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.
I’ve been wanting to put together a couple of posts with common themes using photographs which I have not published. These aren’t the best of the year series, I’ll look to have those out soon though. They are simply photographs that I would like to share.
So, I’ll start with a few images taken at night and see what follows after. Thank you for indulging me in a bit of reverie!
I’m often out at night to chase the Northern Lights, watch the stars or waiting for dawn to come. The moon always draws my attention when she’s up and I’m out.
Calgary’s downtown lights also have a definite charm. Here I stood over the Elbow at River Park just before Christmas.
Seagulls fly over the Bow River during a blizzard in Calgary’s downtown.
A reflection pooled in the cobblestone of Montreal’s old port district caught my attention during a night spent in the grand city.
One of the very best nights was watching the fireworks on Canada Day with my son at Mont-Tremblant.
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.
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.
It was fun to look back over the past year’s photographs recently and recall the story behind them. I’ve created a gallery of my favorite images you can check out here (or click on any image to open that page in a new window). I moved in new directions with my landscape work which, through trial and error, yielded some work I really like.
I practiced a technique where I change the focal length (zoom) the lens during a long exposure which creates a variety of effects that I have had great fun exploring.
I walked into some of my images, to provide scale in some and interest in others, which I want to continue to explore and build on. I also hope my children will join me for some of those in the coming year – if I can wake them up early enough!
I had a lot of fun scrambling around valleys and peaks in Banff and Kananaskis. I wanted to hike more in the warmer months and was happy with the images I made from those outings to new locations. I photographed through many nights along the lakes there and enjoyed seeing these amazing places under the stars. I have always loved the mountains and that love continues to deepen.
A trip to the Palouse in Washington in May was a definite highlight. The agricultural geometry laid over the rolling hills is beautiful. Exploring the area and searching for interesting compositions filled a long weekend and a couple of memory cards.
Excursions on the Prairies, searching for snowy owls in winter and a long list of other birds in the other seasons, were regular for me in 2017. These are often solitary travels for me and I find the landscape imagery often reflects that. Lone subjects, standing as islands on endless fields, stand defiant under the massive skies in one image and vulnerable in the next. I have much more that I want to create out there in this new year.
There were many pieces of last year that bring a smile when reflecting back. And a few that well some tears up. They combined to make for a good year. For me, this gallery reflects that. Thank you for following the visual journey I share here.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
(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.
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.
I found a quiet field several miles away and the timing worked out as the spikes in the Aurora had just started to appear.
The Northern Lights were still glowing as dawn started to push into the sky and before 4 AM I was transitioning into sunrise landscapes.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.