Lee Sacrey Photography – Lee's Chatter

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Archive for the ‘Aurora’ Category

13 for 2013

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As 2013 comes to a close I went back and looked through all my images for the year, there weren’t as many as I thought but never the less, it was a great year of photography for me. I spent most of the year not worrying about posting or blogging but just focused more on things I wanted to see and do. I can honestly say I really enjoyed 2013. I decided I would pick 13 of my favourite images and do a post with those images. The images would need to span the entire year and they would need to show different subject matter not just landscapes (although most of them will be).  It was actually much easier then I expected it to be and in a few hours I was down to around 25 images or so. I continued to reduce the number down, 19, 17, 15 and finally the 13 images shown below. Remembering taking each image was as rewarding as seeing my final choices. Again it was a great year. Out of the thousands of images I had taken in 2013 here are the ones I decided I enjoyed most (in no particular order). I hope you enjoy them as well. Thanks for following along this past year and stay tuned for images from 2014. As always Happy Shooting.

Image 1 - December 28, 2013



Image 2 - December 28, 2013



Image 3 - December 28, 2013



Image 4 - December 28, 2013



Image 5 - December 28, 2013



Image 6 - December 13, 2013



Image 7 - December 28, 2013



Image 8 - December 28, 2013



Image 9 - December 28, 2013



Image 10 - December 28, 2013



Image 11 - December 28, 2013



Image 12 - December 28, 2013



Image 13 - December 28, 2013

What I saw in Ulukhaktok.

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I spent the better part of four days in Ulukhaktok, November 30 to December 3, 2013. The first thing I noticed on this trip was that the sun no longer came up. It appears that Ulukhaktok has some light, it looks like the half hour before the sun actually rises and only last for two and one half hours, which is great if you have nothing to de between 10:30am and around 2:00pm.  For me I would spend most of that time at the school. On my second night, while out for dinner, the topic of discussion turned to Aurora. I thought that due to its latitude Ulukhaktok didn’t have big Aurora shows like we get in Yellowknife and I was told that was correct. As we left our dinner host for the evening there was a hint of Aurora sitting lower in the sky and as we headed to the hotel the Aurora grew. I was overjoyed that there was Aurora in Ulukhaktok and I quickly grabbed my camera equipment and headed outside to capture a few images. It was fun shooting the northern lights in unfamiliar territory. I shot for a little while and decided to stop after the RCMP came and checked me out in case I was drinking, lol. I guess walking back and forth behind my tripod in the middle of the street looked odd to the local RCMP. We all had a good laugh, I took two more shots and then headed inside for the night. I don’t think this is my best Aurora work but, when will I ever get a chance to shoot Aurora in Ulukhaktok again. I did some shooting inside the school and even got to photograph the Elders teaching some youth traditional culture. One of the instructors gave me some sweet root to try. I was told it was called Eskimo gum.  It wasn’t chewy like gum and after chewing for ten minutes or so I would describe it like chewing a dirty stick, lol. Maybe that is why no one else tried it. There were no more shots taken outside until we were at the airport waiting for our flight home. I capture a few images while waiting for First Air to arrive. From there we were on the plane back to Kugluktuk and then back home. Another great week to be me. Here is some of what I saw during my four days. Enjoy, thanks for being here and as always Happy Shooting.


Image 1 - December 12, 2013



Image 2 - December 12, 2013



Image 3 - December 12, 2013



Image 4 - December 12, 2013



Image 5 - December 12, 2013

The Pee Kay Aurora!

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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.


Image 1 - October 28, 2013



Steve Schwarz hard at work!

Steve Schwarz hard at work!


Image 3 - October 28, 2013


Image 4 - October 28, 2013


Image 5 - October 28, 2013


Image 6 - October 28, 2013

Third time’s the charm.

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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.


Image 1 - October 14, 2013



Image 2 - October 14, 2013



Image 3 - October 14, 2013



Image 4 - October 14, 2013



Image 5 - October 14, 2013



Image 6 - October 14, 2013



Image 7 - October 14, 2013

Written by leesacrey

October 14, 2013 at 5:41 PM

The Aurora Takeover – Adam Hill

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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.

Adam Hill Image 1 - October 11, 2013

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. 

Adam Hill Image 2 - October 11, 2013

    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. 

Adam Hill Image 3 - October 11, 2013

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. 

Adam Hill Image 4 - October 11, 2013

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!


For anyone reading this and wanting to see more of Adam’s work click this link www.adamhillstudios.ca or go to https://www.facebook.com/adamhillstudios1

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.

The waiting is over!

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Yesterday I did a post about the Eagle that Steve Schwarz and I encountered on our overnight trip. A trip that was about getting some Aurora photos. Well this post is about some of the Aurora images  I created on that trip. Before I get into the images I will give everyone a little background on a couple of things. First is the idea of bringing the travel trailer to a remote place and staying in it to get some Aurora photos. That idea came about from a conversation that Steve and I had about three weeks ago. I ran into Steve downtown and we were talking about his previous trip to an island on Great Slave Lake. I said I really would like to go on his next trip and we than discussed maybe taking the camper out to use a home for some Aurora work. Steve than mentioned that he was asked by someone in tourism for some Aurora shots with an RV or camper in them. He thought it would be a good idea for us to try to get some of those. Unfortunately someone else was thinking the same thing, Dave Brosha posted an image from one of the parks with the Aurora over someones travel trailer. However, considering our island adventure was not going to happen and plan b was to go out with the trailer, we thought we would capture some images with the Aurora above our overnight home regardless of being first to do it or not. So, there is the first item that needed some background information, the second is about photographing the Aurora. Here in Yellowknife we are a little spoiled when it comes to being able to view mother nature’s lights and I certainly have taken my share of Aurora images in my time here in the north. With that said I will explain that I quite often don’t go out when the Aurora is on display. I am not one of those people who needs to be out for every light show. I actually have a better time with this subject when there are others out. I enjoy the company, I enjoy discussing what everyone is capturing and seeing other photographer’s images. For me to want to really get out and shoot the northern lights requires a little more than just the lights themselves. Capturing a great landscape with the Aurora would cause me to want to adventure out, reflections of the Aurora on the water is another, sometimes shooting in a new location may do it but, as for the lights themselves, well I am not always that excited to capture them. I could probably just sit and watch them more than trying to always capture an image. So there it is, I said it! Don’t great me wrong I love great images of the lights, just not the stuff that seems to be out there in quantity. My family can motivate me to go just by saying they would like to go with me. Being out under the lights with family is always great and the family time is never bad. This trip was to capture the Aurora in a new location, with a friend and some great conversation. As I said company is always a bonus. Steve, I am sure, took more Aurora images then I did, he found the better locations and was using multiple cameras to do his work. He probably even has some better images, either way I had a great night out and enjoyed my time with camera in hand. Maybe I will get Steve to write a guest blog post to show some of his Aurora work. For now here are some of my images from friday nights display, enjoy them and thanks for hanging out. Of course as I always say Happy Shooting.


Image 1 - September 15, 2013



Image 2 - September 15, 2013



Image 3 - September 15, 2013



Image 4 - September 15, 2013



Image 5 - September 15, 2013

Written by leesacrey

September 15, 2013 at 9:01 PM

My Aurora Season has begun!

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I love this time of year here in the north. Crisp cool air, not cold enough to keep us inside and not hot enough to keep us out of the baking sun, very few or no mosquitos and dark enough that the Northern Lights can shine bright above our heads. We have only been back from vacation for a week and Dale and I have been out watching the Aurora and capturing some images. On thursday Mother Nature blessed us with a great light show. Dale was on the back deck in our swing, she was watching the bright green lights above the house. I was inside getting my camera gear ready. Within a couple of minutes we were both outside away from the lights of the city being amazed by the night sky. It is interesting how after 23 years in Yellowknife we still are in awe of the Aurora. While out we stopped at Fiddler’s Lake and the Giant Mine Boat Launch. It was a great night and we seemed to burn through an hour or so in just minutes. I am sure this is just the beginning of our late night viewings. For now here are a few images from this weeks show. Enjoy, thanks for being here and as always Happy Shooting.


Image 1 - September 1, 2013



Image 2 - September 1, 2013



Image 3 - September 1, 2013

Aurora Storm April 13, 2013

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April 13, and 14, 2013 were really good days. Daryl Benson and John Marriott were in Yellowknife leading what I believe was the tenth Workshop I have organized. While in Yellowknife, John was watching the sky and any Aurora news in hopes of getting some Aurora images. On Saturday April 13, 2013 we discussed with the Workshop group that we would all go out and photograph the Northern Lights if they were out. We were sure they would be as all reports stated we would have a solar storm that would increase the Aurora’s intensity. We all met at around 10:00 pm and went out with cameras in hand. Some people decided to go to different locations to get more original shots and to be a little more free (traffic gets busy when the Northern Lights are out). I stayed with Daryl and John. We were out until around 2:00 am and got a few good images. Fun times were had by all. Here are the images I decided to keep. Enjoy, thanks for hanging around and as always Happy Shooting.


Image 1 - April 24, 2013



Image 2 - April 24, 2013







My work travel

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This is the time of year that my day job keeps me pretty busy. With tax season and government year-end my office is a little crazy. There is also quite a bit of travel required. Usually when I travel I take my camera gear and when I get time from work I try to capture some of the sights around me. Some of those sights I capture happen to be Mother Nature’s Aurora. I like having Aurora shots from different places in the NWT. Recently I have been to Lutsel K’e, Jean Marie River and I have traveled south to Grande Prairie and Edmonton. Here are some images from my recent trips. I hope you find them enjoyable. Thanks for checking in and as always Happy Shooting.


The winter shoreline in Lutsel K'e, NWT

The winter shoreline in Lutsel K’e, NWT


Jean Marie River Aurora # 1

Jean Marie River Aurora # 1


Jean Marie River Aurora # 2

Jean Marie River Aurora # 2


My good friend Trace always tells me that if I didn’t capture an image of something it didn’t exist or happen, on my way to Grande Prairie I spotted a Moose walking across a snow-covered field. Although, it isn’t the great Moose image ever, I can prove I saw it. Take that Trace, lol.


Alberta Moose

Alberta Moose



Prosperous Aurora.

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Last night as Dale and the girls went off to bed, I decided to go for a drive and shoot some Aurora. I headed out to Vee Lake as usual but, when I arrived I didn’t really have great feelings about the Aurora there. I left Vee Lake and headed out the Ingraham Trail unsure where I would stop. I got to the boat launch at Prosperous Lake and decided to have a look there. There was Aurora but, not as much as the past few nights. I decided to capture a few images, after all I had already spent the time to get here. I hung out for a while and watched the activity happening around me. There were several other photographers there and some traffic heading in both directions on the Ingraham Trail. Is was a nice peaceful night. Here are a few of the images from my drive, Thanks for hanging out and as always Happy Shooting.