COME ON IN
to where it all begins
"Suddenly, the whole sky just exploded! And for us, you know,
you get goosebumps -
every single time - it's different."
- Dr. Pål Brekke
CREATURE COMFORTS / ROADTRIP HYGGE
Once I've collected all seven of you (my maximum on tour, with no minimum) from your accommodation in town, we'll leave Yellowknife in my beloved Ford Transit which will be our home for the night, because this is a chase, and there's no cabin or tent we're heading out to. But I promise we're all going to have plenty of room to cosy into and stretch out over for those longer drives, or extended moments of needing to warm back up and thaw out your toes.
Speaking of those colder nights and extended periods of warming up, every night, I'll make sure we're well supplied with warm drinks and sweets for our hours driving through, photographing and enjoying, the most beautiful parts of nature outside of town.
As we begin getting into the countryside surrounding Yellowknife, we'll watch out the windows and (potential) moonroof as the stars become brighter maybe getting our first glimpse of the aurora overhead. Sipping coffee, tea, hot chocolate, warm apple cider - whichever you'd like, we'll talk as lightly or in-depth about the science behind the aurora as you wish, and of course touch on some of the beautiful tales and legends that follow her as well. But just don't wave at her, because she may come down and take you away from the earth...
LOVE FOR THE PROCESS
Arriving at the edge of a lake, or more likely on one in the middle of winter, the best game of hide and seek begins. We'll huddle around the car, or venture off a little, and watch for the aurora while we enjoy the quiet of the nature we're immersed in. If you've got a camera, this is usually the perfect opportunity to help get you set up on your tripod, and go through your settings to help you choose what's going to work best while the aurora gently builds. Before the northern lights become too much of a source of light pollution (there's a statement only someone living directly underneath the auroral oval could make), I'd also love to do a little stargazing where there's always a few stories to be told - one of which is the hope that tonight is the night the star Betelgeuse finally explodes. But if not tonight, then tomorrow night, or the night after that - any day now actually, which in astronomy terminology, is anytime within about the next 100,000 years. Cross your fingers.
CLOUDY NIGHTS, LONG DRIVES, AND LOCATION DETAILS
When on the nights the weather requires us to, we will drive hundreds of kilometres. If it's cloudy in and around Yellowknife, I'm not going to sit us out at a lake 20 kilometres outside of town and call it a night if there are clear skies or clear patches within a few hundred kilometres. As long as we can get there and back with a couple drops of petrol left in the tank, that's what we'll be doing.
To contrast, on clear nights, we won't be shuffling around to three or four locations through the night. I'm not interested in potentially getting caught on the highway with nowhere to pullover when out of nowhere, a beautiful burst of aurora fills the sky. We may move a little bit over different parts of a lake to change scenery for photography on occasion, but you aren't usually going to end up going to four different lakes in one night with me. I prefer to settle into one beautiful location and enjoy our night there.
Multiple nights of aurora chasing with me will give you multiple locations, weather permitting.
LET'S TALK COLOUR
What you can expect to see, to enjoy, and how it compares to the photographs that flood the internet.
A BREATHTAKING EXPERIENCE
You're on the verge of booking your flight up into one of the most beautiful parts of Canada, you know you want to get into the countryside in a cosy environment (...no bias here), and you've wanted to see the northern lights for as long as you can remember, or for as long as '#wanderlustwednesday' has been a thing on Instagram, but what can you really expect? Is it as breathtaking in person as it looks in all the photos you've seen?
IT'S A TRICKY THING TO EXPLAIN, SO YES AND NO, AND HERE'S WHY
Many of the great cameras today, partly because of the longer exposures required to photograph a night sky, are more sensitive to colour in dark environments than our eyes are. A faint-to-the-eye aurora can be quickly translated into more intense colours than we're able to perceive them as. This is of course true of the northern lights, and all night scenes, because of the way our eyes work with cones and rods. The cones are responsible for much of the colour we perceive during the day in brighter environments, but are much less sensitive to general brightness than the rods are. So in dark environments, our rods, being so much more sensitive to light, allow us to continue to perceive, albeit with significantly less sensitivity specifically to colour. Our rods also have far less sensitivity to long-wavelength light, which is why headlamps, iPhone star gazing apps etc. use the colour red - to help preserve our night vision - which takes somewhere in the range of 30 - 45 minutes to fully achieve.
It's a lot to take in all at once, eye know.
COLOURING IN THE DETAILS
What all this means, is as you witness the aurora, especially as you're getting used to what to look for, your eyes will usually pick up the brightness of the colour green much more easily than it will the deeper magentas. All the colours of the aurora are visible to us, but everyone perceives differently and will have very unique experiences.
So to speak from my personal experience, there have been nights I've seen some reds. Purples and pinks; weekly, and green of course almost nightly. The northern lights can become so bright, they'll light up an entire landscape to the point, where on a moonless night, you'll be able to read a book under them. Just don't expect to see the atomic greens and neon pinks some tourism agencies like to push into print.
"It alters very quickly. It can be so, so... go so fast that you can't imagine it. You have to see it."
- Kjetil Skogli
SEAN MEETS YELLOWKNIFE
Something that started as a 'one day' dream in Scandinavia, began unfolding very quickly in my own backyard upon discovering a city called Yellowknife - way up in Canada's beautiful north.
THIS WAS ALL REALLY JUST SORT OF AN ACCIDENT...
In 2007, I stumbled into a Norwegian aurora chaser, who wasn't trying to guide tours, or inspire anyone to the best thing they've ever done in their life, but it was so. And after several visits, countless nights aurora chasing, and a few weeks or months with one of the most amazing aurora chasers in the world, Kjetil Skogli in Tromsø, Norway - I decided at 3am in the front seat driving back to town from the countryside, watching the aurora through the windscreen of his car with everyone else sleeping in the back, that all I wanted was to one day follow in his footsteps. This is the still surreal unfolding of that.
BUT, BEFORE ALL THAT
More than a few years ago, I was taking photos on top of a dirt hill looking down over a fence and onto a runway at Vancouver International Airport. Quickly, that evolved just months later to commuting to the airport for work everyday with my camera bag on my shoulder, loading airplane bellies with 32kg suitcases, conveniently arming me with flight benefits and airside access for photography.
A LOVE STORY
I remember well and will never forget arriving in Akureyri, Iceland to the red heart traffic lights, just as I'll always remember the northern lights on one side of the sky and a volcano erupting on the other a year and a half, and second trip to Iceland later. But it didn't all begin in Iceland, although my favourite guesthouse ever did begin the Sean's Guesthouse inspiration in Skogar. In any case, this is the 8 year unfolding of my Yellowknife dream.