2020: Memorable Moments

This is my second annual memorable moments blog post, but I have been doing this reflection on my Facebook page since 2017! I enjoy looking back at the things I’ve learnt, experienced and accomplished. This year, 2020 has been something no one could have expected. It’s the year the world came to a stop and changed in unimaginable ways. For me I’m grateful for the health of my family and friends while the world faces this global pandemic. This has been a unique year in many ways and looking back these are the moments that are memorable for me and my photography journey.

Memorable Moment: The Comet of the Summer, Neowise

One of my most memorable moments of the year was during the summer when a beautiful and photogenic Comet called Neowise graced the northern horizon.

Neowise Comet -July 2020

The comet was discovered just earlier this year, in March 2020 by astronomers during the NEOWISE mission of NASA’s wide field space telescope, resulting in its name. I wrote about it here. Neowise became the most photogenic comet visible to the naked eye in decades, putting on a show throughout July 2020.

Comet Neowise was a beautiful addition to the night sky during the summer the world had to stop. It was something to look forward to, something special to enjoy and during a global pandemic, it brought a lot more people out to watch the night sky. The therapeutic effect of gazing up into the night was felt worldwide as Neowise gracefully passed by.

Aurora Borealis, Neowise Comet & Noctilucent Clouds

Visible for most of July, the comet was a highlight of the summer in terms of astronomical events! Capturing it both in Saskatchewan & Alberta was a highlight for me, specially when one of the biggest aurora displays of the summer surprised me and capturing the Aurora, Neowise & noctilucent clouds all in one shot became the bucket list photo I didn’t even know existed. The conditions were perfect, creating one of my most memorable experiences of 2020.

Goal Achieved: Bucket list shot I didn’t know I needed: a Comet, Aurora & Noctilucent Clouds in the Canadian Rockies!

Memorable Moment: Noctilucent Clouds & National Recognition

A phenomenon I only learnt about after getting into night photography is Noctilucent Clouds, glowing clouds in the night. I’ve seen and captured them a bit in the last couple years, it’s even made one of my past memorable moments.

Noctilucent Clouds – Hudson Bay Saskatchewan

Noctilucent Clouds (NLC) are a lesser known wonder of the Night Sky. These glowing clouds captivate viewers during astronomical twilight during the summer months in Canada. (May-August in the Northern Hemisphere and November-February in the Southern Hemisphere) Typically seen between 45 and 60 degrees latitude.

With the very small window of opportunity to see them, and for conditions to align, I consider them a special wonder if the night sky that is not well understood or known about.

You may have even seen them without realizing you are witnessing such a rare natural phenomenon. These clouds are in the highest limits of Earth’s atmosphere, up to 80km high, the icy crystals are reflecting the sunlight during Astronomical twilight. I wrote an article with more information.

SkyNews Magazine Honourable Mention for Night Landscape Photo of the Year – 2020

I was able to capture some pretty spectacular NLC’s this year, and it even led to me winning Photo of the Week & Honourable Mention for Landscape Night Photograph of the Year published by Canada’s Skynews Magazine! It was a huge honour both to be selected but to also shed some light on this wonderous night phenomenon! So both because of the frequency of amazing experiences this summer viewing and capturing the NLC and for it leading to National recognition, it is one of my most memorable experiences of 2020.

Goal Achieved: Honourable Mention Award for Landscape Night Photograph of the Year by SkyNews Magazine & Published in their fall issue!

Memorable Moment: Five Night Aurora Marathon

I’ve shot the Northern Lights on back to back nights several times, if I’m lucky it would be 3; But never 5! This year in the early winter of 2020 I unintentionally accomplished just that.

Hudson Bay, Saskatchewan, Canada. Feb. 2020

It was not easy, yes it was extremely exhausting, and if it wasn’t for some unbelievably amazing shows I wouldn’t have done it. But it just kind of happened, and by night 3 I knew I was setting a new goal. I didn’t travel for this, I stayed home and didn’t leave more than 5-10 miles from home in the brutal cold. The fact it was clear consecutively along with aurora just never happens. This also occurred during “Solar Minimum” and at a point in an 11 year cycle when the aurora is least active. NASA has declared Dec/2019 as the most recent solar minimum, meaning for the next several years, solar activity and therefore Aurora, should increase.

In the Snow – Hudson Bay, Saskatchewan

It was cold, bitter wind and epic clear sky. I’ll never forget that week, so many little moments of it. I wrote about it here so I would remember, my first epic 5 night aurora marathon in Saskatchewan.

Goal Achieved: New Record for consecutive Aurora shooting = 5

Memorable Moment: Always learning

A year of learning, a year of diving deeper into the information and applying it to my own work. Learning not only about photography and the business of it but more in depth information about aurora activity, the science, space, dark sky awareness and light pollution. All around, I’m constantly learning, and in so many more ways than I would’ve even expected.

Last year was a big year for me to step back and focus on the basics, acquire both the technology and safety gear I needed. It has allowed me to go further beyond my comfort zone this year and opened up many more opportunities for me to explore and capture nature. This year, I was able to dive deeper into the information, practice the skills and the apply the research.

Some of the great learning opportunities I was a part of their year included: attending the virtual International Dark Sky Association conference, actively promoting International Dark Sky Week, membership with the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, purchasing and completing a Business of Photography course, then moved onto a some different photography masterclasses, along with many hours of topic-specific research and webinars. Trying to gather different perspectives and workflows to help me perfect my own. Honestly one of the hidden benefits of the global pandemic in 2020 is that most things went virtual, allowing someone like me from a remote area to attend and learn more than I could have ever done in person, for that I’m thankful.

Frozen Fall Nights

It was a year of learning and investing into my photography skills. A year of opening up new possibilities and really focus in on my goals moving ahead. A year of establishing what I want to do and begin to lay out the steps to work toward it. I’ve found myself in that strange transition from being just a beginner a few years ago, to becoming somewhat of an expert in a specific niche, and realizing how much I’ve actually learnt along the way that’s become just second nature to me. I’ll never quit learning but now I’m realizing how far I’ve actually come and am teaching others.

Self Portrait enjoying the Aurora

Not only has my photography skills improved along the journey but so has my own personal understanding, bravery, comfort and confidence. For this, my personal and professional development is one of my memorable moments of 2020.

Goal Achieved: Investing in myself and skill development, and opening an online store for the first time!

Memorable Moment: The Year 2020 & International Publishing

In general, 2020 was a year no one will forget, a year full of so many unforeseen changes, struggles and uncertainty. That’s why this year in general; makes the list. It was a unique year in so many ways looking back at this time last year, for me, feels like a lifetime ago.

I’m so thankful for the health of my family & friends. As with everyone else, I had a lot of challenges this year. Defining moments, troubling times and eye opening realizations. However it wasn’t all bad, this year also held some really great milestones. With some pretty exciting projects, honourable mentions and having been chosen as one of the top Northern Lights Photographs of 2020 from around the world was a remarkable achievement!

Being published around the world this year is one of the most memorable moments in my photography career so far! Being included in a carefully curated and prestigious listing of the best Northern Lights Photography of 2020 is mind blowing. To represent Saskatchewan on the Aurora stage at a global level is just unreal, and I am so honoured. To be listed amongst photographers I look up to and who have inspired me in the past few years, it’s still unbelievable. This has led to being interviewed & published in news articles in the United States, Australia, Europe and Asia just in the past month!

Lights in the Land of Living Skies

As 2020 comes to a close, I reflect on the ups and the downs, the changes and the opportunities. For me it’s been a pivotal year as I look ahead to the future with a refreshed lens, a desire to follow my dreams and the realization of how truly important the simple things are in life. I’m excited to see some of my plans come to fruition, projects take shape and the new opportunities to come!

Looking forward to fresh beginnings and new goals as this year comes to a close and a brand new one begins. For this, 2020 will always be a memorable year for my photography career and as a turning point for priorities as I strategize, invest and move ahead. This closes my memorable moments, with a general appreciation for the ways 2020 has changed and educated me both personally & professionally. Despite the hardships and unexpected challenges of the year, finding the glimmer of hope is most important! The year 2020 will be one our generation will never forget.

Ultimate Goal Achieved of the Year: being published around the world all by capturing my night views from this small corner of this world!

Wishing you all the best, with lots of clear sky and northern lights in 2021!

Jh

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