An almost-Spring night of aurora borealis photography

I hadn’t planned to go out aurora hunting on March 16th, but it turned out to be one of the best aurora displays I’ve seen in a long time.

My usual aurora-forecast starting point, the UAF Geophysical Institute, gave it a Level 0 – meaning there’d be no chance of an aurora. I’d never seen a Level 0 before. But a friend called and said that her app had a good forecast so she and a couple of overseas friends who had recently moved to Canada were going out. I decided to join them.

We decided to go out to Lake Laberge again, for the broad views. The aurora began on our way out there, when the sky was still bright, but we were also heading towards clouds.

By 10:15, we were set up at the Lake Laberge Campground. The next photo was shot at 10:26 – the nearly-full moon was washing the aurora out, and the strongest aurora appeared to be hidden by clouds.

The aurora borealis at Lake Laberge, Yukon
10:42 – a few minutes later, we decided to head back towards Whitehorse to see if we could find clearer skies. It would also be nice to get out of the wind – even though the temperature was an amazing +4°C (39°F), the wind had a bite.

The aurora borealis at Lake Laberge, Yukon
Driving back on the North Klondike Highway, a glance in the rear-view mirror prompted a stop at a pullout. When a vehicle went by, Karla was ready and got a good photo. It could have been a long wait for another vehicle to come along, so she drove her own car by so the rest of us could get a shot 🙂

The aurora borealis along the North Klondike Highway, Yukon
One of the members of my Aurora Alert Yukon group had posted that there were some clear skies at the Fish Lake Road viewpoint, so that was our Whitehorse-area destination. The next photo was shot right at midnight. Interesting cloud, but no more aurora.

The Fish Lake Road viewpoint, Yukon
Five minutes later, the moon went behind that large cloud. If we got very lucky and the aurora returned, that would be a big help.

An odd cloud above the Fish Lake Road viewpoint, Yukon
Just a minute later, the aurora returned in a very cool way, looking like an aurora tornado dropping down out of the cloud!

The aurora borealis at the Fish Lake Road viewpoint in Whitehorse, Yukon
At 00:10 the real show began over the city – the next photo was shot a minute later.

The aurora borealis at the Fish Lake Road viewpoint in Whitehorse, Yukon
Now we didn’t now which way to look, with strong aurora in opposite directions.

The aurora borealis at the Fish Lake Road viewpoint in Whitehorse, Yukon

The aurora borealis at the Fish Lake Road viewpoint in Whitehorse, Yukon
Within 5 minuttes, the aurora arc had filled in overhead, and then spread to fill much of the sky.

The aurora borealis at the Fish Lake Road viewpoint in Whitehorse, Yukon
The Rokinon 10mm lens I use to shoot the aurora can be a bit frustrating when the aurora display is small, but it’s a star when the sky fills with colour!

The aurora borealis at the Fish Lake Road viewpoint in Whitehorse, Yukon
Wanting some new angles, we drove a few miles to the Jackson Lake Road. It was a good place to do some aurora-backed portraits.

The aurora borealis at Jackson Lake Road in Whitehorse, Yukon
By 00:39 when the next photo was shot, the aurora display was so strong that even having the moon come out from behind the cloud didn’t matter.

The aurora borealis at Jackson Lake Road near Whitehorse, Yukon
The cloud was hiding some aurora – maybe a lot of aurora – but there was still plenty to shoot 🙂

The aurora borealis at Jackson Lake Road near Whitehorse, Yukon
I asked Karla to “paint” me with light from her headlamp to get a portrait.

Murray Lundberg and the aurora borealis at Jackson Lake Road near Whitehorse, Yukon
We decided to go up to Fish Lake, which is always the busiest aurora-viewing location in the Whitehorse area. On the way, the sky lit up in a major way again. Just to the lower right of the high tree in the next photo, a bit of red can be seen in the aurora. We hoped it would expand, but that didn’t happen.

The aurora borealis at the Fish Lake Road near Whitehorse, Yukon
At 01:02, even my 10mm lens couldn’t get it all in.

The aurora borealis at the Fish Lake Road near Whitehorse, Yukon
The aurora got dramatically smaller as we continued towards Fish Lake, but we made a stop at the entrance to Sky High Wilderness Ranch for a few photos. We didn’t think those cabins were lived in, but someone pulled a curtain back to see what we were doing. Whoops – sorry!

The aurora borealis at Sky High Ranch, Yukon
We reached Fish Lake just after 01:15, but the aurora was gone and the wind was screaming. There were only 3 other vehicles there. We sat in the car for a while and waited for the aurora to return, then walked down to an igloo for a few photos of an igloo that someone had built. I lit it up by putting my headlamp inside.

An igloo at Fish Lake, Yukon

At 01:30, we called it quits and headed home. The aurora forecasts are calling for a long calm period now, with a good aurora storm to hit on the 27th. That will probably be our next outing.




Comments

An almost-Spring night of aurora borealis photography — 1 Comment

  1. Enjoyed this and your success on a night when the forecast was for none…

    We had a couple of nights winter camping in New York state, just a few weeks ago where we decamped from the very warm heated tent and out onto the frozen lake to watch, watch, watch…but not surprisingly, got blanked…nothing but some scudding clouds and some yipping coyotes behind the nearby ridge.

    Maybe next fall if I am lucky enough to return for another Alaskan trip…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *