The stars swirl in circles above the big sky country of the Canadian Prairies.
For these images I set the camera to take hundreds of images over the course of about 4 hours, then stacked about 100 frames for each of the composites. I stacked the images with the application StarStax.
The result shows the stars circling the North Celestial Pole and Polaris in the northern sky. The top image is from earlier in the night when the Moon was still up lighting the landscape.
The image above is from late in the night, after moonset, and with the glow of dawn beginning to brighten the northern sky. Some low noctilucent clouds are also appearing on the horizon.
This was a beautiful night at Reesor Ranch in Saskatchewan, on the edge of Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park, on the Alberta-Saskatchewan border. I’ve just wrapping up a week of shooting here with clear nights every night but two. The hard drives are full!
– Alan, July 11, 2014 / © 2014 Alan Dyer
The sky lights up pink to match the wild roses in Cypress Hills.
Last night the twilight sky over the Cypress Hills was simply stunning. The clouds contrasted with the blues and pinks of twilight. On the way out to an evening shoot I stopped to take this image of the darkening sky colours behind the blooming wild roses, the floral emblem of Alberta.
In this photograph I’m looking east, opposite the sunset. The dark blue on the horizon is the shadow of the Earth rising. Above the shadow is a fringe of pink, the Belt of Venus, from red sunlight still lighting the upper atmosphere in that direction. Its colour nicely matches the pink roses – Earth and sky in colour coordination.
This is a high dynamic range stack of 6 exposures, to capture the bright sky and darker foreground in one image, to render the scene as the eye saw it but the camera could not, at least not with a single exposure.
– Alan, July 8, 2014 / © 2014 Alan Dyer
The setting Sun provided a fine light show on the open range of the Canadian Prairies.
This was the scene Friday evening, July 4, as the Sun lit up the clouds in the big sky of the Historic Reesor Ranch.
I’m here for a week of intensive shooting and writing. On the first night the setting Sun put on a fine show, captured in still images, like the high dynamic range composite above, and in time-lapses captured with the motion control gear below.
When I took these shots I was likely right on the 105th meridian, the line of longitude that marks the boundary of Alberta and Saskatchewan. Either way, the land is expansive and stunning.
Just to the south the land rises to the Cypress Hills and the namesake provincial park where I’m spending most nights shooting stills and time-lapses. More to come this week I’m sure!
– Alan, July 7, 2014 / © 2014 Alan Dyer
The sky seems to swirl in a rainstorm of stars.
I’ve combined several exposures of the stars in the northern sky to create a “comet trail” effect, showing them turning about the celestial pole. The top photo looks northwest to the stars around the Big Dipper and picks up the purple light of a faint aurora.
For the photo below, taken on a different night, I used a fish-eye lens to capture the entire sky, but looking north. You can see how the sky turns counterclockwise about the Pole Star. The Milky Way also appears as a blurred band of light.
I shot these last week from the cabin at Reesor Ranch in Saskatchewan during a wonderful week of nightscape photography in the Cypress Hills.
To create these images I used the Advanced Stacking Actions from Star Circle Academy.
– Alan, July 25, 2013 / © 2013 Alan Dyer
The floral emblem of Alberta, the wild rose, appears in front of a twilit starry sky.
Last night was another good one on the Ranch! I had three cameras shooting from my log cabin front yard – I had no ambition to travel farther afield this night, after 6 nights in a row of shooting around the Cypress Hills. This is a scene from one of the time-lapses taken from “home,” of prairie flowers in front of a prairie sky.
I also took the opportunity to reshoot the popular “Milky Way over Log Cabin” scene, getting better results I think than the shot I posted from the first night I was here a week ago. This was with the specially-modified camera that picks up the red nebulosity in the Milky Way better. The colours are much nicer.
Finally, this is a 360° panorama of the scene from last night, taken before the Moon set but when it was behind the trees out of sight. Its light still illuminates the sky blue, yet the Milky Way still stands out. The red lights are from two other cameras shooting time-lapses. This is big sky country for sure!
It’s been a wonderful week of shooting on the century-old Reesor Ranch in the Cypress Hills. I highly recommend the location for anyone who wants an authentic western experience in a stunning setting. I’m sure I’ll be back.
– Alan, July 17, 2013 / © 2013 Alan Dyer
The Northern Lights sweep across the northern horizon in a classic arc of green and magenta curtains.
The aurora on the night of July 13/14 never got very bright but the sweep of the auroral oval still made for an interesting panoramic image.
I shot this at about 2 a.m. local time, from the high plains of southwest Saskatchewan, right on the Alberta-Saskatchewan border, on the rolling hills of the historic Reesor Ranch. The only man-made light visible is a glow on the horizon just left of the auroral arc, from the city of Medicine Hat, Alberta.
The panorama takes in about 180° of sky, framing the sweep of the auroral oval across the northern horizon from northeast to northwest. In fact, you can see the gravel road I was on at far left and far right. The main band of green from glowing oxygen is topped by curtains of magenta, from oxygen and nitrogen atoms.
If you could see this display from space you would see it as an oval of light across the top half of North America. From my perspective on Earth, I could see just a portion of the complete oval, as an arc across the northern sky.
To create this image I shot 6 segments at 30° spacings, each a 30-second exposure with a 24mm lens at f/2.8 on a Canon 5D MkII at ISO 1600. I used Photoshop to stitch the segments. It blended them seamlessly.
– Alan, July 14, 2013 / © 2013 Alan Dyer
A long exposure captures streaks from the turning stars and passing satellites.
This was a busy sky. The feature photo stacks a dozen images taken over 6 minutes.
During that time the northern stars around the Big Dipper turned about the celestial pole just off frame at upper right.
Meanwhile, two satellites passed through the field, both flaring in brightness briefly, tracing tapered streaks from left to right above the treetops. These may have been Iridium satellites, infamous for producing sunglint flares as they momentarily reflect the Sun from their mirror-like antenna panels.
A magenta aurora tints the northern sky as well.
This image is from the same sequence of 300 or so I took last night for a time-lapse movie, but this is a single 30-second exposure so the stars look more natural and pinpoint. Now you can make out the familiar pattern of the Big Dipper.
I shot several sequences last night, until the clouds rolled in and curtailed photography. However, skies are clearing again and the forecast is for several clear nights to come over the Cypress Hills. I’ve got a few locations picked out for time-lapse shooting if the skies cooperate.
– Alan, July 12, 2013 / © 2013 Alan Dyer