It is a rare event that I happen to be in the right place at the right time and manage to photograph a night scape that really excites me. Rather, most of my shots are well planned, days, weeks, months, or even years in advance!
Join me, and the experts in planning from the the PhotoPills team , Rafael Pons and Antoni Cladera, for the adventure of a lifetime chasing the Aurora Borealis and the Milky Way in the majestic Canadian Rockies, February 23- March 1, 2023!
The Northern Lights are one of the single most awe-inspiring and captivating natural phenomena that I have ever experienced. To photograph the dancing green ribbons of the aurora takes patience, a certain amount of creativity, and of course expert planning.
Predicting (and photographing) the aurora borealis is tricky business. Aurora activity is directly related to solar storms on the sun. There is a lot of science behind understanding the activity of the sun, and how that solar activity interacts with the earth’s geomagnetic field to produce the northern lights. However, there are two big factors influencing the suns activity (and therefore our chances of success!).
First, solar activity is observed in 11-year cycles. During solar minimum, there are less solar storms and less sunspots (which means less frequent aurora displays). During solar maximum, there is increased solar activity and sunspots, resulting in more frequent and stronger displays of the Northern Lights. Currently, the sun is entering the period of solar maximum, which means we will be more likely to see the dancing green lights!
Second, NASA researcher and solar physicist David Hathaway has demonstrated that the times around spring (vernal) equinox are the most geomagnetically active months of the year. During the spring equinox, cracks form in the earth’s geomagnetic field that allow solar winds to pass through them: It is the interaction between the charged solar particles (carried by solar winds) and particles in the earth’s atmosphere that create the beautiful displays of dancing lights.
Knowing when an aurora is likely to happen is only part of the equation. You also need to know how to find clear skies, locations where you are most likely to see the aurora, and how to capture the ever-changing light as it dances across the night sky. This is the magic that we will be teaching on this workshop!
What to expect
If the skies are clear, we will shoot from sunset to sunrise, and sleep during the day. Even if we do not get to see the aurora every night, there will be plenty of opportunities to hone your night shooting skills as we greet the early season Milky Way.
We will have a partial moon to work with in the early evening, which will be bright enough to illuminate the landscape, and allow us to capture all of the beautiful details of the scene while shooting the aurora.
The moon will set before the Milky Way rises each morning, giving us the darkest skies to shoot the rise of the galactic core. The Milky Way will be visible for about 45 minutes each morning, just before sunrise.
If we have cloudy nights in the forecast, we will shoot during the day and spend time enjoying all that winter in Canada has to offer. And we have some special surprises planned for you!
Accommodations & Transportation
Lodging and transportation will be included.
Guests will fly into the Calgary International Airport. Pick ups will begin at 10:00 am on February 23. In winter months I suggest arriving the day before (especially for international flights) and staying at a hotel near the airport. We will check out of our hotel at 11:00 am and make our way back to the Calgary airport on March 1st by about 4:00 pm.
We will be based out of the iconic Emerald Lake Lodge in the heart of the Rockies for the duration of the workshop. The Lodge is an ideal location as it has a beautiful North facing view, perfect for shooting the Northern Lights. Please note that lodging is based on shared occupancy. If you wish to have your own room, select the single supplement when you reserve your spot.
Online Aurora-Shooting Course
I want you to feel confident in your night shooting skills before you arrive on location. We will schedule two online classes in advance of the workshop to cover the basics for capturing Northern Lights and the Milky Way. I will cover some field techniques and show you how I blend images for the best image quality.
February is a unique time of year in the Canadian Rockies, as the mountain region slowly begins to transition to spring. The average temperature is between 0 degrees Celsius and -12 degrees Celsius. The lakes are frozen, and the snow pack is deep. Frost flowers “bloom” along open bodies of water, and mounds of pillowy snow simplify the landscape. Snow and ice are the perfect companions for aurora as they reflect the dancing green lights.
For more information about how to prepare for a winter workshop in the Rockies, check out my winter gear guide.