“Prairie Light” – Alberta Aurora

Well the evening of April 23 proved to be a spectacular night for taking in the Aurora Borealis.  I shot the photographs for my new time lapse HD video “Prairie Light” between 9:30pm-12:30am MST.  There was a thick front of cloud cover that I had been monitoring just before dinner.  I would have to head south to find clearer skies tonight.  I was packed up and on the road around 8:00pm.  I got as far as the Camrose turnoff and decided to turn east.  Skirting the north side of Camrose, I noticed the aurora was beginning to shine.  I was just a bit too close to the city to start taking pictures so I headed north away from the light pollution for about 10km.  The activity in the sky was becoming very pronounced by this point.  I had to stop ASAP, so I found a deserted range road and setup my cameras.

This was my first shot.  Venus is the bright spot above the moon which got covered up by the clouds shortly after this was taken.

Things were looking promising as the activity level picked up and the view changed to this.

The Aurora became so high in the sky it actually started to move towards the southern horizon.  I have only seen it do this a couple of times in the past.  This movement indicated that the aurora oval was headed into the USA.  It also meant we were in for a great show!  I say “we”, because as usual my buddy Oli Du Tre was down in Cochrane taking pictures of the same show.  Our very expressive Voxer communication just heightened the experience.  He was scrambling for a spot to safely stop, while I was packing up to move to another location since the Aurora had begun to slow down.

I was on the move, looking for a small piece of water I knew was close by.  I turned the corner to see a set of lights in the distance by the side of the road.  As I got closer I could see an individual standing next to a tripod.  So I slowed down to a crawl and killed the 20,000 lumens of light my truck was emitting.  I stopped next to this person, hopped out and said “Hi”.  Before I could ask, this guys said, “Just taking pictures of the Northern Lights!”.  I laughed and said “Me too!”.   I introduced myself and got a “I know who you are!”.  Apparently my reputation had preceded me.   He indicated that he had been following my aurora photography for awhile now.  He introduced himself as Bill Trout.  I have seen some of his Aurora photography posted on www.AuroraWatch.ca, a great photographer!  I asked him if he would mind if I set up and shoot with him for a bit.  “Go for it” he replied.  I had just finished setting up my third camera and the fireworks began.

This was looking East accross a pond where a thousand of frogs were singing a deafening song.

It was right about here, that one of my nightmares began to unfold.  The aurora took off.  Crazy bright!

I was about to point one of my cameras straight up to get some overhead corona images when I noticed a three line power line on the west side of the road!  I HATE POWER LINES IN MY PICTURES!

I had to make a call.  Stay and spoil my images with these lines or move.  Keep in mind the sky was on fire like I’ve see it only a couple of times ever, and you never know how long these types of outbursts last!  I remembered that just before I stopped my Xterra, that my DashPad (IPad mounted on my dash) nav system, showed a road just 500m north of my location.  I made the call in my head to move.  I ran to the first camera and grabbed it, then to the second one.  I threw (gently placed) them in the back of my Xterra fully assembled and mounted on their tripods.  As I headed for the third one, I told Bill that I was going up the road 500m to a field to get away from the power lines.  He didn’t hesitate.  He grabbed his camera and put it in the box of his truck.  By this point I had put my last camera in the Xterra and fired the truck up.  The night turned into day as all eight of my headlights turned on and I dropped the clutch.  Gravel and dust filled the rear view mirror. I had just shifted into second gear and the intersection came into view.  I was hard on the brakes, and then made a sharp right, drifting around the corner, away from the power lines.   There was a perfect entrance to a farmers field 200m from the corner I just slid around.  I pulled off the road into the field, killed the lights and scrambled to setup my three cameras again.  I had the second one going by the time Bill stopped and got out of his truck.  I am sure he must have thought I was nuts!

This is from the new location.

Remember that overhead shot I wanted?

Bill and I talked for a while and then he informed me that he had an early morning and a had to get going.  “It was a pleasure running into you out here on such a spactacular night” I said as I shook his hand.  We both packed up, he headed West, I headed East.  About 3km later I came accross another flooded pond and set up again.

Looking East:

Looking West.  The orange light is the light pollution from the city of Edmonton.

I stayed at this location for maybe 20 minutes then head north again.  I found another field with a tree bluff not too far from the road and took a series of images here.

Once I had two of my cameras up and running, I took a look at the data on the DashPad and realized that this event was coming to a end.  Oli and I had a few more discussions and then we both agreed the night was done!  I packed up at 12:30am and headed for home.  An early night as far as I was concerned.

The result of my efforts are in the video on my home page and on my VIMEO page.  It is my second feature Aurora HD video. The response from the public has been overwhelming!  I would like to say a special thanks for all the people that contacted me via email to offer me their descriptive feedback on what my imagery means to them.  It fills me with joy to know that my imagery can positively effect so many people around the world!  It is humbling and truly appreciated!

ZK

Isabelle from Ottawa - Theses are absolutely amazing! You are so lucky to be able to witness this! Amazing photography work, wish we could see something this spectacular here in Ottawa. Wow!

Kelly - Simply beautiful… Almost like being there. I’ve sent a link to all my friends so that they can be as spellbound as I.
Thanks so much for sharing.

Sherry VS - Really spectacular photos, and the video was, simply put, gorgeous! Your musical choice added a beautiful note to the flow of light/color. Splendid.

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