So often when there’s a lot of hype about a solar storm it doesn’t come to fruition—understandably when there are so many variables—but that wasn’t the case on March 23rd!
Our evening began with a gorgeous sunset and to the west, a sliver of the moon and Venus. Even before darkness had fallen you could tell the night was going to be magical, but once it had, the sky exploded with northern lights covering the sky in every direction.
I’ve never photographed the rarer form, corona, before and if you were away from city lights and had allowed your eyes to adjust to the darkness, the show was stunning.
My eyes could see greens, reds, and pinks as well as patches of white racing through the overhead coronas.
At it’s peak, the coyotes and a nearby Great Horned Owl joined in with a vocal serenade. Magical. Simply magical.
I’ve been really lucky—or maybe really well prepared. I’ve photographed things that people only dream of seeing. I’ve shot rare cloud formations, the Northern Lights, and sub-auroral arcs called STEVE. Elephants and pangolin in the wilds of South Africa (thank you Jenny), grizzly and black bears in the Rocky Mountains (thank you Sonny), and a tornado in Alberta I was so close to that the shot didn’t require the full length of my zoom lens. But one of my favorite things to shoot is atmospheric optics and light. I’ve got Les Cowley to thank for that!
The light pillars in the photograph above have been on my bucket list for ages. Conditions have to come together exactly right before they’ll appear, and their appearance can be fleeting. You need finger-numbing, battery-draining temperatures, plate crystals in the atmosphere, and light pollution—that bane of a night photographer’s existence. Light pollution disrupts the natural patterns of wildlife and in the U.S. and Europe, 99% of people can’t experience a true dark sky. But when the lights combine with ice crystals floating gently in the sky, I can’t resist trying to capture them. There’s a season for sighting these pillars and where I live, we’re at the very end of it.
On this night, at 2:30 in the morning, I pulled on my husband’s very warm down-filled jacket and stumbled outside with my senior dog who’d woken me up for a potty break. Shooting upwards into the sky around me were the pillars I’d resigned myself to never seeing. They don’t shoot directly up from the light sources. The delicate crystal plates drift down and reflect the light back toward the viewer from a more midway point.
We were in the car in about five minutes and off on another optic adventure. One I won’t soon forget. The frozen fingers were worth it, and I was so happy to share the magical night with my husband.
Note: A shout out to Deborah Byrd of https://earthsky.org/ too for publishing so many of my images. It’s always an honor. And if you’d like to learn more about optics, visit Les Cowley’s incredible site https://atoptics.co.uk/
We love to travel around sunset or sunrise, and moonrise or moonset. The chance for optics, many which are fleeting, seem greater. Although the sun had risen a couple of hours earlier, it hadn’t yet cleared the Rocky Mountains of this image and particles in the air were sufficient enough to scatter sunlight, creating this wide crepuscular ray. It was a gorgeous day in the Rockies. The windswept snow sparkled with crystals. Wonderful things happen in March—spring battles winter and one day can bring snow, rain, graupel, and sunshine. I have a feeling this month will be extra special and I’m going to enjoy every day of it. Optics…they make every day better!
Alberta, Canada, has become a popular place for filming. You might recognize some of the following movie titles—Unforgiven, The Revenant, Brokeback Mountain, and Legends of the Fall—a handful that have been shot here.
This image was not a film set from the post-apocalyptic HBO series The Last of Us, recently filmed in parts of Alberta. This fire began in the early morning hours when the temperature outside was about -16 degrees F and it’s currently under investigation. As fire crews battled the blaze, the water began freezing and for perspective, one gallon of frozen water weighs just over eight pounds.
Built in the early nineteen hundreds, this historic hotel did not survive the lethal combination of fire and the crushing weight of the ice.
I remember this hotel from when I was in my twenties. The bar was a little on the rough side but stuff like that doesn’t matter as much when you’re young and invincible.
It was impossible to get close, so I shot these using my telephoto lens. While doing so I discovered that if positioned myself just right, I could capture a rainbow. Which I did right before my bare fingers turned numb from the cold.
What I love about my life is the passion my husband and I share for nature, and we make sure to take time to appreciate whatever that brings. Sometimes it’s beautiful but other times it’s incredibly destructive.
This fire did not take any lives, but a piece of history has been lost. The building was demolished a couple of hours after these photos were taken.
Take time to appreciate the places and people that surround you—you never know when they’ll be gone forever.
This morning I was so pleased to see that one of my images was included in EarthSky’s Top Images of 2022. Science-based photography is one of my favorites and when I can capture an optic in a landscape that adds to the overall image, I’m a pretty happy girl.
I learned about this effect from the amazing physicist, Les Cowley, of atmospheric optics and it’s a favorite of mine to spot. In the image above the stalks act as columns and at the antisolar point, the shadows are hidden, creating that bright streak above the vehicle.
In December, I start thinking about my favorite images of the year and this one will be included in my selection for 2022.
I wasn’t the only one enjoying the fall colors! This is bear #10 for the season. As always, shot with a telephoto from the safety of the vehicle then cropped. This guy was stuffing himself with snowberries and though he was well aware of our presence, he seemed satisfied that we meant him no harm. I feel privileged every time I get to see one of these in the wild.
I’m not a big fan of Hallmark holidays. Some are easier to ignore than others, but not this one. This one is a blatant reminder of what I no longer have, and I know I’m not alone with these feelings.
That’s the thing about life—you aren’t guaranteed more of anything. Not time, not love, not even relationships. One day you can wake up and words left unsaid, or spoken in anger, are what remain. Echoing through an eternity of what might have been. My father’s been gone for decades now but I know that he knew how much he was loved. I’m happy I told him that. And I was never more sure of his love than in those times when I wasn’t the best daughter.
Father’s Day is joyful for some and painful for others. I think about the men in my life and am so proud of them. Amongst them are great fathers, new fathers, sons taking care of fathers. Some have lost fathers, some have lost children, some have lost dogs—you know I can’t forget the dog dads!
It takes a special person to be a father and maturity on the part of the child to understand the complexity of the relationship.
My father painted landscapes and the ones that I own are amongst my most prized possessions. And every time the shutter clicks on a landscape like the one above, I think of him.
I’m glad I didn’t only celebrate my dad on the third Sunday in June. I may not have known it in the moment but he gave my life a richness that I’m forever grateful for.
Relationships can be as transient as alpenglow in the mountains—treasure the good ones. If there isn’t balance in the relationship, if it’s predicated on you doing all the work, consider walking away. Life’s too short, spend it with the people you love. The ones whose love you never question.
Today marks World Environment Day and I can’t agree more with this year’s slogan Only One Earth.
This past year I studied and photographed milkweed through each season, then planted some in my garden—for when monarchs are caterpillars, it’s their main food source. And like bees, monarchs are important pollinators.
My garden is filled with bee and butterfly-friendly plants as well as assorted shallow water sources for the honeybees to rehydrate from and gather water to haul back to the hive.
This year we participated in No Mow May. We let the dandelions run amok and didn’t cut the lawn until June—dandelions provide critical early season nutrients for the pollinators.
We play chess at a tiny table in the center of the garden surrounded by a variety of bees and butterflies, hard at work.
There is only one earth and I’ll continue to capture it frame by frame until it’s gone.
In our travels yesterday we passed a man toting a camera and lens longer in length than my arm. When my husband asked me if I’d like a lens of that size I could truthfully answer no.
While I do love macro photography and images that could be described as intimate landscapes—tiny sections of a larger scene—I’m more passionate about the story. I’m just as excited about seeing signs that an animal has passed as I am seeing the animal itself.
The light covering of snow softened the harsh landscape winter left behind and as we got out of my Jeep, the rattling bugle-like call of a Sandhill Crane echoed through the mountains.
A hike towards the marshland uncovered fox tracks, wolf tracks, and winged impressions left behind by perhaps a large hawk. Striding along the snowy landscape was the source of those melodic calls.
Nature is all around us. It lives in transient moments not always captured by a camera.
I’m one week into National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and, so far, am on track to hit the required 50,000 word count by November 3oth.
With that in mind, I chose an image today that didn’t need a lot of words. Thursday brought an incredible display of Aurora Borealis—amazing colors so intense that they were visible to the naked eye. I was so grateful that we were able to catch it in such a gorgeous setting.
These are the moments! Take time to get outside and look up.