The knock at the door and words “Northern Lights” seemed part of a dream, but slowly, too slowly, the shroud of deep slumber slipped away. As my catatonic state gradually lifted, I suddenly woke with a start, the full realisation of those two words finally sinking in. Jumping out of bed, hurriedly throwing on some warm clothes, I grabbed the camera and rushed outside in flip-flops.
A long, green, luminescent arc dominated the night sky, immediately taking my breath away, this dream was coming true. I’d spent most of my adult life chasing the Northern Lights around the world, Canada, Iceland, Norway, and even northern Scotland, but until this moment the search had been fruitless. Right here, right now on the first night in Manitoba, Canada my sky was finally alive with this mysterious phenomenon.
“inky blackness of the Arctic night”
I was initially speechless, until after a few moments the single word “amazing” escaped my lips. The green arc was already beginning to fade, so although the camera was already set-up on the tripod, with suitable settings for capturing the aurora dialed in the results were less than spectacular.
There wasn’t long to wait before another chance presented itself. Within moments a faint green glow, far to the east began to creep towards the lodge. Soon the sky filled with dancing lights, twinkling in the inky blackness of the Arctic night. Coating the surrounding buildings in a soft glow, and giving the night an eerie atmosphere.
Large clouds drifted slowly overhead, diffusing and reflecting the lights, providing different, but equally impressive skyscapes. As they cleared away some of the major star constellations were visible, the Big Dipper and Orion standing out against waves of green, washing up against the blackness of the night.
There were several more appearances in the next hour, each did not last long and capturing the scene required some quick work and experimentation. This was my first Northern Lights experience, so it was also my first attempt to photograph them. I needed to learn fast, and it was a steep learning curve, playing with the ISO, shutter speed and angles to capture a few pictures that would do them justice.
“”dancing lights of the Arctic”
After awhile the show abated and we all retired to our beds, which my cold flip-flop clad feet appreciated, even if the rest of me was slightly less enthusiastic.
There was a second knock later on and another chance to witness the dancing lights of the Arctic. This time I reacted more quickly and was outside snapping away within moments; though still in flip-flops.
The great thing about using longer exposures is that it also offers an opportunity to stand back and enjoy the show. This I gratefully did, standing in stunned silence, watching the light show of the gods for another thirty minutes.
There have probably been more spectacular displays of the Aurora Borealis, but it was still impressive, especially when the lights spread quickly across the sky. Seeing a far distant glow, rapidly sneak across the jet-black sky, lighting it up is impossible to forget.
I feel blessed to have finally seen the Northern Lights. It was the first night in Manitoba, and the show wasn’t really repeated, but I’m just grateful the gods finally shared their spectacular firework display.