Dancing Skies

Last night I was treated to the experience of a lifetime. My night started off pretty low key; I went home from work and was just sitting down when a good friend of mine, Sara, from back in Ontario (she lives in Jasper now) texted to say she was in Banff for the night, along with another friend from back home in Ontario. I raced out to Banff to grab a quick drink with them (margaritas at Magpie and Stump, I highly recommend it if you’re in town) and stroll around the down town. While we were walking, my friend Amanda who is visiting from Ontario mentioned that she really wanted to see the Northern Lights, that it was on her bucket list for while she was out here.

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Because its light out until so late these days, I hadn’t bothered checking an aurora forecast in awhile, but since she mentioned it I thought I should take a look. I opened it up in my phone and to my surprise the forecast for that night was almost off the charts! I showed Amanda and Sara and gave them a couple of ideas of where to go and look later on in the night once it was dark. We parted ways and I drove home to Kananaskis as the sun sunk behind the mountains.

As I pulled onto my street, out of habit I glanced to the north, and to my surprise I could see movement in the sky, a faint dancing.

A lot of people don’t really know what they are looking for when it comes to spotting the Aurora. They expect it to look in real life like it does in all the photos, but in reality it often appears as a faint white-ish moving cloud-like object in the sky. A lot of nights, the aurora is just  thin band, low on the horizon, or sometimes an arc across the sky. It takes some practice to spot it. Now don’t get me wrong, there are some nights where it looks in real life exactly like it does in the photos. And last night was one of those nights.

As soon as I saw the movement, I pulled over and grabbed my camera and tripod (this is why I ALWAYS carry my camera gear) and started shooting.

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^This was one of my first shots I took last night. Whoa. I had never seen that much aurora, right overhead so early in the evening. As I stood there and kept shooting, the sky just kept getting better and better. It was a difficult choice to make, but I wanted to get to Barrier Lake and shoot there, but I didn’t know how long the show would last and it would take me 15 minutes to get to the lake. I decided that it was a risk I was willing to take, packed my gear and headed back up the highway.

The risk paid off and the aurora just kept getting better and better. I found myself sitting on the sandy beach at Barrier Lake, watching a sky full of purple and green dance over my head.

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I have never seen the aurora like I saw it last night. It was right over head, seeming to pulse with light particles at they raced and danced. Just when I thought it was quieting down, or was ending, it would pick right back up again. I was even lucky enough to photograph an elusive phoenix.

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You never remember the nights where you get lots of sleep. Nights like last night are the moments I live for. Such an incredible and humbling experience, a sign that this universe we call home is a marvelous, magical and beautiful thing.

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