near my backyard and I was quickly down at the water.  A couple of hours saw a few sprites stretch away from thick Aurora band which stayed low in the sky.  However the Northern Lights were comfortable doing a slow waltz on this night.  Next time I’ll hope for a more energetic dance but I certainly enjoyed the quiet beauty that was shared.

 


Autumn Aurora

I walked my dog early this morning and when I looked to the north could see the Northern Lights rippling and snapping above the horizon.  The hound was returned home and replaced by my camera.  I walked down to the Elbow River which runs nearby and spent a couple of hours photographing the Aurora Borealis before it faded out against the approaching dawn.  I’m feeling very lucky to be able to enjoy such a show in my backyard!


May Aurora Borealis at Lake Minnewanka

The aurora storms in May were beautiful.  This is one photograph from May 20th in Banff National Park along the Lake Minnewanka shoreline.  There is a good chance of more displays this weekend.  I’ll be looking up and hopefully the ribbons of red, green and purple will be dancing above.


The May 21st Minnewanka Aurora – into the early morning

Following on from my last post on this geomagnetic storm, here are a few of the images from later in the night.  As the early hours of May 21st dripped past, the sprites in the Northern Lights appeared and then alternated with beautiful glowing arches.  These continued painting across the sky well past the earliest sign of dawn.

The rise of the crescent moon came just after 4 am as the aurora’s glow started to fade and night handed the sky over to day.  Within an hour the sunlight brushed its own colors across the canvas now shared with clouds instead of stars.


Lake Minnewanka’s Northern Lights

There have been strong Aurora Borealis events over the past couple of weeks.  These have extended far enough south that those of us in southern Alberta have been able to enjoy great displays in the night sky.  Throughout the earliest hours of May 20th the Northern Lights flashed, rippled and glowed over Lake Minnewanka in Banff National Park.  It was a beautiful night with few clouds and a sky that looked like someone had spread out all the diamonds across a dark blanket.

Along the lake’s western shore, many people had come out to see the auroras.  When I passed the marina, the storm was in a lull but the green glow drew a sharp line on the Palliser Range’s silhouette.  I’m usually alone when I’m photographing at night so it was neat to be part of a loose community all there to enjoy this natural event.

Most people were lined up along the dam.  I hiked down a trail a bit further south and found a stretch of rock along the water’s edge that looked good to me.  I spent the next four hours watching the sky, scrambling around the rocks and photographing the aurora.  The photographs here are from the first hour during an active period following the lull.  I will share a few more from later in night in another post soon.

 


Aurora over the Elbow River

Last weekend there was a massive storm in the sky on Saturday night.  Not the thunder and lightning kind – though there was a very energetic rain shower around 2am – rather a geomagnetic storm.  With that came bright auroras which rippled and shot for several hours.  The rain actually woke me up and when I looked outside, I could see the Northern Lights between gaps in the clearing clouds.

I picked up some gear and headed outside right away.  Living near Bragg Creek we have dark skies except for the glow from Calgary to the east so it was easy to see the show right from my deck.  When I walked over to the banks of the Elbow River, it coincided with an intense burst that lasted for almost twenty minutes.  I woke my daughter up later when I went back home and we were able to catch another smaller outburst – her first in real-time.  Easily the best part of a great night.

 


A spring aurora on the prairie

A red alert from the Aurora Watch website late on the 27th prompted me to head north in search of the Northern Lights.  I traveled around for a while on either side of midnight – the sky was clear but the lights were very soft.  Eventually the sky’s glow began to build and I stopped on Jumping Pound Road south of Cochrane to watch the Aurora Borealis as it rose up.   There was a great arch that developed and sprites pulled away at different times throughout the show.

 


A second night with the Aurora Borealis

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Only three days after I was able to watch a great showing by the Northern Lights, they came out to dance over the foothills again.  The clouds were heavier this time around and grew steadily through the night while I was out.  That set up for some backlighting by the aurora that looked really beautiful.  This time around, I started at the same small pond as before but then drive to a couple of different spots along Highway 1 before ending my night at the small lake beside the Sibbald Creek Trail (Highway 68) where it meets Township Road 252.

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At first I was trying to get away from the cloud bank as it coalesced and then moved southwards and increasingly obscured my view of the night sky.  Soon I became a little hypnotized by the glow around and through the clouds so I settled down and enjoyed the moment.

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After 2am, the clouds broke up and seemed to return back to the north.  I was too tired to see how far they retreated and made my way home just before 3.

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My first night with the Northern Lights this fall

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September closed out with several strong Northern Lights displays that reached down to southern Alberta.  I was happy to make it out to the Foothills to photograph in the middle of the night for two of them.  These images are from the first foray which started around 11:30pm and continued rippling when I finally headed home around 2am on the 26th.

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The clouds seemed to move in slow motion and picked up the glow from Cochrane differently as the night progressed.  Above, the aurora’s color palette shifted into pastels.  A few of the later images reminded me of cotton candy and were fantastic to watch slowly ripple then fade away.  I imagined these were tie-dyed waves rolling in both over the pond but also the sky they were reflecting.

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Ursa Major and its Big Dipper were constant companions in the sky behind the dancing lights.  The stars would run in and out of the clouds, hiding at times and burning brightly at other times.  There was good magic to watch throughout.

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Images of the Aurora over the Elbow River

Albertan Aurora over the Elbow River - © Christopher Martin-5945-2

When the Northern Lights brightly lit up the sky on May 8th, I went out to a favourite spot along the Elbow River on the edge of Redwood Meadows.  The river there is dotted with sets of rocks near the shore which provide interesting elements and break up the reflection in an attractive way.  The landscape is beautiful and supported the main show in the sky above well.  The Aurora streamed across the sky from the northern horizon to well past the zenith.  The image below was taken with the camera pointing almost straight up.

Albertan Aurora - © Christopher Martin-5930

 

Albertan Aurora - © Christopher Martin-5979

Albertan Aurora - © Christopher Martin-6030

Albertan Aurora - © Christopher Martin-5938


Mother’s Day Aurora

Mother's Day Aurora Borealis - © Christopher Martin-5949

There was an intense auroral storm that started late on May 7th and rang in Mother’s Day with vibrant ripples and sheets until just before dawn.  This session of the Aurora Borealis was the most vibrant I’ve watched over the past five years.  For three hours I watched the sky being canvassed with impossibly bright streams of spray paint. I enjoyed watching them on the northern edge of my community along the banks of the Elbow River.  I thought it was a great start to Mother’s Day and certainly worth losing most of a good night’s sleep to watch the sky.


More from the Yamnuska Aurora

Aurora Borealis over Yamnuska - © Christopher Martin-7995

On December 20th, the Aurora Borealis were very active above the Ghost Lake area.  I spent a bit of time photographing a prairie church with the Northern Lights before I went to Mount Yamnuska.  The colors visible against the night sky varied between green, purple and blue as the charged particles slamming into the Earth’s upper atmosphere interacted with different atoms.

Aurora over Yamnuska - © Christopher Martin-7561

Aurora over Yamnuska - © Christopher Martin-7774

Aurora over Yamnuska - © Christopher Martin-7881

Aurora over Yamnuska - © Christopher Martin-7868

After a couple of hours, it was close to 6am and I was pretty worn out.  One of my last images, below, I was facing northeast and caught the aurora along with the city glow from Cochrane and the earliest hint of dawn.  I went home and played catch up with sleep.

Aurora over Yamnuska - © Christopher Martin-8051

 


Aurora and the McDougall Church

McDougall Aurora - © Christopher Martin-7280

The Aurora Borealis was just starting to visibly glow when I arrived at the McDougall Memorial United Church near Morley, Alberta.  Cochrane’s city lights reflected off the large cloud behind the church which brought the peach hues into the scene.  It is a tranquil scene to look at while I recall the heavy wind and biting cold that came along with it.  Still, I was happy to be out and it was a beautiful start to a great night watching the Northern Lights.


Aurora over Yamnuska

Aurora over Yamnuska - © Christopher Martin-7588

On the weekend the Aurora Borealis leaped to life on both Saturday and Sunday night.  I was too tired to head out on Sunday night after staying out until 6am that morning.  The Northern Lights rippled for over five hours so I had the luxury of being able to travel around and photograph them in different locations.  I finished the night at the foot of Mount Yamnuska and watched them dance until just before dawn.  I will have more to share soon but wanted to post this one from the early selects where the charged electrons were interacting with Nitrogen in the Earth’s upper atmosphere to create the less typical purple flames alongside the Oxygen which creates the more common green glow.


Aurora Borealis in Waterton

Aurora Borealis over Waterton Spring Campground - © Christopher Martin-4124

My son and I camped at the Waterton Springs Campground, on the edge of the national park, a week ago.  On the second night the Northern Lights came out and danced along the northern horizon.

Aurora Borealis over Waterton Spring Campground - © Christopher Martin-4127

The campground is in the rolling foothills that lead up to the mountains so it was less than a hop, skip and a jump to a rise where we could get great views of aurora.

Aurora Borealis over Waterton Spring Campground - © Christopher Martin-4148

Aurora Borealis over Waterton Spring Campground - © Christopher Martin-4091

Aurora Borealis over Waterton Spring Campground - © Christopher Martin-4101


Lightning and the Northern Lights? Last night there was.

Aurora Lightning - © Christopher Martin-8480

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.

Aurora Lightning - © Christopher Martin-8231-2

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.

Aurora Lightning - © Christopher Martin-8353-4

Aurora Lightning - © Christopher Martin-8208

Aurora Lightning - © Christopher Martin-8344

The auroras were rippling above these clouds and it made for an incredible experience.

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Aurora Lightning - © Christopher Martin-8474

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.

Aurora Lightning - © Christopher Martin-8499

 

Aurora Lightning - © Christopher Martin-8459


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


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

 


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

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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