The Northern Lights in Matlock, MB

I woke up Saturday morning to clouds and a lot of rain. The forecast for the evening looked more promising as they were stating that it was going to clear. I knew there was going to be some activity based on the email that I receive that alerts me to the potential of the northern lights. I also frequently check to see if the CME’s have arrived and if they had triggered a geomagnetic storm. That morning both CME’s had arrived and had little impact, so I wasn’t too hopeful but decided if it cleared that I would still go out. It’s a good thing that I did because there was a 3rd CME that arrive later in the day and strongly compressed earths magnetic field which meant that there was a good chance of seeing the northern lights.

Another photographer and I headed out to Matlock, MB. We thought that the pier would make a great foreground. I had also put an invite out to the other photographers from the Manitoba Foto Friends. While on our drive out there I got a text message from stating that KP index had reach 6 which meant a moderate storm was in progress and that the northern lights would be visible over head.  At this time the sky had started to clear nicely, and by the time we made it to Matlock (which was about 9pm) there were only a few clouds in the sky. All we had to do was wait for it to get dark out and hope that the northern lights would make an appearance.  A couple of other photographers decided to join us for the evening.

While we waited for it to get dark I decided to take a couple of shots of the pier. Since I have been going out to Matlock since I was little I have taken tons of shots of the pier from the beach but never from the water shooting towards the beach. I wasn’t sure how high the water was so I put on my rubber boots first and heading down the steps into the water and I only managed to get down two steps before I realized that the water would be too high if I went any further.  One of the photographers that I was with brought water shoes she let me borrow them and I made a 2nd attempt at going into the water. This time I got down to the last step but the water was already at my knees so I had to head back to the beach. I ended up getting the tripod and camera in the water in the position that I wanted without getting to wet! I converted the image to B & W which I think lets the detail of the pier stand out.

I was walking to the other side of the beach I went under the pier and the bark coming of the pier caught my eye and I just had to capture it! This shot was taken during the blue hour so that is why it looks so blue. I added a vintage film effect to the image to create an older looking image.

The sun sets around 930pm but it doesn’t get dark out till about 11p. The minute it got dark out we could see the auroras they were really faint at first but the camera picked them up!

The darker it got the more active the auroras got!

Then the auroras started to dance and I couldn’t believe the amount of purple in auroras! Normally they are usually green with hints of purples, pinks, and reds.

Since the pier in Matlock is a public pier and its closer to a parking lot you sometimes get headlights lighting up the pier. Which works out great for light painting the pier!

I decided to get a shot on higher ground of the pier and the photographers that were on the beach. This was the most green that we saw all night!

I decided to head out onto the pier to capture this shot. I wanted to try different exposure lengths for myself to see how they turned out. The one thing with doing a longer exposure when shooting the northern lights is that you start to get the start trails.

It seemed like the auroras were starting to subside and then I notice the spikes that were happening and manage to capture this shot.

We started to notice that the clouds were coming in so I manage to fire off a couple of more shots. I really like how this one turned out. The angle of the shot provides an interesting view of the auroras threw the pier.

The auroras were still visible threw the clouds. At this point we decided to pack up and head home plus it was already 2am and by the time I got home and got ready for bed it was already starting to get light out!

It’s always a blast to shot the auroras with a group of photographers. Sometimes you have to wait for auroras to make an appearance and when you have a group of like minded people to chat with while you wait it makes the time go by faster.


Adventures on the shores of Lake Winnipeg

On June 5th, 2012 Venus was crossing in front of the sun, to say this was a once in a lifetime event is an understatement. The next time that Venus will cross in front of the sun won’t be until 2117. There was also a good chance to see the auroras that night as well. So myself and a another photographer headed out to a place call Lakeshore Heights Beach (which is close Grand Marais Beach) to meet up with a couple of other photographers.

I borrowed a solar filter to attach to my lens in order to see and photograph the Transit of Venus. I only had a 70mm-200mm lens on me so I was zoomed in to 200mm on this shot plus I did some cropping on it as well. It’s amazing to see the scale of the Sun compare to Venus. Another thing that was neat is that we were able to see the sunspots on the sun which are responsible for releasing flares that cause the Auroras.


After we were done capturing some images of the Transit of Venus we decided to explore the beach and look for areas to shoot the sunset. It was a beautiful night in southern Manitoba and the sunset was gorgeous. Some cloud come in that were located above the horizon which added some nice color reflection, texture, and drama! While I was shooting the sunset I had my rubber boots on which I like to use in the spring time as the lake is quiet cool. I miss judged how high the water was (something that happens when your navigating in shin high water with a camera and a tripod!) and gave myself a booter. Boy that water was cold!

One of the photographers brought out this powder that colors the fire different colors. Manage to get this shot. Fire is always fun to shoot!

We waited until midnight to see if the Auroras would make an appearance but all I managed to capture was a faint green low on the horizon.

While I was checking to see if the auroras had made an appearance I managed to break my flip flops! Next time I am going to wear different sandles Smile .  We packed it up and headed home. Another great night with a great group of photographers.

Long Weekend in Matlock, MB – Sunrise, Star Trails, and More!

We headed out to the cottage for the long weekend. I had hoped to use the pier at Matlock Beach for a sunrise shoot and to try out star trails for the first time. To my surprise the pier at Matlock Beach wasn’t up yet but I knew there were a few others up it was just a matter of finding one that had a beach! So I headed to Whytewold and their pier was up, along with a tiny beach. This is the pier that I used for my sunrise shoot and star trails. I had brought my camera along with my neutral density filter to try out a couple of shots. I have a 10x neutral density filter, so it is quite dark. On a filter such as this, you will need to create your composition and focus before putting the filter on. I would also suggest turning auto focus off as auto focus has difficulty focusing in low light conditions.  It had just finished raining, so there wasn’t a lot of color it was mostly grey and gloomy so I decided to convert that image to B & W.

Sunrise was at 538a on Sunday Morning, so that meant getting up at 445a to watch the sunrise. It was a cool morning and there was some low level ground fog which is always a nice bonus! The sunrise was beautiful some clouds create a dramatic and colorful sunrise. When shooting the sunrise or sunset I like to do a lot of bracketing and HDR work. Taking multiple images and blending them together to create the best exposure possible. I also like to do some silhouette shoots, which means exposing for the colors in the sunrise as to not overexposure them but underexposing the foreground.

After the sunrise and on the way back to the cottage I notice how the lighting was hitting the grass and how beautiful the heavy dew was looking. So I figure this was good excuse to stop and try out a macro shot. Manage to get a great reflection of the grass in the dew.

That evening I wanted to head out to the beach and try my hand at startrails. Since this was my first time doing the start trail I ask the members of the Manitoba Foto Friends if they had any tips. I got a great response and got some useful tips. There are two different ways of doing star trail – the 1st is to do a long exposure this can lead to some long exposure noise in your image which isn’t something that you want. The 2nd way was to do multiple exposures using an intervometer or using the camera continuous shooting mode. Since I didn’t have intervometer I used the camera’s continuous shooting mode by locking the shutter button and just letting it go. The reason that you want to shoot on continuous is so that you don’t have any gaps in the star trails.  For this one you should also do a couple of test shoots to test out your exposure and composition. Then the images are stacked together using a specific program. A big thanks to Sheila for suggestion the following programs to use and best of all they are free! or StarStax. You always want to shoot at a wide open aperture and an ISO around 800. Since it was a new moon there wasn’t any moon light to light up the foreground so you had to do some light paint. I also had the added bonus of having cars drive by the pier to help light it up. I had wanted to try both ways to see what the difference in the results would be

The first shot was taking using the first method that I describe. The exposure was 16 minutes. ISO 800 and the aperture was f/3.5


The 2nd shot was taken back at the cottage as it was a pretty cool May night. So I set the camera up on the deck and try letting it take multiple images while I was inside the nice warm cottage. I used the fire to help light the tree for a bit until it burnt out and then I had to use a small LED flashlight to help light up the trees. I let the camera run for 30 minutes; I had just over 50 shots that uploaded into the starstax program. This is the image that I can up with.

All in all I prefer the composition in the first image but I like the way the star trails look in the 2nd image. So from now on I am going to be taking multiple shots and stacking the images together.

On the last day of being at the cottages we decided to take a walk down to a different pier. One that normally won’t go to but since the beach that we normally go to didn’t have the pier up we went to this on. I notice that the water was very low and that the rocks were showing. So I decided to come back with my tripod and neutral density filter so that I could use a slower shutter speed to show the movement of the water amongst the rocks. Since there was no beach I had to put my rubber boots and get a little wet. I set up the tripod in amongst the rocks. Since I wanted the greatest depth of field possible and to get a slower shutter speed I set the aperture to f/22. The bigger the aperture number the smaller the lens opening, the smaller the number the bigger the lens opening is.  Making the aperture smaller lets in less light.  I ran the image threw a bleach filter.

Had a great weekend and can’t wait to head back out there to try out more Star Trails!

The Northern Lights in Southern Manitoba

On Monday Night (April 23rd) a group of photographers headed out to Sandy Bay Beach to see if we could capture the Auroras. I have been trying to see and photograph the auroras for almost a year with no luck. A number of things have to happen before we could see then in Southern Manitoba. The 1st of which is that there needs to be a solar event (i.e. a solar flare and that solar flare have to be headed towards earth). The 2nd thing is there has to a good number of particles hitting earth magnetic field. The 3rd is the Interplanetary Magnetic Field, which is part of the Sun’s magnetic field that is carried into interplanetary space by the solar winds. When this is oriented southward it allows more solar winds and particles to enter earth magnetic field which creates beautiful auroras and allows them to be seen further south than normal. The 4th is the KP index (which is the measurement of disturbance in earth magnetic field) should be above 5 which means a geomagnetic storm is in progress.  We were lucky enough to have all these combine together on Monday. One thing that you need when photographing the auroras is patience. Sometimes the auroras last for hours, which was the case on Monday night. Other times they last only minutes.  So if you are heading out to see or photograph them be prepared to be out most of the night.

A couple of tips for photographing the auroras. This was my first time shooting them, if I haven’t shot something before I like to do a little research so that I shoot them correctly. Here are some tips based on that research, and my experience:

1. A fast lens is ideal, anything with a f2.5 aperture or lower is the best – my wide angle lens has an aperture of f3.5 so that is what I shot at. Makes sure to take your lens of off auto focus as auto focus has a hard time focusing in the dark. Focusing your lens to infinity will ensure clear and crisp images.

2. Always take your filter off your lens before shooting otherwise it will create concentric rings on the image.

3. Try to shoot at the lowest ISO possible – I was shooting at 800-1600 for most of the night as the auroras were bright at one point.

4. As far as shutter speeds go, different photographers have different opinions.  Some swear that a 30 sec to 60 sec shutter works best, while others like it at 10 sec to 30 sec. For me I shot at 15 sec most of the time. However the next time that I head I will be trying a variety of different shutter speeds to see what kind of images I can get.

5. You will also need to be shooting on a tripod because of the slow shutter speed. A cable release is also a must.

I am part of a photo group called the Manitoba Foto Friends and there is a group that frequently goes out to capture the auroras. I figured it was time for me to try my luck again as a previous excursion resulted in the clouds not clearing.

We headed out to Grand Marais first. We didn’t stay there long as we couldn’t find a way down to the beach as it was too steep and trying to carry camera gear down there won’t have been pretty. I manage to get off a couple of shots as the auroras were active.

After that we head to Sandy Bay Beach. By the time we got there it had clouded over so we waited. Photographing the auroras with a group of people is great; the time passes more quickly when you are waiting for the clouds to clear or for the auroras to appear. Plus we had a lot of laughs! We knew the auroras were active because we could see them through the clouds.

Eventually the clouds started to clear and you could start to see the spikes in the auroras over the lake.

Then the clouds clear completely and then they really started to dances! At one point the auroras were so active I didn’t know which direction to point my camera in. Which lead me to say that I need a 2nd camera to shot the auroras that were going on behind me.

All in all it was a very successful and memorable night filled with a lot of laughs and some great images!





Different Lens, Different Looks to Your Images

Spring time in Manitoba means that the Prairie Crocus is in full bloom. On the Easter long weekend I decided to head out to the Rosser Cemetery which is located close to Rosser, Manitoba about a 20 min drive from the North Perimeter. The cemetery has not been taken care of for a long time, so the charm of it is in the native Prairie grasses and other plants including the Crocus which have taken over the cemetery.

Before heading out I decided that I wanted to photograph the crocus with three different lenses. The three lens were my Macro 100mm f/2.8, 10mm-20mm lens f3.5, and a 70mm-200mm lens.

The first image was taken with the Marco 100mm lens – Aperture was 6.3 and Shutter Speed was – 1/160. The great thing about a macro lens is the amount of detail that it picks up in the images. It picked up the fuzzies that are a staple with the Crocus plus it also picked up the pollen that is in the center of the flower.  The image below has a shallower depth of field then most images because it is shot with a Macro lens.


The second image was taken with the 10mm-20mm lens @ 18mm – Aperture was 3.5 and Shutter Speed was – 1/640. This is one of my favorite images of the day. I wanted to incorporate the tombstones in a image with the Crocus and this is one of the reasons that I choose a wide angle lens. When using a wide angle lens on smaller subjects you will need to get in pretty close so that you don’t lose the subject. I like to use the wide angle lens to incorporate the environment that my subject is in.

The 3rd image was taken with the 70mm-200mm lens @ 100mm – Aperture – 6.3 Shutter Speed – 1/100. On thing that I like about the zoom lens is how nicely it blurs the background in the image. By focusing on just the flower of the plant and having the rest of the image out of focus makes the flowers standout more.


While a lens doesn’t make a image it helps to create the image along with composition, lighting, and camera settings. Think of the look that you want to create with your images and pick the lens that best suits your vision.



Tips for Photographing Landscapes

In landscape photography there are two times in the day that are the best times to head out and shoot. They are what photographers call the golden hours. The best time in the morning is to shot a half hour or hour before and after sunrise. In the afternoon it would be a half hour or hour before and after the sunset. The reason for that is because when the sun is lower on the horizon it creates shadows and different textures on the scenes that we are shooting. If you were to go out at noon when the sun is at its highest you won’t see a lot of shadows and the scene could be washed out meaning the colors are muted. One of my favorite times to shoot is called the “Blue Hour” which happens just before the sunrises or after the sun sets. It creates a beautiful blue hue to your images.

The images above are a great example of why shooting in the early morning hours when the sun is low in the horizon creates more visually interesting images. If the sun was higher in the sky you won’t have the beams of light coming threw the trees in both the images. The early morning ground fog also adds to the mood of the images.

Due to the time of day that you are shooting landscapes you will always need to have your camera on a tripod. Having your camera on a tripod will ensure that you don’t have blurry images, as most of the time you’ll have a slower shutter speed as the available light goes away. There are a couple of things that you need to do when having your camera on a tripod to make sure that it doesn’t produce blurry images. The first thing is if you have image stabilizing on your lens is to turn that off. The next thing is lock your mirrors. This will prevent the mirror from moving and therefore prevent any shaking which can cause blurry images. You should also have a cable release to trigger the shutter without you having to press the shutter button which can also cause blurry images.

Slow Shutters help to create motion in your photos. Taking a picture of moving water with cause a silky effect and taking one of the clouds will cause a softening effect. Both of these effects can be taking later in the day with a Neutral Density filter. It will darken your shot enough so that you can use a slower shutter.

You should rarely place the horizon line in the center of your image. Placing the horizon line in the upper or lower part of the photograph creates a strong composition and more vision interest in the image. If you look at all the top landscape photographers like Ansel Adams, most of their images have the horizon line in the upper or lower part of the image. Also look for a different perspective then everyone else, try and not shot at eye level. Getting lower down or higher up will great a different and unique perspective.

Being patient in landscape photography is a must. Waiting for the right lighting and weather conditions can make or break your image. If you shoot the shot in midday your image will look flat and washed out but if you wait till the golden hour you will have beautiful textures and shadows in your image which makes it more a three-dimensional image instead of two dimensional which is what the camera photographs in. While some of us may not like getting up before the sun rises, it is well worth it. There are many different elements that can be captured before and about an hour after the sun comes up. Fog, hoarfrost, glass like water(as there is usually no wind that early in the morning) are but a few. If you wait till the sun has been up for a while you’ll likely miss out on the fog and hoar frost because the sun will burn of the fog and the hoar frost will melt. While you won’t get the fog or hoar frost during the sunsets or twilight you will get glass like water and will be able to get some amazing reflections.

The shot above was taken on the 3rd day of hoar frost and fog that we had in Winnipeg. On both the 1st and 2nd day the frost and fog was gone by the time the sunset. As I wasn’t able to make it out in the morning to shot I was happy to see that late in the afternoon it was even foggier then before and the hoar frost was still there. The fog and the hoar frost add two unique elements to the shot which would have otherwise been just a shot of the train tracks.

In landscape photography it defiantly pays to get up early and stay up late!


How to Photograph Snow

Have you ever wonder why it is that when you take a picture of snow it turns grey and doesn’t appear white like you saw? It’s because of the way the light meter reads the scene. It reads everything in 18% grey. Why is that? The camera meter doesn’t see color it only reflects light off of grey shades. 18% grey is the middle.

How do we get the camera to see what our eyes see?

The best way that I have found to do this is to overexpose the image by +1-stop using the exposure compensation function. Now you many need to adjust how much you over expose your image, sometimes you may need to overexpose by +2 stops this will depend on the scene that you are measuring. You will have to take a couple of test shots to make sure that you have the correct exposure for the snow.

Above photo taken without exposure compensation – notice in the above picture how grey the snow looks.

Taken with exposure compensation +1. Curve levels, vibrance, and saturation adjust in Photoshop. Curve levels were adjusted to take out the overall yellow tone that was in the trees. Vibrance and saturation levels were adjusted to make the sky stand out more.

Is there anything else I can do?

One thing that is really helpful when photographing snow is to have your highlight warnings or “blinkes” on. This will allow you to see any areas that are overexposed and blown out, meaning no detail is in that specific area. Another must when photographing snow or any other photographs is to photograph in Camera Raw. This allows you to adjust a lot more of the image in post processing as there is more data contained in these images then in the JPEG images.