Jasper National Park is the second largest Dark Sky Preserves in the world, covering 11,000 km². It is an extremely unique preserve as it has the Town of Jasper within the preserve boundaries, and has several different accessible areas to explore the night sky. The entire area is a photographers dream day and night.
I have been a night photographer for a few years now, and this was my first official photography visit to a dark sky preserve! I was so excited. Although the weather didn’t cooperate with a snow storm moving in, I did get out for one night of broken cloud cover to capture the stars. The light from the moon was illuminating the fresh blanket of snow on the mountains. I was left speechless when I took my first photo that night. What a magical night under the moon surrounded by the beauty of Jasper National Park.
I set up my camera, and this is the first thing I seen… I was in love.
Under the light of the moon, the fresh blanket of snow sparkles along the mountain ridge surrounding Jasper. Viewing the night sky with the majestic Rocky Mountains towering up along the horizon, is something I have only dreamt of, here are my images of just one night under the stars in the Jasper National Park Dark Sky Preserve.
Jasper National Park was designated as a Dark Sky Preserve in 2011 by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. Dark Sky Preserves status means they have made a commitment to protecting and preserving the night sky by reducing light pollution and raising awareness.
When to go:
Planning when the moon is less than 50% illuminated will greatly increase the view of the stars, and maybe even the Northern Lights! Every October Jasper hosts an Annual Dark Sky Festival that caters to all levels of enthusiasts. I hope to attend it one year because it looks like a great time. For general viewing of the dark sky, it is best to go during winter months while there are more hours of darkness. (October-March)
Where to go:
Pyramid Lake, Lake Annette, Maligne Lake, Old Fort Point, anywhere south along the icefields parkway and many more locations throughout Jasper National Park. With limited light pollution, the options for viewing the dark sky are endless within one of the largest Dark Sky Preserves in the World! We were snowed in at the Jasper Park Lodge and we were able to head out hiking to find some decent views of the sky and mountains as soon as the clouds cleared.
Also while you are in Jasper stop by the “Friends of Jasper National Park” gift shop in the visitor centre to get some Dark Sky preserve merchandise and other great stuff. They are a registered charity that does a lot of great work throughout the park and I was happy to support their cause.
How to get there:
Jasper is located a 4 hour drive west of Edmonton, Alberta along highway 16. It is also accessible north of Banff 300km up the famous Icefields Parkway (Hwy 93) which connects the two. Locations throughout Jasper can be easily navigated by vehicle, some areas have limited accessibility in the winter due to snow, but there are still plenty of areas to explore year round. We choose to stay at the Jasper Park Lodge which provided an array of stunning landscapes to shoot during the snow storm and at a moments notice when the clouds broke.
My gear: Canon 6D & 50mm Canon f1.4 lens & 14mm Rokinon f2.8 lens. Slik 724CF tripod with a 200DQ ballhead. The settings I used during the 79% illuminated Moon: f/4.5, 8-10 sec, ISO 800-1000.
Most importantly, dress warm for the weather. I wrote about Cold Weather Photography tips right here. Wear layers and bring heat packs if needed, don’t let the weather ruin the joy of being out under the stars!
This was my first trip to Jasper, but will not be my last. Due to the conditions I changed plans, and made it work. Photography is about capturing the essence of the moment, this moment was dominated by Mountains Under Moonlight in one of Canada’s largest dark sky preserves.