Jasper Dark Sky Preserve

Sunwapta River and Milky WayFriday night in Jasper National Park at times seemed like being at Disney World when the fireworks explode over the castle.

Replace the Disney fireworks with meteorites and a perfect, almost cloudless sky and it seemed otherworldly.

I had been watching the astronomy forecast page for a few days looking for a break in the weather so that I could have another try at photographing the Milky Way. It seemed that for twelve hours it would be great and then just before I was about to pack clear dark skies were replaced with cloudy weather.

Friday evening in the national park was to be cloudy but close to midnight the skies were to clear up. Would the forecast hold? Only one way to find out.

By 3:00 pm I was on the highway making my way west. When I arrived in the park clouds were everywhere. Here’s to hoping I thought. Sunset was around 9:30 pm and from my previous trip I noticed that it took an hour and a half until the last bits of sun lighting up the north western horizon were gone.

Dark, black, clear, cloudless skies! For the first little while the odd car or motorhome would buzz along the highway lighting up the valley. Today’s digital cameras are really remarkable with their high ISO sensitivity. What would seem like a dim band of light against the sides of the valley would show up as almost bright lights on my camera display. Truly amazing.

When it gets as dark as it does in Jasper National Park the milky way is easy to see on cloudless nights. The camera records more than what the human eye is capable of.

The photo at the top of this post is one of many I took that night. I shot like crazy as the milky way slowly made it’s way from the southern to the western sky.

If you get a chance to experience a dark sky area like Jasper’s you must do it. It is the experience of a lifetime looking up and seeing our galaxy edgewise emblazoned across the sky.

Happy shooting,


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~ by Dan Jurak on August 10, 2013.

16 Responses to “Jasper Dark Sky Preserve”

  1. Hi Dan, are you able to tell me what shutter speed/aperture/etc you shot with for this photo! It’s absolutely beautiful :)

  2. Hi Lara, thank you. This photo does not do justice to how beautiful it is to be there.

    My camera settings were ISO 3200 f1.4 15 seconds.

  3. Awe-inspiring.

  4. Wow! Dan, your photo is simply amazing!

    I don’t think that I would be able to do a shot like yours without having any noise issue. I have Nikon D300s, and if I shoot more then 1200 ISO, picture start to be noisy.

    Your photo is truly inspiring. I might try this someday. ;)

  5. @ Jane, thank you. You really have to experience a totally dark night with no noise pollution. It’s almost mystical.

  6. @ Anne, thank you. This photo, the RAW version does have noise. I’m still learning how to minimize it. Every photo seems to be a bit different from the next in how they are processed.

    I’ve used a dedicated RAW converter for a few years now. It might seem like overkill since RAW photos are so easily converted from other programs but the better ones can make a HUGE difference. I have three different noise reduction programs because each one is better at one thing than the other but most importantly is the RAW conversion.

    Here’s a great tutorial on how much better things can look. http://www.dxo.com/intl/photography/tutorials/mastering-raw-noise

  7. Thanks Dan, I will take a look! Seems very interesting.

  8. I have,in the Cypress Hills in Saskatchewan, was totally blind going to the barn and would hear the horses nicker as I got close and the sky was 3D-you could almost reach up and touch the milky way -thanks for reminding me. Also Tonquin Valley in Jasper when no one was around-the silence was deafening until a rock slide happened then that was LOUD.

  9. very beautiful photo Dan!

  10. Beautiful photograph. I love the cool night tones throughout and the light reflecting off the river water. The milky way looks amazing.

  11. @ Jane, Cypress Hills is another large Dark Sky Preserve. The skies might be even better there because you are farther south and get a better view of the milky way. The Tonquin is another one of those special places on earth. So remote and stunning but oh those mosquitoes. LOL They were worse than the rock falls.

  12. @ Goderictia, thank you.

  13. @ Tony, thank you. At this spot it was really, really dark and hard to focus. Impossible really. I had the camera preset to infinity focus and let everything else fall where it may. The milky way in this shot had already started to fall into the horizon.

  14. That is magically beautiful.

  15. @ books, thank you!

  16. H Ha, and the rains really socked in as well as blizzards in summer in the Tonquin.

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