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My Kenora Aurora Homecoming

My Kenora Aurora Homecoming

Viewing the Aurora Borealis at my family’s camp on the Winnipeg River was always such a special and treasured event growing up in Kenora. Camp. This is not “the cottage”, this is CAMP.  Locals will get the difference 🙂  Here the skies are immense and dark. It has been two years since we’ve been home to Kenora and I was definitely planning some night sky photo outings, keeping an eye out for the Northern Lights. On July 29th, our second night here, I got way more than I had bargained for.

Aurora Borealis over the Winnipeg River

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We had just gotten settled into my Uncle’s cabin and already tucked in bed when I noticed an aurora alert on my phone. It was around midnight, and my body was still on West Coast time so I wasn’t sleepy at all but I really didn’t feel keen on getting dressed and heading outside for a possible aurora show. I thought, oh well I’ll just go outside onto the deck and see if anything is even visible to the naked eye, as often the aurora can be picked up with my camera sensor better than by my eyes. Stepping onto the deck and letting my vision adjust to the darkness it only took a second to realize I was in for something special. High above the tree line I could see bands of neon green dancing up and down, and pulsing in a 3D fashion across the black sky. It was go-time! I hadn’t even looked at my camera since arriving but threw everything together, jumped back into some clothes, grabbed a cold beer from the fridge and headed to the shore for what would be a most memorable homecoming.

Kenora Aurora Self Portrait

My partner in crime was already sawing logs by this point and the rest of my family were all sound asleep too in their respective cabins. So it was just me, my camera, some psychedelic northern lights and the haunting wail of loons calling from far across the water who apparently thought perhaps dawn was breaking early. It was an experience that still causes the goose-bumps to rise across my body on recalling it, as it was such a gift and so surreal.

At one point I decided to try for a self-portrait which came out quite well. To light the foreground I simply fastened my headlamp to the leg of my tripod and positioned it facing the rocks along the shoreline. The “Kenora Dinner Jacket” was not planned but seems ever so appropriate in hind-sight.

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Granite Meets Aurora

For this composition, I was looking to incorporate the interesting granite boulders that dot our shoreline as a foreground element. To light the boulder, I set the shutter for 10 seconds and light-painted the foreground with my headlamp for a balanced scene.

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Shop Fine Art Prints of this image on canvas, paper and metal here.

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Shop Fine Art Prints of this image on canvas, paper and metal here.

Kenora Aurora Timelapse

After shooting various compositions for a while I decided to set up a time-lapse sequence which you can check out in the “Nights of Wonder” video below. Be sure to have your sound turned up for a pretty sweet portrayal of what I experienced that night. While my camera was automatically shooting frame after frame, I got to just kick back, watch the lights dance and listen to the loons. It was HEAVEN.

Nights of Wonder from Heather Jones on Vimeo.

A large piece of my heart will always live in this place we call “camp” and it’s these experiences that remind me how very fortunate we are to have this special place to come together year after year, generation after generation. May it always be so.

Did you see the Northern Lights the other night? Or was it a special cosmic homecoming gift just for me? Let me know in the comments below!

UPDATE:

Last night, August 2nd, we heard there was a good chance of seeing the Northern Lights again. This time my Nephew Davis was interested in staying up to watch them with me. We started checking the sky as it got dark enough and I took a few test shots which revealed a faint green glow along the northern horizon. So we took our chances and headed over to “the Point” which is the iconic spot on the family property where generations of our relatives have gathered under the century old white pines. Climbing the Point Rock is a tradition for all kids, as is trying to push the Point Rock into the Winnipeg River!  So once the Auroras really started picking up, Davis climbed up on the Point Rock and held still for a whole 25 seconds for the shot below. Pretty Sweet.

Passing the Torch

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When my Sister and I were kids I remember our Mum and Dad taking us to the point for late night stargazing outings. We’d walk the shore from our camp with just a flashlight and lie on our backs on the granite shore marvelling at the heavens above. On this night, as Davis and I lay on our backs in the very same place doing the very same thing I couldn’t help but think fondly of those childhood nights of wonder. I am eternally grateful to our parents for being crazy star lovers and I am honoured to pass the torch to the youngest members of our family now.

Point Rock Star Trails

For this shot I had set my camera up to do 30 second exposures continuously for 90 minutes while Davis and I were counting meteors and napping. After the sequence ran for about an hour the northern lights came alive from a dull green glowing band to dancing light pillars, so I decided it was more important to capture the moving lights and stopped the sequence. A few days later I got around to blending all the files together to see if the star trails shot would turn out and was pleasantly surprised with the results below.

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Lady Aurora Dancing

Before packing up and heading for bed, we lingered and watched in awe as the Northern Lights stretched from the mouth of Locke Bay in the west to the eastern tip of Laurenson’s Island, dancing, pulsing and reflecting off the calm waters of the Winnipeg River.  It was just incredible and something I won’t forget anytime soon. Such a gift!

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Fine Art Prints of my Aurora images are available on canvas, paper and metal over in the store.

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4 Responses to My Kenora Aurora Homecoming

  1. David Jones August 3, 2016 at 12:07 pm #

    Great photos Old Pal.

  2. Kim Pirie-Milko August 4, 2016 at 10:17 am #

    You have very elegantly added a visual experience to the family’s gifted story telling skill…memories to be treasured and passed on through generations!❤

    • Heather K Jones August 4, 2016 at 5:24 pm #

      Thanks so much Kim! I definitely come from a long line of story-tellers (and BS-ers hehe)

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