Saturday, August 16, 2008

My Answers to Aurora Questions

Thank you for the compliments Megan and Robyn regarding the aurora photos. I started out to answer your questions Robyn but it began to get to long for the comment area, so I decided to make it a blog entry.

Nunavik is in northern Quebec and you should still be able to see good Auroras there since it does get dark at night there. Cape Dorset, Kimmirut and Iqaluit are all below the Arctic Circle in Nunavut so there is daylight and twilight here. By November we will be at the point were there is more dark than light. Communities located above the Arctic Circle are still in the 24 hours of daylight although that is now changing. If you wait until later in the year like November the communities above the Arctic Circle should nearing or in 24 hours of night. This makes it a good time to view the Auroras because you can see them at anytime if you go outside the communities. I always smile when I am walking to work and I look up and see the northern lights.

The sun is currently in solar minimum and will be until approximately 2011 so the auroras you will see are going to be green. The multiple color auroras usually don’t happen until solar maximum arrive. They are still worth coming to see. The best site that I have found that gives lots of information regarding satellites, aurora borealis, meteors and solar/lunar eclipses is the Space Weather web site. Other sites that relate to space and the sciences that will have information regarding the above are Space and Live Science. Both web sites are very informative. Live science will even let people comment on their articles. Always fun because the science folk and the bible thumpers will get into it from time to time.

I also recommend doing lots of research before you invest the funds to come up here to view the sights. It is very expensive to fly anywhere up here. The flight from Ottawa to Iqaluit will cost around $1800 return. Hotels will cost $200 night and in the some of the outer communities you may end up sharing a room. I have shared a room in a community for a week before. Restaurant meals can be more compared to southern restaurants. Also if you got outside the communities up here you should get a guide or a local if you are not going very far out. Anytime Michele and I are on the land we always have a rifle with us and someone who knows the land. If we are just going out of town to the park we don’t wander to far from a vehicle and someone is always watching. Polar bears have no fear of humans. Or just bring someone with you that runs slower. (Sorry about my dark humour)

Another thing to think about is your gear if you plan to some later in the year. By November things are getting cold here and it will have been snowing for at least 2 months. Last year we got our first snow September 1st. The temperatures the end of November will be in the -15C to -25C by that time so you must dress correctly. If you have booked a legitimate guide the majority will provide you with clothes to wear.

Your normal point and shoot cameras will not be able to photograph the auroras. The majority don’t give you the ability to modify the settings. At a minimum you should be using a digital single reflex camera (DSLR), a good quality tripod and a lens with a low F stop. An F stop of 2 is excellent. The lens I use for taking pictures has an F stop of 2.8. The lower the F stop the more light that can get to the camera sensor. There are a few sites on line that will give you guidelines on camera settings but it depends on the type of DSLR camera you have. The cold temperatures will drain batteries very fast so you should have at least three with you. The cold will also play havoc with your cameras shutter as it can freeze and stop working. That has happened to me a few times and all you can do is go home and wait for it to thaw. You should also wrap your tripod with foam pipe insulation so you can move the tripod around without your skin freezing to the metal. Trust me it hurts.

I was in Yellowknife in March of this year and they also had beautiful northern lights if you are looking for and easier and cheaper place to get to. I don’t know were you are living but you can drive to Yellowknife and it is a beautiful city. But this way you will miss out on the adventure of being in Nunavut and Baffin Island. Cape Dorset is the inut art capital of Canada. Each community in Nunavut has many interesting facts that you will find in your research.

Not trying to discourage you. Just make your plans and research were and what you are planning on doing and you will have a wonderful time up here. Michele and I both love the rugged beauty of the north. Each community is different from the next.

My first ever attempt at photographing the northern lights. The yellow snow is caused by the streetlight that was 15 meters behind me. After this I made sure I was out of town when I was taking photos. Still looks cool. I call this one the candle flame.


Aida said...

we get some wicked northern lights down here too, we are under the aurora donut. btw, i dont think iqaluit is in the arctic circle?

Matthew & Michele said...
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Matthew & Michele said...

Iqaluit, Kimmirut, Cape Dorset and Pangnirtung are all below the arctic circle on Baffin Island.