The best solar storm of the year so far occurred on Saturday night and Sunday morning the 7th and 8th of May. The auroras were easily visible from inside the city limits which means they are very bright, so around 11pm I grabbed my camera gear and headed south of town. It was a very clear night, so I didn’t need to travel too far for nice dark skies. After travelling about 15 or 20 kilometres south I found a nice high spot with no power lines to intrude in the picture. Man I hate it when I don’t notice power lines until I review my images later. It can easily happen as I work rather quick when taking aurora pictures as they don’t necessarily last very long. Typically you see the pale green aurora that are not very dramatic, sometimes for hours, and then all of a sudden the auroral storm intensifies for maybe 10 minutes. That’s when I jump into action, usually with a very wide-angle lens like the Rokinon 14mm or 24mm. On this night I took a few pictures with these two lenses but the auroral display was across the whole sky and I decided to use my 12mm full frame fish-eye lens. These fish-eye lenses cover 180º, which is a lot of sky! Remember those power lines I mentioned, yeah sometimes they creep into the edge or corners of images which drives me crazy. So this first site, being clear of power lines and offering up a beautiful view looking south, was fabulous. You can see the lights from Calgary glowing on the horizon. I de-fisheyed the picture in photoshop. For the first time, for me, I managed to capture a blue streak of aurora in the upper right edge of the picture. The blue is caused by ionized nitrogen in the atmosphere and usually appear at the lowest level of the curtains and at the highest levels of solar activity. This picture may be a view of almost 600km of sky from one edge to the next and the auroras were pulsating the whole time I was out, which is always very dramatic to view!
The next picture shows one of the gravel roads in Red Deer County looking south. Fun thing is the Big Dipper is in the picture just above centre right and the North Star is right at the top edge, which simply shows how much sky a fish-eye lens sees! Can you find the Dipper?? The red glow is from my car’s tail lights.
The last picture is from a spot high up on the hills south of Red Deer which allows me to see the city’s lights quite nicely. I kept shooting as the shapes kept changing very quickly. In this picture the aurora looks like a bird flying over Red Deer! The show on this night didn’t last only 10 minutes, but instead I was treated to nearly an hour of gorgeous auroras!!
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 29, WARM – BRIGHT.
Last night, just as we were going to turn in, the Northern Lights began and the display, which lasted all night, was the most brilliant and the colour effects the most beautiful I have ever seen. At times it seemed as if the whole sky was illuminated as the streamers of light with the brilliancy and appearance of search lights played over the sky, with here and there big masses of light delicately coloured. It was fascinating to watch the continual changes going on and the weird sensation it produced. Sometimes the effect was that of a gigantic stereopticon lantern turned on the sky for it’s curtain, only instead of pictures we saw fantastic shapes and forms come and go in the zone of light.
The Forgotten Explorer – Samuel Prescott Fay’s 1914 Expedition to the Northern Rockies
A few weeks ago we had a fabulous northern lights show. The evening was gorgeous too, No moon and without any wind with the temperature around 5°C. The lights were very active for almost an hour allowing me some time to get to more than one site. This is one of the first images I made. This was also a very unique location east or Red Deer that was completely void of farm lights, and the aurora were so bright they were lighting up the fields. Being so bright, I was also using a very short exposure allowing the image to show off the curtains better and not simply blending them together as a green mush. There was very little red aurora evident unfortunately, but any show this good was worth being out for!
Red Deer County, Alberta
Last night was one of the best nights I’ve spent outdoors enjoying creation. It was warm, no wind, very few insects and a major league bonus included seeing the fireflies I talked about in my last post. It didn’t stop there though!! The aurora borealis showed up and put on a nice show, so I was able to capture this image showing the reflection of the auroras in Gull Lake, which was very calm. Oh, the show wasn’t over yet – noctilucent clouds started to glow brilliantly along the horizon as you can see in the image. Listening to all the grebes, geese, ducks, loons and coyotes and even the fish making noises was an experience along with the stunning views is something everyone should put an effort into experiencing! These beautiful nights don’t last long in Alberta, so I love to take advantage of them when I can. I have a few more images that are worth posting, but I have been really busy all day already and I want a nap. Apparently things could fire up again tonight!!
[ Canon 5DmkIII, Canon EF 11-24mm L]
Hoping to catch a nice sunset I headed off to Gull Lake last night. It’s only a 30 minute drive, so a bit of a last minute desicion was no big deal. The temperature was 28ºC and the parking lot at the beach was packed solid when I arrived. I’m not one for big crowds anywhere, malls, carnivals etc. I much prefer quiet and so I didn’t haul out my cameras as they grab far too much attention. Instead I parked my butt on a bench and enjoyed the setting sun. It was interesting too, as I noticed thousands of small fish feeding on the insects on the surface of the water just like trout do and birds, both gulls and terns in turn skimming the surface picking off these fish as they surfaced. I have no idea what kind of fish they were, but I’m curious to know. While I was enjoying the warmth of the sun I got an e-mail alert about possible aurora, so I thought it would be nice to wait and see if they showed up.
Pretty much as soon as the sun disappeared below the horizon the crowds started thinning out quite quickly and I didn’t feel so conspicuous with my camera. It takes a long time to get dark at this time of year! The sun set at around 9:50pm and it takes a couple of hours for the sky to get dark. A few minutes before 11 a park warden came by to tell me they were locking up the gates and I would have to leave. I explained what I was doing and the warden said he wouldn’t kick me out of the park if I was to park outside the gate and walk back in. It’s under a kilometre to get in so I was all for the idea! He also mentioned that the evening before there had been a lot of fireflies around and that they were seen around midnight for an hour or so. This perked my interest as I have only ever seen fireflies once before while out chasing thunderstorms around this time of year a long time ago. I parked my car outside the gate and gathered together the minimum amount of gear I felt was necessary and wandered back down to the beach. The warden had given me a good tip and almost as if on que the first flash of greenish light of a firefly appeared in a small group of trees next to the beach. I set up my camera and took a twenty minute time exposure looking out over Gull Lake. As you can see the earth rotates and creates star trails in the sky, but the main attraction for me was the squiggly green lines tracing out the flight path of these amazing little insects!
[Olympus E-M5II, Panasonic 20mm f/1.7]