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.
The crescent moon on my daughter’s birthday in January was beautiful. Here I framed it between the silhouettes of the trees along the forest in Redwood Meadows. During the exposure (0.8 seconds) I moved the camera slightly to play with the elements and see what would trace across the image. This one had an interesting look of motion in it.
My family spent a few days in Radium at the end of March. I had not been that way since last fall. Driving through the Sinclair Canyon’s narrow opening into the Columbia Valley this time, the steep rock walls grabbed my attention.
I went there early on three of the four mornings to play with those solid forms. Lights from passing traffic traced bright lines through the long exposures.
The last morning was the earliest I arrived – a little after 4am. I had some ideas for images with star trails through the gap in the canyon. The clouds were not supportive of those ideas. I watched them knit together and block the night sky as I was setting up. Those ideas will get another chance later this spring I think.
I was happy to miss the moonrise on March 19th. My daughter was performing one of her dance routines – where she sings too so I was in no rush to leave that. Quick shout out to the Moto Café in Bragg Creek – thanks for hosting the recital – wonderful coffee, scones and atmosphere!
When the performers had all finished, I headed east towards the prairie and found the full moon still fairly low with the alpen glow hanging in the sky above it. I knew this stand of trees and thought it’s silhouette, along with the color in the sky, would frame the golden supermoon well. It felt like a great start to spring!
Early Friday morning was the peak of Geminid meteor shower. My camera braved the wind and the cold at the separate locations south of Cochrane near the Trans-Canada Highway. Apart from setting up at each new spot and checking the gear occasionally, I stayed in my car wrapped up in a heavy blanket. The shower lived up to expectations and I saw a lot of streaks across the sky. A few of those were in the camera’s field of view.
I used 30 second exposures and then stacked each location’s set to create the star trails. I used the program StarStaX to stack the individual photographs (great program – fast, clean and free – donate if you try it and find that you like it).
To be honest, I was hoping for a few more big streaks across the scene so I’m looking forward to trying it again (next year!) Two separate flights carved through the second scene that I photographed. That looked cool though not what I was planning for. The sunrise which followed was exceptional and I will share a few of those photos soon.
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.
Last Tuesday, April 17th, Venus shone brightly as dusk fell. It joined a beautiful crescent moon in the northwestern sky. Stars began to pop out while the night took hold. I had been out walking my hound and thought the silhouettes of the line of trees above the Elbow River near my home would help frame the conjunction nicely. When I got back to the house, I quickly gathered my gear and went out to the river – I’m glad I did.
As the moon dropped, I kept moving west, upriver, the descending tree line allowing me to keep the Moon in sight. Some gauzy clouds came in low and afforded some interesting, hazy halos around the Moon.
Eventually the Moon slipped behind the trees and quickly disappeared leaving Venus glowing in a sky filling up with stars.
Before I packed up, I took one last long exposure facing west where the river winds past Bragg Creek and on to the front range of the mountains in Kananaskis Country.
I was very excited to get out to photograph the most recent lunar eclipse. I kept an eye on the weather forecasts and knew clouds were moving over southern Alberta that night. I hoped for a break in the clouds but when I woke up early that morning the sky was low and heavy with no stars, or moon, to be seen. So, I packed up and headed west to see if I could get the western edge of the cloud front. My first glimpse was between Canmore and Banff when I came around a corner and the moon was hanging in the sky. That was not a safe place to stop and the moon alone in the blackness was not the image I had in mind so I kept going to Banff. Thought I still did take that shot a little while later!
Clouds returned by the time I was in the townsite so I headed up towards the hot springs to see if I could find a good vantage point. That didn’t pan out but when I came back down, the moon re-appeared. Now it was falling quickly towards the western flank of Cascade Mountain. Her and I then played a game of hide and seek as the clouds continued to drift in front of the red globe.
I framed the moon using trees and the mountain’s ridge line when the opportunities came. Within a few minutes it disappeared. I didn’t realize the image I was looking for but had a great time watching the spectacle. I have been able to photograph several lunar eclipses and always deeply enjoy the otherworldly beauty as the moon slips into and eventually out of the sun’s shadow.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Last night was the lunar eclipse where the moon turned a deep red which lasted for more than an hour. I traveled to south to get to the edge of the clouds which had rolled in over my home in Bragg Creek before sunset. In Turner Valley I found clear skies and set up as the moon was entering the earth’s shadow.
I was awestruck, as usual, with this fourth of the tetrad of lunar eclipses which have been spaced six months apart starting in April 2014.
It was a beautiful transit with the moon’s surface moving through oranges and reds before returning to her brilliant white. It has been an incredible series of events to witness and I have enjoyed photographing them immensely. I’m excited about the new beginnings and opportunities they herald.
The stars in the Waterton area shine brilliantly under the dark sky. From our campsite, my son and I could make out the Milky Way as it rose out of the mountains that line the valley from the town and down the lake.
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.
When I ventured up to Jasper National Park in May, I spent the first night at the foot of the Athabasca Glacier. After laying my sleeping bag across the reclined passenger seat, I set up my tripod and camera along one of the trails that lead up to the edge of the ice.
Looking up the glacier, between the clouds as they slid by, a subtle green-blue glow was visible above the ice, rock and snow. With long exposures, the glow was more pronounced. I first thought it may be the Aurora Borealis but I was facing towards the southwest so I would have expected a show behind me more than where I was looking. It was a new moon that night so I’m not sure was responsible for the glow. Could it be the starlight on a clear night, free from light pollution, reflecting off of the ice? Maybe, but I really can’t explain it. It was hauntingly beautiful and I enjoyed spending a couple of hours in that place within this immeasurably vast universe – a night with the stars will get you thinking such things!
It was a great auditory experience as well, the ice cracks and rock falls echoed off the mountains and down the glacier field irregularly through the night which broke up the steady cries of the racing winds.
Sparkling stars, blurred clouds, glowing skies and jagged peaks – it was a special night.
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.
This third of four blood moons in the current tetrad of lunar eclipses occurred before dawn on April 4th in southern Alberta. I walked along the Elbow River to a spot I had scouted the evening before and set up my camera as the Earth’s shadow was about a 1/4 across the moon. With the magnification of a telephoto lens, I noticed haze that softened the definition on the moon’s surface. Thin clouds were obscuring the event and I hoped they would pass before the moon was completely in shadow. I snapped this photograph about a half hour before totality and within a few minutes the clouds thickened and the eclipse was gone. It was a beautiful morning nonetheless and the clouds foretold the snow that has blanketed the area over the last 24 hours. I had much better luck with the weather during the last blood moon. We’ll see what the September one has in store.
(Please click the image to open a higher resolution version)
I walked along the Elbow River early this morning with one of our hounds. The stars were shining, twinkling, immeasurable and incredible. My dog seemed to take little notice but I was spellbound.
Settings: Canon 5DIII + Canon 24mm f/1.4L II at f/4 for 15.0 seconds on ISO 3200