“Spirits in the Sky” – One Last Look at the Amazing Aurora Display of June 1st 2013

All aurora nights start with the same intention.

“Oh I’ll just get out for an hour and be in bed by midnight…”

Somehow I keep getting caught up taking in the celestial displays and end up staying out for much later than that.

Some shows warrant not going back to bed at all. The night that ended the month May and kicked off June was one of those nights. The aurora danced for hours, filling up most of the Banff National Park sky at times, and often with a fantastic array of color. The only reason I went to bed was that night was that eventually the sun rose and washed out the spectacle. We all wished the darkness would never end.

Many folks were caught by surprise since the display did not get much hype prior to happening (unlike some previous CME events that were the rage on the major news networks). Much of western Canada was also blanketed in clouds, so many decided not to take their chances.

As for me, I went out, for “an hour”, to Herbert Lake when I saw that the Bz was wayyyy south and that skies were unexpectedly clearing to the north. There was a spot on the lakeshore that I had noticed days prior as a wonderful place for aurora photography.

It was not even dark yet when the show started. Great waves of green and purple pillars. I took a few quick photographs but promptly realized that much of the display was actually happening behind me, to the south! I immediately packed up my gear (you never know how long those events last) and made my way to the other side of the lake to shoot the classic Lake Louise Group composition, as well as some fabulous coronas directly overhead. It was a magical start to the night.







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The next while was spent trying to escape a thick fog. I eventually succeeded in doing that just before arriving back in Banff, where I resumed my viewing/shooting at Vermilion Lakes.





I finished the night at Cascade Meadows, where the aurora shone through the half moon and until daylight eventually took over. Without a doubt one of my most memorable nights out in the mountains. Great to see many others out there enjoying the stunning skies. That last image is actually from the following night, which also put on a fine (but brief)display. Fingers crossed for more activity soon!

Thanks for reading/looking!







If you liked these photos, check out Summits & Starlight: The Canadian Rockies, a new book by Paul Zizka.

11 Responses to ““Spirits in the Sky” – One Last Look at the Amazing Aurora Display of June 1st 2013”

  1. Dee Cresswell

    What a fantastic selection of shots Paul. Just magical. I can see why you were out all night. I didn’t think we would see it in Calgary as we had thick cloud cover when I went to bed. Luckily I woke up at 3am and got to watch the show for an hour, before the light of dawn started to creep in. Right before the end it got really intense. Absolutely mesmerizing! One of these days I’ll catch it while I’m in the mountains (I hope).

  2. Sandrine fabre

    votre regard sur la nature, et la montagne en particulier est tout simplement extraordinaire; et la serie des aurores boréales est magnifique. j’ai toujours été fasciné par ce phénoméne et ces aurores ont un effet “hypnotique” sur moi, je resterais des heures a admirer ce ciel. etant de France, je n ai pas la chance d ‘assister a un tel spectacle, donc pour ça, merci beaucoup de partager une telle beauté

  3. drawandshoot

    These are incredible, Paul!
    So organic looking, and uniquely photographed. The different plays of light are so cool.

  4. JimR

    Superb images as always Paul. If I lived in your “neck of the woods”, I guess I would be up all night and sleep all day.

  5. Kim Morelock

    Love every one of your pictures….Awesome shots!!!!…thank you for sharing your talent and love of the skies!!!!

  6. Inspired and pretty

    Oh my goodness…. Wow, wow, wow ! Breathtaking and amazingly beautiful ! I am in awe !

  7. Brian Kim

    We are planning to visit the Banff NP and Alberta in September.
    How often can you see Aurora Borealis in Banff NP area?

    • Paul Zizka

      Hello Brian and thanks for your comment. There is so much uncertainty around aurora viewing, but if I had to guess I would say this coming fall will be the best time in 10+ years to see the lights. These days we see them once a week or so.


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