The Northern Lights over Whistler, British Columbia

Have you ever seen the wispy colours floating in the sky in photographs?

That is the Aurora Borealis, also known as The Northern Lights.


The Aurora is a natural phenomenon that occurs in the dark night sky. If you ever have the chance to experience a light show, I highly recommend it.

I follow, a website that gives you all the details you could possibly need about viewing the Aurora in your area. The most important thing to look for is the KP Index. If the KP number is high (6 + depending upon your location and the light pollution around you) then the chances of seeing the lights is possible. The Aurora can be very hard to see but a camera’s sensor can capture more than the naked eye, especially when set up correctly.

Whistler, British Columbia, is in a great location to occasionally see the lights. Often having a KP of 5 or above there is a possibility of colours in the sky. With the mountains and lakes offering amazing foregrounds and backgrounds, special images can be made.

February 7th 2014 was a special night. The KP Index was over 7 and so this found my friend Iain and myself wandering across a very frozen Alta Lake in search for the elusive Aurora Borealis.

Looking around for foregrounds and backgrounds, this first image uses a buoy, caught in the frozen lake for the foreground. We can see the greens and the purples of the Aurora starting to shine through. Having the buoy in the foreground gives the image more depth.

Aurora Buoy
The Aurora can be seen over the mountains. 15-second exposure | f2.8 | ISO 500.

While out on the ice, we heard a faint cracking under our feet, we decided to get back to shore. It was actually pretty scary. In hindsight, ice does crack all the time as it is constantly moving, but the dark sky and silence heightened our experience. Along the side of the lake is an elevated wooden walkway. The fence gives a leading line into the mountains and the aurora. The colours were not very vivid at this point. As it is a ‘storm’ the colours do come and go. I used my iPhone light to add a little highlight to the fence.

Fenced Off
Fenced Off | 20-second exposure | f3.5 | ISO 500

Iain and I continued our walk and made our way to the dock at Lakeside Park. Walking out to the end of the dock, we could get out onto the ice once again and not worry about it cracking  and us getting cold and wet while we made images. Iain went to the end of the dock, and I asked him to stay still while I made another long exposure shot.

Look around you
Look around you | 30-second exposure | f3.5 | ISO 800

Iain had his very high power head torch on and was flashing it around while he set up his own shot. I had an idea and asked Iain to point his beam of light towards the moon. I was fortunate that he had not had a lot of coffee and could stay still for 30 seconds while my shutter was open.

Lighting the moon
Lighting the moon | 30-second exposure | f3.5 | ISO 800

After an hour or so playing at the dock, I decided to head home, happy with the day. Typically, I decided to try one last location with the Aurora hovering above us, I was too excited to sleep. I relocated to Rainbow Park, on the other side of the lake, where I met up with my friend, David McColm. David is a night-time photography / time-lapse genius and it was fun to discuss and create more images.

Selfie | 15-second exposure | f2.8 | ISO 2000

I also created a short time-lapse video myself, learning from the best :

One last shot.

The Aurora was dying out, I was tired, cold and exhilarated at the evening I had just had. Good friends, great scenery and capturing the Aurora Borealis had proved to be a spectacular evening that I will not forget in a while. I said goodbye to David as he wandered off into the trees, and I crossed the train tracks to my car. “one last shot” said David and he was right. The train tracks drew us right into the heart of the Aurora. CLICK. the shutter closed, the screen flashed, this was the one last shot to top off an incredible evening.

Aurora Rail
Aurora Rail | 15-second exposure | f2.8 | ISO 2000

Would you like to improve your night-time photography techniques?

I wrote the following article and it was published by The Matador Network.


4 Comments Add yours

  1. How lucky you are to witness and {how talented} to capture the beauty that is Aurora Borealis! I’m definitely going to be reading that night photography article. Great work!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. paulkporter says:

      Thank you @goalfulchels. Let me know if you need any help 👍

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I definitely will! Thanks so much!


  2. Julie Cao says:

    Lighting the moon image is my favorite, it is as if that guy in the image is on another planet. I tried photograph Northern Lights in Alaska back in 2009 but it has been unsuccessful so I just watched it flutter in the sky for nearly 2 hours, but it still worth it! Thanks for the great photos, bring me back so many good memories of my Aurora winter trip.


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