Auroral Arch

Auroral Arch, Prosperous Lake Territorial Park, Northwest Territories, Canada

Auroral Arch, Prosperous Lake Territorial Park, Northwest Territories, Canada

In September 2013, I flew to Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada, to fulfill a decade's old desire to photograph the aurora. It was the right time in the solar cycle, near solar maximum, which increases the chance of seeing the aurora; the right time of year, near the fall equinox; and the right place: 62 degrees north latitude, right in the auroral zone, the doughnut-shaped region centered on the north magnetic pole where auroras appear most often. The only hitch? Frequently overcast skies that I knew could persist for days on end. On the first night, dense clouds shut me down. On the second night, I got a few shots when the clouds parted briefly. On the third night, the clouds parted for a bit longer. And on the fourth night, conditions were perfect: completely clear and dead calm. Vivid auroras filled the sky. A full moon illuminated the landscape. I was shooting at Prosperous Lake Territorial Park, a few miles northeast of Yellowknife along the Ingraham Trail. As word of the fantastic display spread, tour buses and locals began pouring into the parking lot. Someone fired up a boom box and a party atmosphere took hold. As the display peaked, oohs and ahhs erupted from the crowd. The aurora shown in this image spans a 180-degree arc left to right and almost 90 degrees top to bottom. It was so wide I had to shoot multiple frames with my widest lens, a 16mm, rotating the camera on the tripod after each shot, then use specialized software to stitch all the frames together afterwards. I shot several such sequences, but this one, with the right limb of the auroral arch appearing to curl around the moon, is my favorite.