Desirée and I went out to look for shooting stars last night for our favorite meteor shower of the year. The Perseids didn’t let us down and we saw a couple dozen on either side of midnight west of Bragg Creek.
The Milky Way stood out against the deep night and I was lucky to catch a few crossing that incredible arch.
Desiree and I went out to photograph the Neowise comet on consecutive nights in late July before its nightly tour over the northern hemisphere ended. It was amazing to see the comet so bright. With longer exposures, the tail flared out behind in a way that I haven’t photographed before. That was beautiful and I’m glad we were out there and could share that together.
The comet was difficult to see with the naked eye. With the camera, and a 6 second exposure, it stood out even against the sparkling sky.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
My son and I spent a couple of hours down on the beach watching the stars and playing around with some longer exposures. It was a beautiful night made infinitely better with him there.
(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
The afternoon I spent at Red Rock Crossing was a fun trek along Oak Creek but when the shadows lengthened, I trotted back to where I could have a view of Cathedral Rock. It’s an iconic location and with the evening light moving into deep reds I was enthralled by her beautiful cliffs and spires.
After a couple minutes of splashing around, the red color disappeared quickly, leaving pink clouds above and darkening rock below. It did not take very long for the stars to start standing out against evening’s blanket. A beautiful evening in Sedona, Arizona.
Canon 5DIII camera with a Canon 24mm f/1.4 lens: 2 seconds at f/2 on ISO 1600
One more from the Northern Lights that I watched from my backyard last month. There was a pile of photographs from that night which I had not yet looked at. A few days ago, I worked through them and this one stood out for me.
Canon 5DIII camera with a Canon 24 f/1.4 lens: 1.3 seconds at f/1.8 on ISO 2500
The Northern Lights were very active last night. For three hours I was outside watching the show in the sky and it was the best I have seen so far this year. This image is from a particularly wild period where there were many streams of light rippling together beneath the stars.
If the image looks pixelated, please click the picture to open up a higher resolution version.
As the moon waxed towards full this weekend, I spent an evening at Elbow Falls to photograph the landscape at night. The clear air allowed stars to shine even with a relatively short exposure and small aperture (10 seconds and f/8.0, respectively). Always a bit lonely sitting out there for a couple of hours but the stars are really good company.
The 6400 ISO and the bright moonlight allowed for some of the great details at this magical place in Kananaskis Country to show in the image. I am impressed with the improvements in the dSLR’s low-light capabilities over the last couple of years. A couple of years ago I spent another evening up at these falls. At that time I was using a Canon 1D Mark III and when compared with the image above and others where I used a 5D Mark III, the detail, structure of the noise and the color are all vastly improved. The technology is less and less of an obstacle to realizing the images I want to make. I like that a lot.
We stayed at Lake Louise a couple of weeks ago and I set up to take some photographs from my room of the ice sculptures lit up around the front lawn of the Chateau. It was then I noticed the stars and how wonderfully bright they were. With the reflection of lights from below there was a lot of distortion, refraction and general murk to wrestle with. The hazy arcs above the mountain are one of the interesting effects from the lamps around the pathways. I worked away for a little while and liked this somewhat abstract image of Mount Whyte under the night sky.
We had a great weekend which included visiting my family in the Crowsnest Pass, spending the best part of the evening light with a bald eagle out in the Foothills and a hike with my wife and children around Fenland Trail in Banff.
Many photographs to work through, a magazine article to write, two workshops to plan and market – much to do but, when I came across this image during a licensing request, it got me to put down the keyboard and go outside and look at the stars for a while.
I made this while I was taking long exposures up at the Elbow Falls in Kananaskis. Towards the end of my night in the mountains, I pointed the lens up at the stars and then zoomed through the range for a few seconds to generate some warp speed lines.
More posts on the Tonquin, Moraine Lake, a cliff jumper I met and the eagle soon.
I went up to Elbow Falls to see if the aurora borealis wanted to come out and play. Recently I have been dreaming of images of the falls with the northern lights reflecting off of the water and casting an unusual glow on the land. So, I sat on a snow-covered boulder for a couple of hours after sunset waiting. The ionosphere was quiet while I was there and I didn’t see any trace of the lights (I checked AuroraMax the next day for the night’s activity and things picked up around 11:30, an hour after I left my perch above the river). However, the sky fading into night was beautiful to watch and when the stars emerged from the thin haze above the valley they were brilliant. Here, Betelgeuse is the orange star above the three stars that form Orion’s Belt and the large star above the ridge is Canis Major.
With time on my hands waiting, I kept busy photographing the river from a couple of spots and shooting the sky. Two great subjects to work with. In the image above, a high ISO and wide aperture setting allowed for a relatively short exposure in the darkness which kept the stars from tracing their march across the sky while allowing the water and clouds to stretch and blur. The grain in the image doesn’t work for some people but I like it here and I chose to leave most of it in during the processing.
Turning my back to the falls, I was facing east out of the mountains towards Calgary. The urban glow was faint to the human eye but I tried a long exposure and was struck by the colors and textures captured by the haze and wispy clouds. I played around with settings trying to get as many of the stars as possible to be visible as they created a great pattern amid the colorful sky.
So, I’ll be back up at Elbow Falls again to watch for the northern lights soon. The peak of the sun’s current active phase if forecasted to be in 2013 so there should be great opportunities to realize at least a few of the visuals rolling around in my head.