Great Expectations… not a book by Dickens LOL

aurora, aurora borealis, northern lights, reflection, spring, Alberta, night sky, long exposure, Dan Jurak, stars, lake, pond, farm, rural,

Saturday May 5.

It was. Then it wasn’t. Then it was. Then it wasn’t.

I’m talking about the great aurora display that was predicted to happen on Saturday, May 5.

A space weather website that is usually pretty accurate, that is to say as accurate as the weather predictions that we get, sometimes spot on and at other times, off the target, predicted an auroral display for Saturday.

A few days ahead of time when the prediction was made I don’t get worked up and make plans. When only a day ahead the forecast looks great then I start to get excited.

Then when I checked the website early Saturday the display was postponed until Sunday and Monday for which the local weather forecast was cloudy at night.

An hour later when I checked the same space weather website there was an update! Yeah, the storm had arrived earlier than expected and it was looking favourable for Saturday night.

The updated weather forecast were I get very accurate sky cover forecasts for the night was predicting clear skies over almost all of Alberta.

It was on! Clear skies and a rapidly improving aurora forecast and I was planning on spending most of the night outside.

Being an early riser means that by 10:00 pm my eyes are barely open so I did what I have tried to do since I was a toddler without any success, get a nap. For some reason I am unable to sleep during the daytime so I lay in bed for three hours listening to the internet radio next to the bed. No sleep. Grrrrrr.

At 10:30 a fresh pot of coffee was brewed, poured into a thermos. Camera gear and a sleeping bag in the back of the Raw in case I found myself too sleepy to make the drive home and I was off.

As I drove eastward there were still the remnants of daylight as the north western horizon was still alight. Living this far north there is a time of year where it never really gets completely dark out. That sounds great but the negative is that come winter there is a period when daylight is limited to around eight hours. Eeeek!

Driving on the highway and passing the entrance to Elk Island Park I could already see plenty of vehicles turning into the park to see/photograph the night sky. Crowds aren’t for me so I continued on to my planned spot.

There was a slight green glow in the northern sky as I made my way away from the bright lights of Edmonton. The funny thing was that I wasn’t seeing any spikes or waves of light as I drove.

At the time the storm was up to a kp6 which for Edmontonians means there should be a lot of green swirls overhead. Hmmm.

It was just about midnight before I pulled off the highway and started seriously looking at the sky. With no moon up yet the landscape was dark, dark, dark.

I continued driving to my spot and to my disappointment the light show remained subdued.

I stopped early by a pond, made an exposure at what would be normal during a display and found everything really dark and underexposed. Increasing the exposure revealed a muddy was of green. Rather unspectacular.

Ah well, surely it would get better? There was a nearby lake that I was hoping to get the rising milky way over that I pulled over, set the camera for stars and not the aurora and took a few frames. In the camera it was very disappointing. Meh. That happens sometimes.

I made my way home early but with an eye to the north in case things should pick up. They didn’t.

Great expectations.

Happy shooting,



~ by Dan Jurak on May 6, 2018.

4 Responses to “Great Expectations… not a book by Dickens LOL”

  1. Interesting to see I wasn’t the only one disappointed on Saturday night. I went out about an hour north of the City (Calgary) to one of my favourite spots and the only thing I ever saw was a thin band of light with a greenish tinge across the northern sky about 5 to 10° off the horizon – not even worth setting up the tripod and camera. Oh well, at least the display of the stars was quite spectacular.


  2. I didn’t realize that you were from Calgary. There seems to be quite a lot of people from there on Alberta Aurora Chasers Facebook page.

    If it was disappoint for us then being a little bit farther south it was probably slightly less than what we saw here. It was a surprise to even see this image turn out the way that it did because the lights for me were so subtle.

    You were right the stars were great!


  3. Thanks for the reference to the Alberta Aurora Chasers Facebook page. I have it bookmarked for future reference. I have been getting my info from Aurora Watch out of the U of A. Usually fairly accurate and I tend to watch for yellow alerts before 9:00 pm and red alerts before 11:00 pm. Anything after midnight or 1:00 am is just a little too late for this old guy and doesn’t get us in Calgary any decent show.

  4. Ron I find the Alberta Aurora Chasers the best source of up to date and relevant information. It’s worth checking it out.

    As for the late hours, you aren’t alone. These days I am usually asleep when the good shows are happening. When weighing sleep against aurora photos sleep usually wins. LOL


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