Another Aurora Borealis Night

After a dismal winter of aurora viewing, with clear skies and a good aurora very seldom coinciding, I had pretty much given up on getting any good photos this year. But last night was the third exceptional night of aurora borealis photography in the past week. I went out a fourth time but it was a dud.

I almost didn’t go out last night because of the full moon, which overpowers most auroral displays. I went to bed early, but woke up at 10:00 pm and saw how incredibly strong the aurora was so got dressed, packed and headed out.

Because of the strength of the display, I decided to start shooting in the city, which is normally the place to avoid because of the light pollution. By 10:35 I was at the Yukon Transportation Museum where I took a few shots, then went next door to the Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre to work with the wooly mammoth statues outside. One of the biggest challenges in Northern Lights photography is getting the focus right, especially when you have a foreground up close.

Northern Lights and a wooly mammoth at Whitehorse, Yukon
It struck me that the control tower at the airport would be a superb place to watch the aurora from, so that was my next stop. Not to go up, unfortunately, just to get some photos of the tower.

The Whitehorse airport control and the aurora borealis
The view from my usual airplane-watching spot. The lights at bottom right are from a truck with a flashing light.

Aurora borealis at Whitehorse, Yukon
The aurora had gotten even stronger, so I then went back to the Yukon Transportation Museum and re-shot some of the photos I started the night with. The ones with their Douglas DC-3, CF-CPY (a.k.a. “The World’s Largest Weather Vane”), are my favourite images of the entire night.

Northern Lights over the World's Largest Weather Vane at Whitehorse, Yukon

Aurora borealis over Douglas DC-3 CF-CPY at Whitehorse, Yukon
I was really enjoying being able to shoot Whitehorse landmarks with the aurora, so my next stop was at The Horse, but the spotlights on it were too bright and the aurora didn’t show up at all.

The Horse statue at night - Whitehorse, Yukon
I thought about hiking around the airport trail to get some shots of the city, but I had twisted my ankle out at Fish Lake while trying to shoot the aurora the night before, and decided that that would be just looking for trouble. This is the industrial part of the city looking down Two Mile Hill.

Northern Lights at Whitehorse, Yukon
A broad view of the Beringia Centre from the Alaska Highway.

Northern Lights over the Beringia Centre at Whitehorse, Yukon
My last stop in Whitehorse was at the SS Klondike. The aurora was fading, though, and the spotlights on the ship made the results there mediocre.

Northern Lights over the SS Klondike sternwheeler in Whitehorse, Yukon

Aurora borealis over the SS Klondike sternwheeler in Whitehorse, Yukon
I went down the Alaska Highway, but the results were what you can expect with a normal aurora and a bright moon. This is looking down the Yukon River, with the landscape lit by the moon.

A winter full moon lighting up the Yukon River
A car coming across the Yukon River Bridge on the Alaska Highway.

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A “selfie” shot at the viewpoint above the bridge, at 01:40. Without the moon, this would have still been an excellent aurora night.

Northern lights on a full moon night
I thought a lot about ending my night, but kept hoping that the aurora would get stronger again, so continued down the highway. This was shot at Marsh Lake, where I had a short nap.

Marsh Lake, Yukon, on a winter full moon night
I hadn’t continued one of my aurora drives into the mountains past Jake’s Corner for a very long time because I’d never gotten the shots I was looking for. Just as I reached the best spot in that valley, though, the aurora got a big energy boost. I hiked through deep snow a couple of hundred feet to get past a power line, and got the shots I’d been after for many years 🙂

Aurora borealis over Mount White, Yukon
The Tagish River Bridge was the last place I got a photo worth posting – after a long wait, this one little ray flashed on for just a few seconds.

Northern Lights at the Tagish River Bridge, Yukon

I didn’t want to get home before 06:00 because no matter how careful I am, I always wake Cathy up, so I stopped at the Carcross Desert and slept for another hour. I noticed that there was still a crown of aurora above me – that was almost 10 hours of continuous display.

I got home just after 6, and the girls (dog and cat) were more than happy to join me in bed for a proper sleep 🙂

There’s nothing in tonight’s aurora forecast to indicate that we’ll have a repeat performance, but the strength of last night’s show was a surprise too, so I’m open to another sleepless night!



Comments

Another Aurora Borealis Night — 6 Comments

  1. For night’s swift dragons cut the clouds full fast,
    And yonder shines Aurora’s harbinger;
    At whose approach ghosts, wandering here and there,
    Troop home to churchyards.

    W. Shakespeare

  2. your photography is outstanding and I wish I knew how to do such a great job! My favourite is with the wooly mammoth

  3. Thank you for your images . I might as well visit Alaska for an awesome night photography. I came to visit Iceland last July 2013 just to capture the best shots of the Northern Lights and included them on my gallery. I would love to share it with you and those who are interested with the beautiful aurora borealis.