Despite the rivers flowing against sidewalk curbs in the day, the crunch of the snow under our boots and howling winter winds won't let you feel overdressed for an evening like this, even at the very end of April. And against a 3/4 full moon and lingering twilight on the northern horizon, pinks curtains rippled above the trees.
When my camera tumbled two metres off the top of my tripod about a week ago and knocked the lens so far out of alignment I could comfortably blame my poor night time focusing ability on the lens itself, I at least was thankful for having just a few more nights of tours left, and an expensive repair to the lens that would be a tax write-off a week or two from then. It now appears the lens wasn't the only casualty, and the camera body may need a trip into service to cure some battery connection errors. A pair of astronomy binoculars have become a little stiff and may make it back to Zeiss over the summer, and perhaps we all just need some warm weather and a rest, the likes of which isn't far off now.
The nights of driving to isolated corners of frozen lakes are over and this is not without some sadness. Temporarily on a happier note, we looked to be in for another perfect night - elevated auroral conditions were still among us, resigned to walking out onto a lake or not. We arrived out to a nice little breakup, beautiful in colour and movement, and selfishly fully satisfying for just fifteen or so minutes into our night. It wasn't going to be like last night, but it was spectacular, and as far as cliches go, 'just different'. Then a few hours later, somehow infinitely more satisfying and exhilarating, another breakup filled the sky with curtains of pink, purple and green dancing over our heads.
As I got home a little before 4am, I refreshed Twitter, of course, and saw a post that made me both laugh and incredibly envious at the same time. Regardless of how it made you feel, there were conditions last night that produced some of the most beautiful and unique photos perhaps I've taken to date, including one a few seconds after I put my car in park in my driveway.
There are plenty of nights where the photography is perfect, the timing of auroral break-ups against the weather is perfect too. But tonight the weather ultimately, finally, after hours of wondering how the weatherperson could be so wrong, came for us. Had that break-up been about 15 minutes earlier, it would be a different song this morning. But the uncontrollables that nudge us into just moment enjoyment can be for the better too.
Tonight may not have sent goosebumps up and down your spine like the last few night nights, but comparisons are never a good thing anyway. There were momentary thrills when greens and very faint pinks raced across arcs above us, but it was a night that required much more patience, this is for sure.
It's been a good run. Night after night for what feels like weeks without too much of a worry or a deep look into weather maps. This probably ends in this next night or two, but there was no sense in worrying about that when assuredly we had one more night like this.
For much of the night, the aurora was beautiful and calm. Suspiciously so, almost. Then when a cloud bank began moving in from the west, just as the most beautiful pinks and greens danced above it, a script more perfect than something imaginable in the first place was born.
I don't think you can script a night more beautifully. Arriving to only the faintest flame of the aurora above the treeline in a twilight blue sky, she quickly grew with interest in the north working her way across the sky to one of those perfectly photographic break-ups. There were greens, there were pinks and there were purples to your eyes, if not only briefly. Finally as she quieted back down and delicate structures filled the sky, we packed up and drove back home seeing -27° register on dash, and it felt every bit of it.
It's entirely possible the first third of April sees an average nighttime temperature lower than that of January. Toes shouldn't be cold in winter boots, tripod heads should be fluid and smooth, and one battery should be enough. Perhaps the only evidence of spring these days is the snow evaporating off the ice roads, giving way to impromptu dance parties - from guests much more talented than me, tripod feet that won't stay put, and reflections of the aurora in the ice.
If not for the cold, perhaps the only thing keeping us from going dusk right through to dawn these nights is that I have to find some personal sustainability to be awake for tour the next nights too.
While we drove into the countryside tonight and I poked fun at how Morgan and I were the night before, it sure paled in comparison to this.