A Northern Lights Photography Experience You Will Never Forget - Chasing the Polar Lights on a Snowmobile in Canada
Jeanine Holowatuik, Northern Lights chaser from Saskatchewan, Canada, takes us on a magical night ride on her snowmobile to see the green lights and stars dazzling in the sky.
Experiencing the Canadian Wilderness and Aurora Borealis Photography in New Ways – a Night Underneath the Green Lights with Jeanine Holowatuik
As a blanket of snow covers the frozen Canadian landscape, exploring the plains by snowmobile opens up access to nature and the untouched wilderness in new ways. Gliding over the snow on a snowmobile is one of the primary forms of transportation deep in the wilderness. Snowmobiles stay above the snow, leading the way to places no vehicles can go. In most cases, the snow is too deep to walk through and when you jump off the snowmobile and fall waist deep into the fresh powdery snow, it is a good reminder of how essential a snowmobile is for transportation in the winter. And the best part for astro-photographers like me is that a snowmobile can take you to otherwise inaccessible places where the Northern Lights are best seen, far away from light pollution.
Being Properly Prepared Is Essential Before Heading Out on the Big Snowmobile Adventure
The air is cold, the snow is crisp, but with reliable and warm gear and the proper safety precautions in place, a night ride under the stars or Northern Lights in Canada can quickly become a bucket list night you will never forget. The snowmobile trail system in Canada is well marked, signed and mapped, allowing endless hours of riding day or night. Gliding along the snowmobile trails, with your headlight guiding the way, the snow sparkles in the light, like glitter along the trail. Everything seems still at night.
My favourite route is in the Hudson Bay, Saskatchewan area. There are several trails that take me through the forest and onto the frozen fresh water lakes with wide open views of the night sky. I am lucky today. No clouds and the KP forecast is 3, which is perfect for this latitude.
Link to more localized trail system www.sasksnow.com (Saskatchewan’s snowmobile trail network)
The helmet shields the wind chill as the temperatures drop and my hands are protected by THE HEAT COMPANY LAYER SYSTEM. Staying warm makes the trip much more enjoyable and can really make a difference when hitting the trails.
Once I have adjusted my eyes to the lights, I am getting my tripod and camera ready by making sure the lens is clean, the focus is sharp and my tripod is sturdy. I watch the activity in the sky and adjust my camera and settings for the composition I want. Knowing how to use my camera in the dark and adjust the ISO and shutter speed settings is helpful because the northern lights can change from one shot to the next.
Prepare for the Unpredictable Weather and Changing Conditions!
Exploring further and deeper into the wilderness by snowmobile requires gear that can hold up to the changing conditions and extreme temperature changes. It is not uncommon for temperatures to change over more than 20 degrees in one day. In order to enjoy the views to their fullest potential, you need to be fully prepared for these temperature fluctuations. This requires equipment that can be worn in several layers.
- BODY: Base and mid-layer shirts and pants and a robust snowmobile pants or bibs and jacket
- HANDS: Layered gloves or mittens from THE HEAT COMPANY with the POLAR HOOD incl. hand warmers
- HEAD: Helmet with an optional heated helmet shield, googles with multiple lenses, Balaclava or face mask
- FEET: warm socks and snowmobile boots that fit INSOLE WARMERS and TOE WARMES
Jeanine's tip for photographers:
When heading out on a snowmobile or for an extended period in the cold make sure to keep extra batteries warm. The cold can reduce the battery life of both the batteries in the camera as well as the extra ones in your photo bag. Bring MULTIWARMERS or keep them warm in an inside pocket of your jacket!
Witnessing the Fascinating Dance of the Lights and Wonders of the Night Sky
"Then the sky starts to fill with sparkling stars to match the glittering snow beneath. The winter milky way appears as a dense band of stars as the night gets darker. Then the green glow starts, the Northern Lights begin to dance and guide you through the forest as you follow the groomed trail. The Northern Lights building in the dark sky reflect off the snow. All of a sudden, the dark night starts to lighten up and shines even brighter. The white snow glows green, still sparkling as the night sky begins to light the landscape below. To stop and enjoy this moment, in total silence, in the depths of the wilderness with no light pollution for a hundred miles: these are the moments to be cherished. Even for locals, this is a time to stop and enjoy the show and appreciate the power of nature. From the sparkling snow beneath your feet, to the dazzling stars and dancing sky above, the sight is out of this world."
About the Author:
Focusing on Landscape and Night Photography in Saskatchewan, Canada, Jeanine Holowatuik is a photographer and content creator. With a love for nature, dark sky and adventure she continues to pursue her mission to share the beauty of the night sky and natural wonders of the world.
Jeanine loves the outdoors and can often be found out with her camera in extreme conditions. Her focus is on Night Photography and capturing the beauty of the Northern Lights. Jeanine has established Northern Escape Photography in 2017 to represent her passion for sharing the beauty of the night sky.