The Northern Lights have been increasing their activity into the southern Canadian latitudes lately. After what seems like close to a year of quiet night skies, it is wonderful to enjoy them again.
We found these dancing lights on the prairies south of Cochrane near the end of September. It was a calm display but hopefully a harbinger of things to come.
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.