Jeanine Holwatiuk is the dark sky and northern lights photographer behind Northern Escape Photography. Jeanine is based out of the northeastern community of Hudson Bay, Saskatchewan. She began taking photos of the northern lights several years ago after being gifted a DSLR camera. Today, she’s passionate about sharing the views she has of the night sky.
“Many people experience nature in various ways during the day, but there’s something special about nighttime. The northern lights are never the same – each time you see them, it’s a unique experience” says Jeanine.
The pulsing greens and reds of the aurora borealis can be seen throughout the year, but Holowatiuk says spring or autumn are the ideal seasons because the nights are still long but temperatures aren’t too cold. Jeanine also says rural communities in Saskatchewan have an advantage when it comes to seeing the night sky because of the lack of light pollution.
While she’s witnessed the northern lights hundreds of times, it still takes her breath away. “We’re the land of living skies for several reasons but our view of the northern lights is truly remarkable.”
Top 5 Tips when Photographing the Northern Lights in Saskatchewan
Here are Jeanine’s top 5 tips when viewing and photographing the northern lights in Saskatchewan.
1. Make sure to let your eyes adjust to the dark. This takes about 20 minutes and includes avoiding looking at your cell phone screen.
To the eye, most of the time the northern lights are a white haze unless the show picks up and is really intense. (We see monochrome at night because of how the human eye works.)
2. The best chance of seeing the aurora is during the winter months because we have more hours of darkness. Fall is a great time too because we have equal day and night and it often hasn’t snowed yet.
3. Know the aurora forecast before you go. It takes three days for the energy from the sun to hit the earth. This is why a forecast is highly unpredictable and isn’t known more than three days prior.
The only reliable forecast is half an hour ahead of time based off of satellite information.
Check out the NOAA aurora forecast for 3-day forecasts or short-term forecasts in UTC time. The short-term forecast shows an easy-to-understand map with a green oval of where you can currently see the aurora. Or download an Aurora app on your phone.
4. How to capture the northern lights with a cellphone:
- use a tripod or hold your camera really still (put it on a solid surface)
- use night mode to take the photo
- if you can shoot in manual mode, extend the time/length of your shutter speed.
5. When the northern lights are super active, don’t take photos. Jeanine recommends just sitting and watching the show to really take it all in.
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