Big Dipper Over the Badlands


The Big Dipper swings low over the Badlands of Dinosaur Provincial Park, with an aurora added for good measure.

This another shot from my very productive night last Sunday out at Dinosaur Park, 100 km east of me. Here the curtains of aurora that made the news that evening shimmer below the iconic seven stars of the Big Dipper, now low in the northern sky on autumn evenings.

Light from the Full Moon provides the illumination. People wonder how we astrophotographers can take pictures of the stars in the daytime. We don’t. We take them at night, letting the Moon light the scene. Its light is just reflected sunlight, so a long enough exposure (and in this case it was only 8 seconds) records the landscape looking as if it were daytime, complete with blue sky, but with stars – and this night an aurora – in the sky.

– Alan, October 2, 2012 / © 2012 Alan Dyer

 

Northern Lights Dancing Over the Badlands


It was a marvellous night – a triple act: with a fabulous sunset, a beautiful moonrise, then as the sky got dark the aurora came out and danced.

Sunday night I headed out to Dinosaur Provincial Park near Brooks, Alberta, site of the world’s best late-Cretaceous fossil finds, and a striking landscape of eroded badlands. I was just finishing taking frames for a sunset-to-twilight time-lapse movie when the aurora kicked up in activity, quite bright at first, despite the light from the nearly Full Moon, which is illuminating the landscape. I swung the camera around, loaded in a new memory card and begun shooting another time-lapse sequence of the dancing northern lights in the moonlight.

While the display faded to the eye over the next hour, the camera still nicely picked up the subtle colours, like the magenta hues. I shot 330 frames, each 8 seconds long at ISO 800 and f/2.8 with a 16-35mm lens and Canon 5D MkII camera.They’ll make a great movie sequence.

It was a 40-gigabyte night, as the second camera was shooting the moonrise over the badlands. But then I pressed it into service as well shooting the aurora. It was a great night to be at a location as wonderful as Dinosaur Park.

– Alan, September 30, 2012 / © 2012 Alan Dyer

 

Pioneer Harvest Moon


The annual Harvest Moon shines over a scene from pioneering farm days.

One of the last remaining wood grain elevators still stands as a historic roadside attraction near the little hamlet of Dorothy, Alberta. It’s seen better days.

But in its time it took part in many a harvest in the Red Deer River valley. There were once no less three grain elevators here and railway tracks to take away the bountiful harvest. That was back in the 1910s and 1920s when Dorothy was a little boom town. But the prosperity waned in the Depression Years, and never returned. In the 1960s, the railway tracks were pulled up, and two of the elevators torn down.

Now, Dorothy is one of the ghost towns amid the badlands of the Red Deer River valley.

I shot this Saturday night, as the Full “Harvest” Moon rose over the hills, shining in the blue shadow of the Earth. This is one frame of 450 in a time-lapse sequence.

– Alan, September 30, 2012 / © 2012 Alan Dyer

 

Little Church on the Prairie


In honour of Canadian Thanksgiving, here’s a shot from last night of a classic little church on the Canadian Prairie.

This is the long abandoned Catholic church at the hamlet of Dorothy, Alberta. The church was built in 1944, but as the coal mines in the Drumheller valley shut down (blame the invention of Diesel trains and the discovery of natural gas in Alberta) the once bustling town of Dorothy decayed into a ghost town. A few people still live there, but its main attractions are its relics of the pioneer age — this church, and the United church next to it (behind the camera), a picturesque grain elevator, and an old store. The companion United church has been restored, but this little church on the prairie, abandoned since 1967, awaits restoration.

The scene is lit by the gibbous Moon, and by a couple of sodium vapour streetlights, ubiquitous even in a ghost town.

In the sky are the stars of the Big Dipper and Polaris above the church.

This is one frame of 300 I shot over three hours as part of a motion-controlled time-lapse movie.

Happy Thanksgiving!

— Alan, October 10, 2011 / Image © 2011 Alan Dyer