Today I finished my second day of a two-day workshop at Deninu School in Fort Resolution, NWT. The workshop was arranged between a Teacher, Alex, and Skills Canada NWT. There were five students attending the two days of classes, Tori and Tamara (two-thirds of the triplets, lol), Braiden, Isaac and Sam (Sam is thinking I saved the best for last again, I can hear her, lol). Alex was also sitting in and she will be leading the photography charge from here. The workshop itself was pretty informal, getting in the ideas and some of the technical things but letting Alex and her class determine the direction we went and when classroom stuff would stop and actual shooting would start. I decided to not be involved in the shooting. I had a couple of reasons, one was that I wasn’t really prepared for the temperature (for an hour in near -20) and the second was I wanted to see if any of the classroom discussion was actually being learned (without me giving direction again). Did anyone pay attention? Well I guess you can check below to see what these five young people did. I also learned a few things. First, Alex is really dedicated to her students and is going above and beyond to make sure they get everything they can from their education. Second is the fact that these young people are great. They came to a workshop at school for two of the three days of a long weekend and they asked several times to stay later and continue with workshop stuff. All six (Alex and the Students) made me feel very welcome and glad I decided to come to Fort Resolution to do this event. I even got a photo thank you, Isaac decided to write “Thank you Lee” is the fresh snow and photograph it for a little slide show today. Thank you Isaac, I appreciated that. Thanks to Alex and the rest of the gang as well, you guys are great. Did I say “I love the work I do for Skills” lately? If not I am now. Tomorrow is a free day for me to travel to Fort Smith so I can do this all over again. Oh and before I go, thanks Jan and the Skills team for giving me this opportunity again. Last night I looked through all the images taken and picked seven from each student. I than edited each one and did a slide show for the class. I am posting only one image from each student today, leaving the others for a possible future follow-up blog post. Here is what the future of photography in Fort Resolution saw this weekend. Enjoy, thanks for following along and as always Happy Shooting.
The night before I headed to Paulatuk, there was a small Aurora show here in Yellowknife. The amazing Pat Kane asked a few days before that if anyone was going to shoot Aurora to let him know. Pat wanted to go out and shoot people shooting the Aurora. I sent Pat a message and did the same to Steve Schwarz. We were off to capture the Northern Lights. We weren’t out long and the light show wasn’t the greatest but, we captured them anyway. More importantly I was out shooting the Aurora and Pat Kane was out shooting as well. I am blessed!! Oh, it was great that Steve Schwarz was there as well. Here is a little of what I captured that night. Enjoy the images, thanks for hangin’ and as always Happy Shooting.
This morning, a few of us Photographers from here in Yellowknife, met at Tim Horton’s for coffee and then went out for a photo shoot. Only three of us actually got up before sunrise and made it out for coffee. From Tim’s we headed out to the cliffs near the Dettah Road to create some images. The position of the rising sun was different from where I expected at that location but, that was fine, I would shoot anyway. Including coffee time I was out for about three hours. It was a fun, short shoot. Funny, I actually felt a little chilly and it was only minus eleven degrees. Wait until the minus forty weather arrives. It is always nice to have some company when shooting. I kept a few images from this morning and below are four samples of what we saw. Look for Trudy and Sherry in the last image, they really add some scale to the photo. So here are the images, enjoy, thanks for stopping by and as always Happy Shooting.
From October 16 to the 22nd I was visiting the Hamlet of Paulatuk. My day job on occasion allows me to travel to interesting places throughout the NWT. I was in Paulatuk to assist with some accounting/finance work and although I did bring my camera gear, I wasn’t sure I would get much time to photograph. Being that far north the sun isn’t in the sky as long as it is even in Yellowknife so daylight would be limited. I was also expecting snow and ice to be all around the area by this time of year. Flying in from Inuvik on a Beechcraft King Air, I was surprised that there wasn’t much snow and Darnley Bay was not frozen, there weren’t even any signs of ice starting to form. After landing I got settled into my residence for the week and began to plan for a week of work. Throughout the week Paulatuk experienced all types of weather, sunny skies one day, raining the next and snowing the next. For most of the week it was wet and overcast. Even in those conditions Paulatuk is one of my favourite places to visit. Two of the evenings I was there I got out for around an hour to create some images and on my final full day I took some time to go out and see the amazing landscapes around the area. I had use of a truck and drove around for about one and one half hours. Last time I was in Paulatuk, I saw five Grizzly Bears in six days. This time I didn’t see any but, there were three around the Hamlet during my trip. I captured only the landscape this time. Next time I go to Paulatuk it will be winter and I bet January is a cold month there, I guess I will find out. For now I can only show you how the area looked in mid October. Here is a sample of what I saw, enjoy. Thanks for viewing and as always Happy Shooting.
Last night at around 10:15 pm I looked outside to see the Aurora in the night sky. Considering that Steve Schwarz and I have struck out on our last two Aurora photography outings I thought he needed a call. Within thirty minutes I was picking Steve up and we were off to capture the Northern Lights. Once out the lights didn’t look as spectacular as we had hoped but, there was no turning back, we would capture something. We went to a location where neither of us had ever been for an Aurora shoot and scouted it out in the dark. We took a few photos from several different areas and seemed to be enjoying our time out under the stars. After a while Steve had an idea, he thought it might be cool, to wear his headlamp and run up and down a hill (we were standing at the bottom) while I tried to capture an image. We did it a few times each with Steve running and me photographing. Soon we were heading home for the night, it was another fun photo shoot. Here are some of the images I created, including one of Steve’s headlamp. Enjoy, thanks for being around and as always Happy Shooting.
Last Night, I decided that if any one of my Yellowknife Photography friends wanted to head out to find Aurora I would go, I just needed there to be some interest. Interest in doing an Aurora shoot is always high here in YK but, last night it was cloudy. I was checking the sky from my back deck and not once did I even see any stars. I got a message from Steve Schwarz (if you read my blog regularly you might remember Steve from our overnight Aurora shoots with the 30 ft travel trailer) asking if I was thinking of heading out. We debated about going and finally decided we would. For me it was a choice between sitting on the couch on the computer or heading outside to find Aurora. The least that would happen if I decided to go would be a few hours of conversation with a friend. I was getting ready to go within a couple of minutes. I picked up Steve and then picked up Tim Horton’s and we were off. We headed out the Ingraham Trail to see if we could find some clear skies with bands of colour. We continued to drive and drive farther from the city with no change in the weather. On our way north we passed a road construction area where someone was actually work, it was around midnight. We mentioned how we both liked the scene and how it might be a cool photo-op but, we continued north. After a few more minutes we decided it was time to turn back, we were giving up on finding any Aurora. Heading back towards the city we reached the construction zone. We stopped and looked around and decided to capture some images. My camera has a handheld twilight mode which I decided to try rather than get set up on my tripod. What I believe happens when shooting with this feature is like shooting HDR. The camera captures several images and blends them to produce one final image. It does this in camera so I don’t have any blending to do in post-production. The one issue I have with this feature is it only works with jpeg files and not with RAW files. I captured what I wanted and Steve and I continued home. We were out for about two and a half hours. Poor Steve had to listen to my chatter for that whole time, I think I took a couple breaks from my talking to allow Steve three or four words. I hope I was at least entertaining, lol. Back home at around 2:00 am, I quickly checked the images I made before heading to bed. It was a great night, Steve thanks for the company. Here are the lights I captured in the north. Enjoy, thanks for viewing and as always Happy Shooting.
Being here in the north has some nice advantages. I have written here before about the abundance of Aurora we see but, there is another advantage which is Aurora related. That advantage is that for those who live and photograph here, we get to meet and mingle with other Aurora Photographers. I am lucky to know several of them. One Photographer that I really enjoy shooting with and seeing what he can create is Adam Hill. Adam resides in Hay River, NWT and he is doing some amazing things with his camera and the Northern Lights. I asked Adam to do a post here on my Blog. Adam agreed to share what he does with some insight into how he does it, enjoy. Here it is, take it away, Adam!
The Northern Lights should be considered as one of the great natural wonders of the world. Imagine laying down on a cool fall evening or standing on a frozen lake dressed in your warmest winter clothes while the sky lights up with bands, waves and ribbons of colour. It’s a breathtaking experience. Ah, the aurora. I never get tired of seeing these light up the sky. I usually get tired from doing it though. Throughout the aurora ‘season’ I’m constantly checking the weather and aurora forecasts. These forecasts will help you get ready for nights of heightened activity but the best way to help your chances of viewing them is as simple as checking out your window or going out into your yard. When you see them, grab your photo gear and head out somewhere dark!
First we should talk about photo gear and what you need and what you don’t. When I photograph the aurora I only bring what I’ll need to use that night: one camera body, usually one lens (a good, large aperture wide-angle), a headlamp, warm clothes (even in the fall and especially in the winter), an extra battery, a cable release and of course, your tripod. Leave all your other gear at home. Become a minimalist when you photograph the aurora and get in the habit of packing your gear in the same place every time, it will help you when you’re searching your camera bag for your stuff. I usually leave the big back packs at home and pack a simple shoulder bag.
When I head out I have a location in mind where I want to photograph. If it’s the fall aurora, I want somewhere with water, still or running. The water can reflect the aurora and this will help build the foreground of your photo while your aurora is in the background, making it a much stronger photograph.
If it’s the winter I like somewhere dark, with snow laden trees or some other element to use in my foreground. The light from the aurora will illuminate the snow in your foreground to make it useful.
So now I’m out, and I’m patiently waiting and finally the aurora are beginning to swirl and twirl above me. Here comes the tricky part: anticipating what to do with the aurora. There is no easy formula as some may say. The aurora can happen fast and they’re impossible to predict. Have your camera set on your sturdiest tripod. Your camera’s ISO set to a higher setting, I prefer around 800-1200 sometimes I’ll push it to 2000 if I need to. Newer camera models can go upwards of 3200 without real noise distortion. If your camera has any noise cancellations features, use them. Auto focus won’t work in darkness, so turn your camera to manual focus and if you use a professional grade lens turn your focus just a little left of the ‘L’ marked near infinity. The best method to find your ‘sweet spot’ is to find your infinity focus in the day time when you can accurately check your focus. Use a small sharpie or piece of tape to mark off where your focus dial should be. To increase your sharpness you should also use your mirror lock and use your cable release to minimize and handling of your camera. If you don’t have a cable release use your camera’s timer setting at 2 seconds so you don’t have your hands on the camera when it begins to expose.
Turn off your automatic settings and go into Manual mode. This will allow you to control your aperture and shutter. I generally leave my aperture as wide as possible. If the aurora are moving fast and bright try to set your shutter speed to 5 seconds to 10 seconds. If you use longer shutter times you can easily over expose the aurora and turn them into a messy blur. If the aurora are slow and dim you can use this to your advantage by having to expose longer. I find these aurorae to be easier to work with, you won’t get the crisp movements with brighter aurora but you can use the longer exposure time to help expose your foregrounds. Set your aperture to it’s lowest number (usually F/2.8 or F/3.5 for most common lenses). This setting will allow the most of light to come into your camera’s sensor, allowing you to use a faster shutter speed.
Trying to balance the highlights from the aurora and the shadows of the foregrounds is one of the great challenges. One tip I find very useful is dim your LCD screen. Do not trust your LCD when you’re photographing at night. The LCD will make your image appear brighter than it is. Always check your histogram and make sure your highlights aren’t blown out and your shadows are exposed.
When your composing your photo try to set up before the aurora are swirling above you. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment and get ‘beauty blinded’ by the moment. Make sure to move around, take a great photograph in each location then move to a new vantage for your next photograph. Don’t stay in the same place with the same view all night long. You won’t enjoy coming back in after a long night of photographing with only one view of a landscape. Try and use the landscape around to help you frame your photographs. Incorporate landscape features to help build a strong landscape instead of just photographing the sky. You’ll thank yourself later.
Editing your photographs is another story and you need to be able to properly edit your photos properly to make them look right. The aurora are surprisingly bright in comparison to the rest of the photograph. If you’re in the Hay River area and are interested in learning more about the aurora and how to photograph/edit them check at the Hay River library, you may find a free Aurora Workshop from yours truly!
Thanks Adam for doing this guest post, it is a great piece, thanks to everyone for checking in to the blog, enjoy and as always Happy Shooting.