Date: January 19th, 11:24pm.
Conditions: -30F & wind gusting to 40-50km. Bitterly cold. If you’ve read “To Build a Fire” by Jack London – that’s the kind of cold I’m talking about here.
Upon our arrival at the shore of the frozen Great Slave Lake, we scouted out a location that looked promising. It was hazy and there wasn’t much visible on the horizon. We decided to nap for about 45 minutes at a time and periodically wake up to scan the skies for any sign of the aurora.
At about 10pm, the skies had cleared and the aurora was shimmering across the sky in curtain-like webs of greenish-blue color. After packing a sled full of camera gear, we hiked about a mile out onto the frozen lake wearing nearly every piece of extreme cold weather gear we owned. Shortly before 11:30pm I captured the aurora image above before starting my time-lapse sequence. It was a special treat for me, as it was also my birthday.
Let me back up a minute to tell you how this all started.
In the fall of 2011, I decided that I needed to up the ante and make a major trip to a location that would allow for some adventure and great photography. I chose the Northwest Territories because it is sufficiently remote and contains the “adventure factor” that I was looking for.
Preparation for any trip is key, and I didn’t cut many corners when it came to gear and clothing for this one. Fortunately with great products from Pelican and Think Tank Photo, my protection and organization needs were well taken care of.
My friend Don fortunately was able to get the time off work to accompany me on the trip and graciously offered up the use of his Chevy Suburban as our vehicle. Before we left we made a few “modifications” that ended up making our lives much easier, which included removing both rows of seating and building a carpet-covered plywood platform to allow for a level sleeping/gear storage surface.
I also borrowed a ContourGPS camera, but it unfortunately did not come with a mount, so we “engineered” a temporary solution involving a lightstand, umbrella holder, and zip ties.
How cold was it near Yellowknife? Cold enough that temporary roads are made over the ice to reach remote parts of the country. One such road is the Dettah ice road, seen below, which actually has quite a bit of traffic on it during the daylight hours.
I also lucked out on a few wildlife photo opportunities as this gorgeous red fox happened across our path on the return trip which took us through the iconic Jasper National Park and Highway 93A, commonly referred to as the Icefields Parkway.
In short, I feel the trip was a real success and I’m left with some lasting memories and experiences that I can share with others.
Does reading this give you a sense of adventure? Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for my latest photographs, time-lapse video, and writing. I am nearly finished with my latest short HD time-lapse clip, I hope you’ll tune in!