Night Photography

A second night with the Aurora Borealis


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.




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.


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.



My first night with the Northern Lights this fall


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.

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.


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.


Nightlines and the Brandenburg Tor

Nightlines at the Brandenburg Tor - © Christopher Martin-9018

The Brandenburg Gate is a beautiful monument that has been at the centre of pivotal moments in history since its construction completed in 1791.  The Tor was commissioned by King Friedrich William II as a sign of peace; Napoleon marched through it in triumph; it was closed to all through the cold war, dividing Berlin – and the world,  and divided Berlin and the world; and then it was where the wall first fell and was where the city and Germany reunified.  Coming full circle, it has now come to represent peace as well as unity in the country and in Europe.

Nightlines at the Brandenburg Tor - © Christopher Martin-9020

I was excited to photograph this icon and visited there several times through my week in Berlin.  One visit was after midnight and I set up on the west side of the where three streets meet.  I wanted to create some long exposures to let the lights from the vehicles create streaks in front of the gate.  It is a stunning structure and I enjoyed spending time there and making these images.

Nightlines at the Brandenburg Tor - © Christopher Martin-9028

When night fell, I had been hanging around the Spree River near Berliner Dom so it was not a very long walk to the Tor.  Coming from the east, I photographed the front of the gate first.  The Quadriga of Victory looks like it about to leap off the top and carry forward.

Nightlines at the Brandenburg Tor - © Christopher Martin-8993

It is a stunning structure and I enjoyed spending time there and making these images.  With recent events within Germany and other parts of Europe, a visit seemed timely and it would serve many well to consider what the Brandenburg Gate has come to represent from many years of hard learned lessons about peace and unity.

More from the Canada Day lightning storm

Canada Day Lightning Storm - © Christopher Martin-390

When my children and I decided to head out from Redwood Meadows to find a good vantage point to watch the lightning storm hanging over the Bow River between Cochrane and Calgary, we stopped when we got past the edge of the forest and could first see the storm itself.

Canada Day Lightning Storm - © Christopher Martin-184

We found a spot 10 miles from the closest edge of the storm and watched the show which rippled and flashed in the massive clouds rising off the northern horizon.

Canada Day Lightning Storm - © Christopher Martin-201

Canada Day Lightning Storm - © Christopher Martin-292

Canada Day Lightning Storm - © Christopher Martin-570-2

Canada Day Lightning Storm - © Christopher Martin-301

Canada Day Lightning Storm - © Christopher Martin-431

At one point while we were watching the lightning erupting at 3, 4 or 5 different places at once, my son said, “Baby Thor is having a temper tantrum”.  That seemed about right and apparently he has an enormous amount of energy because the lightning flashed and the bolts flew constantly for the two hours that I was there.

Canada Day Lightning Storm - © Christopher Martin-357

Canada Day Lightning Storm - © Christopher Martin-506

Canada Day Lightning Storm - © Christopher Martin-405

I re-worked the image that I first posted from the storm – cooling the white balance by almost 1000°K.  I really love how the lightning bolts crackle out of the cloud column.

Canada Day Lightning Storm - © Christopher Martin-388

On the way back, I stopped by a pond where the western edge of the storm, still busy with sheet lightning, was reflected in its surface.  A beautiful final view of the storm before heading home.

Canada Day Lightning Storm - © Christopher Martin-593


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.

A few more of the Burmis pine tree

Burris Tree and highway lights - © Christopher Martin-0241-2

When I photographed the Burmis tree, a limber pine that was between 600 and 750 years old when it died in the 1970s, I circled it a couple of times.  It presented very different looks as I moved around which was great fun to photograph.  I wanted to share a few of the ones I liked from this stop on the edge of the Crowsnest Pass.

Burmis Tree - © Christopher Martin-0245

Please note: those familiar with the Burmis tree will note that in three of images, and the image in the previous post, I have removed the metal pole that supports the long lower branch that extends away perpendicularly from the main trunk.  I rarely edit out things in my landscape photographs but I find that pole to be quite distracting.  It is necessary given that someone cut the branch in 2004 and nearby residents re-attached the limb and needed the pole to support the weight.  I am grateful they did this work but used some artistic license to create the final images as I imagined them.

A lone sentinel - © Christopher Martin-0261

Clouds from the west slowly advanced as I scrambled around, at first only hiding the stars but then dragging rain into the scene.  Sometimes that can make things more interesting photographically but at that late hour and with the wind picking up sharply, I soon packed up and carried on to Fernie.  I did have almost as much time as I wanted there so the weather’s turn was a nice push to get moving.

Burris Tree in black and white - © Christopher Martin-0230

The Burmis Tree


Burmis Tree at night - © Christopher Martin-0261

I have driven by the Burmis Tree, an Alberta icon, many times while traveling through the Crowsnest Pass on my between British Columbia and Alberta.  It stands out on a rocky outcrop just above Highway 3 where the road bends into the valley below Turtle Mountain.  This limber pine catches many people’s eye as they travel past with its gorgeous lines and skeletal beauty.  This weekend I drove past close to midnight and stopped for an hour to photograph the tree.  This image is from the western side of the hill facing east.  The limbs were backlit by the headlights of the oncoming traffic and the hill glowed red from their tail lights as they passed by.

A hockey night in Calgary

Hockey night in Canada - © Christopher Martin-0966

I found this ice rink in a park near Marda Loop.  There were a few people playing hockey under the night lights.  I stopped for a few minutes to play with the patterns of the trees and lights against the rink.  I loved the setting and that everyone was out to enjoy this most traditional of Canadian pastimes.

Hockey night in Canada - © Christopher Martin-0978

Crowchild in motion

Crowchild in motion - © Christopher Martin-0241-2

Canon 5DIII with a 24mm f/1.4 lens: 13 seconds on f/11 at ISO 100

Vehicle lights trace lines along Crowchild Trail on a winter’s night in Calgary.

My favourite landscape photographs from 2015

Mount Athabasca in the first light of dawn in the Jasper National Park

I had fun pulling together this list of my landscape images that stood out to me.  Last year I spent time in some beautiful places near and far which certainly helps towards making pretty pictures.  Within those moments, I really enjoyed composing the images to try to create something more compelling than just pretty pictures – although I like those too!

Fireworks in Redwood Meadows to celebrate Canada Day

I felt like I put more effort into my wildlife photography last year but am happy with the progression with my landscape images.  The sky makes up so much of what makes or breaks a landscape image for me and I see my exploration of that continuing in 2016.  If you are interested in seeing these of images, please click on any image or this link to open the image gallery.  Thank you for visiting now and throughout the year.

A quiet prairie landscape before dawn near High River, Alberta

Happy New Year!

From our family to yours, we wish you joy and love throughout the year.

New Year Fireworks - © Christopher Martin-8787

I’m excited about new opportunities, new encounters and new photographs in 2016.  I hope this year brings more of what is important to you and yours.

Happy New Year!