Northern Lights in the Canadian Rockies

Sometimes things just come together, somehow, someplace … everything aligns.

That is how I managed to watch the Northern Lights dance in the Canadian Rockies for the FIRST TIME EVER!

We had been on the road driving for over 14 hours heading home from a road trip holiday around B.C. It was a long day on the road and we made a plan to pull over and get some sleep in the truck before morning so we could travel the Icefields Parkway during the day to enjoy the sights.

I knew there was a pretty good forecast for an Aurora Storm that weekend, but forecasts are often unpredictable. All day I watched the sky cloud over, slowly just giving into the fact that I most likely wasn’t going to see any Aurora because first off, we were fairly far south in terms of the Aurora Oval (meaning it would have to be a very strong show) and secondly the weather was not cooperating one bit.

It was almost midnight when we decided it was time to pull over to get a few hours of sleep. We were extremely exhausted and would have another full day on the road ahead of us. So we pulled over, grabbed some pillows and blankets and started to get settled in. Then I looked out the window.. I freaked out.. I could see a green haze over the mountains! The clouds were separating! I immediately started gathering my gear as the lights started to intensify right overhead!

By now I was almost shaking. This was a bucket list moment for me, I have always wanted to see and capture the Northern Lights in the mountains! Even though we weren’t in the best location for photos, I didn’t care, I was going to make the best out of it!

Aurora.BowLake.AB.Canada

I watched the show in amazement for a few minutes before I could even comprehend what was happening. Somehow through the blur of pure beauty, I got my tripod set up, camera focused and settings dialed in and started to capture some shots! Its funny how after I take my first shot, I’m not tired anymore. I was wide awake and started to look out for some compositions I could make work from my vantage point.

My lesson of the night was a good reminder as to why I love Night Photography… in rural and remote locations.  I am so used to shooting in fairly remote locations, where artificial light or other people are not really a problem. So when the show was at its peak and a vehicle pulled up to watch  (..and didn’t turn off their lights..) I got a bit annoyed at the red glow their lights cast over the entire foreground. At the prime of the show, like seriously? But in all honesty, I knew it was my own fault for not getting set up further away from where this could happen. Lesson learnt.

The laugh of the night was when a group of 3 younger kids pulled up. They jumped out of the car screaming at the sight of the lights. (they turned their lights off… thankfully) I had to smile as they pulled out their cell phones and started taking selfies in front of the Northern Lights. It was awesome to see them having fun and enjoying the lights so much! The funny part was, they literally stayed for maybe 5 minutes, jumped back in their car and left. They probably had a good reason, but to me it seemed like having a photo to share or prove they seen them was way more important than actually watching the show. In a way it was kind of sad actually. This area of Canada would only get a handful of shows like this in a year, this was something to sit back and watch and appreciate.

Aurora.BowLake.Canada
Canadian Rockies Aurora – f/2.8, 14mm, 15 sec, ISO 6400

After moving around to a few different spots for different perspectives, the show started to fade and the clouds started to move back in. I had been set up for a couple hours enjoying the views and between the clouds, the cold and the sleep deprivation, it was time to pack it in for the night. I just sat there for a few minutes after I folded up my tripod just reflecting and thinking about how this all somehow came together. It. Actually. Happened. I love how things can just randomly come together in such a way it creates a feeling that almost can’t even be explained.

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