Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Twenty years in the planning...

Aurora borealis - our first encounter above the frozen waters of the Yukon River in Dawson City. To the naked eye it looked like a white streak of cloud, but showed up with colours on a long exposure photo (around 25 seconds, hence the light bleed from the town's lights)

Ever since I first heard of the Northern Lights (probably as a kid watching the TV show Northern Exposure) I have wanted to see them. In January of the year 2000, a group of friends and I went to the Sydney Observatory for a night-time viewing to celebrate a friend's birthday. I mentioned to one of the astronomers that I wanted to see the aurora borealis, and he said that 2012 was going to be the year - that the activity goes in 12-year cycles, and that the next peak period was 2012.

Ever since then, I have had 'Northern Lights 2012' as a sort of mantra in my mind. When I ended up in Canada in 2011 for my cousin's wedding I thought it would be unlikely that I'd be able to make the trip again so soon. However, thanks to Air Canada providing me with no food on the London-Vancouver flight on that trip, my subsequent email of complaint, and their conciliatory offer of a 15% discount on any return fare, it was able to become a reality this (northern) spring, in time to catch the peak period of the cycle.

Our second encounter, outside Dawson City and away from the lights of town. A bit more colour visible to the naked eye, though still more impressive captured on a long exposure photograph (this one around 15 seconds)

I have just returned from 2 weeks in the Yukon, where I was able to see the northern lights on 3 occasions, the final one truly spectacular, and everything I could have dreamed of. It was freaking amazing!

I hardly know what to do with myself now that I have achieved this adult-lifelong goal!

The spectacular display we saw, this time outside of Whitehorse. The green was visible to the naked eye, and they rippled and danced in the most incredible way! Here I was shooting at around 5-8 second exposures.

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