September 2013 - Waiting for the Aurora

Category: Newsletters 12 September 2013

September 2013 - Waiting for the Aurora

The Aurora Borealis over Ruby Mountain & Pine Lake, Yukon, Canada.
Canon 1Dx, 14mm lens, 20 secs @ f4, ISO 12800.

I am well used to a life governed by the movement of heavenly bodies and the last 24 hours have been no different. We stood beside the tripod on the shore of a glacial lake at 3am staring up in awe up at the star laden night sky, then a few hours later paced the same spot waiting for the appearance of the dawn sun. The timing of those events was completely predictable, the only intangible being whether cloud would obscure the spectacle, but in both cases we were treated with northern skies totally devoid of haze, light pollution or even vapour trails. Now it is midnight and we're stamping our feet in the cold by another still lake, waiting for the Northern Lights. Will they come? Maybe, the Yukon Aurora forecast was hopeful, but nothing is certain, and if so when? Again there is no way of knowing; the sky could glow eerily in a few minutes, or hours, or not at all.

Wendy had stated long ago she wanted to see the Aurora, somewhere, somehow, so as her wish is my command I must deliver, tonight, tomorrow night or hopefully at least one night over the next few weeks we're here up north. The trouble is hanging around staring into the darkness in the middle of the night hoping for the collision of solar radiation with atoms in the thermosphere does tend to make sleep seem an incredibly precious commodity, especially when the usual dawn and dusk patrols still beckon.

In all my years of travel I've never seen the Aurora Borealis, or Australis for that matter. We've not come to the Yukon solely for that purpose but as we are not far short of the Arctic Circle in an Auroral year supposedly the best for a decade with the autumn equinox approaching the chances of fulfilling my pledge to Wendy have to be good, don't they? So here we are. I've composed a shot with a northerly aspect using our head torches to frame and focus; no mean feet in the pitch black. Let the show begin.

An hour passes. I amuse myself making night sky exposures with the stars twinkling, but the aspect is all wrong. The Milky Way arcs through the sky above from the north east to south west, but I dare not relocate to concentrate on it in case I miss the Moment of Revelation. Another hour passes. We discuss the option of throwing the towel in and trying again tomorrow; bed seems a very attractive proposition. Just as we resolve to pack up I glance at the glowing monitor on the camera back from my last exposure. Hang on, what's that strange green to red glow? Something is happening in the northern sky above the Ruby Range, not yet visible to the naked eye, but the camera is picking it up. Then, slowly, the glow to the north grows, and the spectacle of the Northern lights is revealed.

A grizzly bear in the woods, Kluane National Park, Yukon, Canada
Canon 1Dx, 200-400mm fl IS with inbuilt 1.4x extender @ 540mm, 1/1250 sec @ f5.6

We're less than a week into our Yukon Adventure but already the memorable experiences are stacking up. Just yesterday I had grizzly bear filling my frame. You will of course be able to read and watch all about it in subsequent issues of the Chasing the Light eZine, speaking of which here's Editor Freya Dangerfield with a summary of what's on offer this month:


An image from this month's eZine feature “Seeing the Light”: coastal heath (common heather, bell heather and western gorse) on Bossington Hill in late summer, with Dunkery Beacon beyond, Exmoor National Park, Somerset, England.
Canon 5D mkIII, 17mm TS-E lens, 5secs @ f16, polariser & 0.9 ND filter.

In this month’s instalment of Seeing the Light, David pays homage to that most revered directional lighting amongst landscape photographers – side light. Meanwhile, the Field Trial presents Part 2 of his exploration into the creative potential of using super wide-angle lenses. This month David has created three of our popular videos for you: the first is Part 2 of his video blog from Utah; and there are two practical tutorials on post-production.

In Stepping Back, we are taken on a photo trip to the fascinating ‘blue’ town of Chefchaouen in the Rif Mountains of northern Morocco. And in this month’s edition of The Bizz, David begins his two-part series entitled Head in the Cloud by considering the various technological pressures with which he has successfully wrangled at Noton HQ this summer. In addition we have the Member’s Gallery, with constructive comments from David on a member’s work.

From other contributors, How It’s Done is penned by Ben Pipe, as he runs us through the vagaries of capturing that perfect wedding shot.


And for this month’s Guest Feature, world-class surf photographer Brian Bielmann shares with us his passion for surf and describes how he managed to build a successful career photographing sensational images of it, both above and below the wave.

With every month that passes our f11 Members are receiving more and more, particularly as every member has access to all 20 back issues published so far. Many of you have told us how you like the video Tutorials and blogs, so we'll be doing more; we've been filming here in the Yukon. On top of the Composition Tutorials eBook (free for f11 members) this month we can now announce a further incentive to join our growing community; the f11 Member's Gallery Photographic Competition.

F11 Member's Competition, Your Vision

We are thrilled commemorate the approaching Second Anniversary of our Chasing the Light eZine by announcing the launch of David Noton's photographic competition for fully registered f11 Members, entitled Your Vision.


Celebrating the process that gives birth to a picture - from the conception of an idea through to the point the shutter opens - the judges will be looking for f11 Members' pictures that display the most imaginative and perceptive photographic Vision.

The winner will receive a day of one-to-one tuition with David (arranged at a mutually convenient time and location) and fron Daymen International, one of their top-of-the-range Carbon Fibre tripods.   There will be highly commended prizes kindly donated by Lee Filters (Chasing the Light Filter Kit) and Daymen International (An aluminium Tripod)   Also amongst the prizes will be a Canon Powershot S110 Camera. For full competition details and information on how to enter, please visit [insert link to website].

Dawn mist on Porlock Hill, with the Bristol Channel and Wales beyond, Exmoor, Somerset, England.
Canon 5D mkIII, 70-200mm lens @ 155mm, 1/320 sec @ f5.6

Summer came to an abrupt halt when we boarded the plane to come here; so be it.  We had a good one; I particularly enjoyed my sessions on Exmoor. As we go to press we have just one place left on our autumnal Exmoor Photo Adventurer Workshop.

The fall comes early to the Yukon; the colours are of the fireweed and forest floor are stunning, not to mention the aspen trees standing out against the mountain backdrop of Kluane National Park, with the first smattering of snow on the peaks. It is possible to believe in this achingly beautiful part of the world that man's imprint is still well over the hills and far away. The Yukon is a province twice the size of Britain with the population of our local home town; Sherborne. The nearest food store from us here in Kluane National Park is a 2 ½ hour drive away; we're certainly not short of personal space. I do have to admit though when we came across that grizzly I was glad of the effective 540mm focal length.

A rainbow over Quill Creek and the mountains of Kluane National Park, Yukon, Canada.
Canon 5D mkIII, 24-70mm lens @ 26mm, 1/40 sec @ f11, polarising filter.

Keep exposing


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David Noton Photography
Clark House
Milborne Port

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Every month we publish an issue of our unique magazine Chasing the Light exclusively for f11 members. With features from behind the lens and on the road with David Noton it combines stunning photography with David's unique style of writing. Technical features, humorous anecdotes, travel notes, a member's gallery, news and the stories behind the pictures make it an entertaining, informative and inspirational monthly read and information resource for all who love photography and travel. All this for less than the price of a coffee and a biscuit a month. F11 members can also download other exclusive content such as Despatches+ and video blogs for free as they become available.

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