On the Hunt for Aurora Borealis with Paul Zizka

Feature photo from Travel Alberta Winter Magazine 2014-2015. Photo by Paul Zizka.

It is not every day that you get assigned a story you’ve been dying to write, and even less likely to be asked to write about a person very close to you. So, I was ecstatic when Travel Alberta approached me about writing a story about my husband, Paul Zizka, and his quest to chase the Northern Lights here in the Canadian Rockies. Having the insider’s perspective on this crazy chase, especially during the solar maximum in 2013, I could have written a lot more about life at home, and how it intermingles with aurora forecasts, solar flares and Paul’s incredible ambition to capture the dancing lights. But I left myself out of the story, and talked purely about Paul’s efforts to photograph the aurora borealis, and the resources he uses to track the likelihood of their appearance.

It was a cool night on May 31, 2013, when professional photographer Paul Zizka left his home in Banff to drive to Herbert Lake, a small body of water along the world-famous Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park. Eagerly, he glanced upwards through the windshield, checking the skies at regular intervals. All forecasts predicted the aurora borealis, aka the northern lights, would put on a show – perhaps the best one of the year. “I knew I was on the verge of what could be one of the greatest photo ops I had ever encountered,” Paul explained.  → Read the rest of the article, starting on Page 30 here. 

In Search of Auroras

I went all the way up to the Arctic in April and only saw the Northern Lights once (and only for about two minutes). Twenty-one hours of daylight at that time of year will do that. But, the other day the forecasting for auroras looked very promising here in Banff National Park, so a group of friends headed down to the shores of Lake Minnewanka to see if we could get a glimpse of the lights. Clouds hindered our view to the North, but we could see an intense green glow behind them around 2:30am. The stargazing was well-worth staying up for.

Middle of the Night on the Shores of Lake Minnewanka. Photo Meghan J. Ward.