A Little Bit of Northern Lights

Well, after two or three nights of stargazing, Richard Hartmier and I finally got a tiny glimpse of Aurora borealis activity. I say we only because we were out photographing together. Richard lives in the Yukon and has extensively photographed the Northern Lights. In fact, his Aurora work can be found in his books and in postcards sold in gift shops throughout the Yukon.

We were at Fish Lake, perhaps 15 minutes outside the city of Whitehorse (pop: 24,000). There were clouds in the sky, not aparticularly good thing when photographing the Aurora. Normally you would want a large expanse of clear, black sky, with the stars bright.

In fact, the lights, as they are known up here, were not very energized that night. It took a long exposure to get this image (look for a future blog with tips on photographing the Aurora).

In the image above, I was looking in the same general direction, but in this instance the lights from  the city of Whitehorse lit up a band of clouds, flaming them orange.

In the image above, taken about an hour later, the aurora is diffuse over a massive area of sky. Again, the lights from Whitehorse are reflected by the clouds.

There is something magical, spiritual and very humbling about the Northern Lights. I’m not sure I can explain it, but I know that I definitely feel quite insignificant in its presence. Remember that these images are of a weak display. But even on that night, these images are only of a small part of the night sky. The actual display may totally envelope you, from one horizon to the opposite one.

Of course, one has to brave the frigid temperatures and whatever elements nature throws at you. Some nights the lights don’t appear at all, on other nights it is too cloudy. But when it does come together, it is awe-inspiring.

I do hope to capture lots more Northern Lights as we approach the Arctic Circle next week. I was also just informed that the caribou herd I’ve been wanting to photograph for years has finally made it to the Arctic Circle and I hope my visit coincides with their continuing presence. We’ll see.

My next blog will describe the Quest dogsled race, which just began today. It was one exciting, fun-filled event.

Until my next blog, try to stay warm.

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