Yellowknife V: Green Fire in the Sky

Northern Lights over Yellowknife

After a good night’s rest (Wonderful!), I looked through the rest of my photos and decided to share this picture from my last night in Yellowknife with you. I took wonderful pictures up north, but I somehow feel this was not my last time hunting for the lights!

Yellowknife IV: Last Day and Night

View from Yellowstone's Pilot Monument

Yellowknife sure wanted to leave a good impression on my last day and night there! We had a wonderful sunny day, almost no wind, and temperatures up to 16 °F / -9 °C. As I didn’t have that many pictures from the night before to go through, I decided to spend some time enjoying the weather and getting some daylight pictures of Yellowknife as well. The shot above shows the view from the Pilot Monument over some of Yellowknife’s Old Town out over the North Arm of the Great Slave Lake. Also a great spot to shoot the lights, but only if temperatures and wind permits…

When I checked the forecasts later in the afternoon, they actually weren’t too bad: moderate solar activity. And the skies sure did light up last night! That was my best northern lights night yet! The aurora was not just some cloudlike whitish mass only revealing its green light to the camera. It did show some greenish and even reddish tones and you could even see it dance and flicker across the night sky! What a great spectacle!!! I stayed outside as long as temperatures permitted (-1 °F / -17 °C).

I got almost two hours of sleep before I had to get to the airport. I am kind of amazed at with how little sleep I still function. Not at my best probably, but there is time to catch up with my night’s rest this weekend. I am posting this from Edmonton airport where I have a five hours layover. I will go through the rest of my photographs hopefully some time this weekend (should I not spend it sleeping non-stop…) and will post a little more then. So I close this with a hearty thank you to Yellowknife, the wonderful people there who have made me feel like being at home, and the solar winds for being just strong enough to lightening up the sky so beautifully!

Yellowknife III: Aurora Flip Book

Aurora Borealis over Yellowknife, Canada.

The clouds of the night before had brought some snow with them and the next morning was rather wintry. By midday however the clouds had cleared and the sun was shining. It’s amazing what a difference a blue sky makes! And the sky stayed rather clear during most of the night with only a few scattered clouds moving in. While this had temperatures dropping to about a rather chilly -8 °F / -22 °C again, it also meant good weather conditions for aurora viewing and photographing. Solar activity however was still rather low and I was sure glad I picked Yellowknife as my destination.

By 11 pm the northern lights were dancing across the night sky again. As I still wanted to get the Moon on at least one of my aurora photographs and the moon would not rise until 2:06 am in the night, I decided to gamble a bit. I knew I would not make it from the beginning of the aurora display to when the Moon would be high enough to photograph because of low temperatures and lack of sleep. So I stayed up a bit to simply watch and enjoy the northern lights for a little while and then set my alarm and went to bed for a little nap. When I got up a few hours later, I saw the Moon! It had waned quite a bit since two nights ago but was still at about 75% illumination. It had also risen a bit further south. The aurora borealis was still somewhat active but far from what it had been earlier. But unfortunately, Moon and aurora did not want to make it into one picture on this vast open sky, at least not into the kind of picture I wanted to shoot. So I tried a few things but the aurora was just not bright enough and also decided to dance where it wanted, surprisingly. The photos I shot were nowhere near those of two nights ago. So I packed up and went to bed again. Gamble lost. Lesson learned though: always take the first chance you get, you might not get another one!

But hey, I already had a great night photographing the aurora and there still is one more to go. I will not get my Moon photograph though, as the Moon will rise even later tonight, too late for me as I will have to be off to the airport by then. But before that, I will hopefully get a few more northern lights captured. I will add the Moon photograph to my bucket list for later. And in the meantime, enjoy the aurora flip book above!

Yellowknife II: Wonderful Sunrise over Great Slave Lake

A wonderful sunrise over Great Slave Lake

Yesterday started with a great view: the Sun rising early in the morning over the North Arm of Great Slave Lake. It was a rather crisp morning as temperatures had dropped to -17 °F / -27 °C during the night but “rose” to 9 °F / -13 °C later in the day. While I got up early, I decided to have a quiet day and rest some to be fit for next night’s photo shoot. I went through yesterday’s photos; quite a few didn’t turn out too bad. But I had a few more ideas for my next aurora shoot as well.

Unfortunately however what had been only a few scattered clouds turned into a fully cloudy sky in the evening and all the sparkling stars disappeared one by one. I stayed up late anyway as I was hoping to still get a chance for a couple of shots. I didn’t mind a few clouds, but the aurora of course needed to be visible. And I really wanted to get the Moon into the picture as well. That was one of the images in my mind when I planned this trip: the polar lights dancing across the night sky with the Moon watching. I should have stayed up a little longer the night before as the Moon back then had risen in time for the aurora, but after having traveled all day and with it being really cold, that had been just a little too much for me. Moonrise last night was at 00:51, still a good time to catch the lights as well, weather permitting. But weather didn’t permit and I finally went to bed regretting I hadn’t made the shot the night before.

Yellowknife I: Aurora Test Shots

Test shooting polar lights

After getting up at a quarter to four in the morning and traveling all day to Yellowknife, Canada, I was ready for my bed. I had spent more time at various airports than up in the air and it had been a long and tedious day. But I had made it up north in search for the polar lights or aurora borealis. Solar activity was low (Kp = 2) but I was in Yellowknife! And sure enough, shortly after 10 o’clock in the evening there was a faint green glimmer in the evening sky. Tired as I was, I decided to postpone my night’s rest for a little longer. While I was too tired to get really serious about it, I thought some test shots couldn’t hurt: finding the right spot for the shoot, experimenting with different image compositions and camera settings, photographing at -8 °F / -22 °C.

I decided to share this far from perfect test shot above anyways. I took it to see what colors the camera would pick up. I didn’t bother to really focus, but it is amazing how much more than the human eye the camera sees. The aurora was just moving in and only seemed a light greenish glimmer to me. And that the red neon lights of a nearby business illuminated the snow and ice on the lake as well as trees and bushes, I only realized after looking at the photo on my camera display. So I moved my camera, found a bright star to manually focus, and kept on experimenting!

However, my battery ran down fast and shut down at 82% because of the cold. Well, what are extra batteries for? After my fingers also shut down, I decided to call it a day. It was only after I was back indoors, that I realized I was almost completely frozen through. It took a while to get warm again and find some sleep, but what a wonderful start into my aurora adventure!