Aurora Borealis

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.

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Aurora Lightning - © Christopher Martin-8208

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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