Winter nights

09 Jan 2019

For those who love winter, it usually is spent on daytime activities and warm evenings in front of a fire with something or someone hot. For other people, like photographers, winter nights often spell magic, but outside. When the nights are cold and clear, photo opportunities are multiplied. It’s not just about clear starry nights, it’s what light and temperature can bring into a picture.

Holy Trinity, Poplar Park

Let’s see what a winter evening and night can bring us.

It all starts with a nice sunset. As usual in Manitoba, if the sun shines, it doesn’t mean that it is warm.

Sunset over the Assiniboine river

Sunset over the Assiniboine river

Sunsets can be very colourful, even without any clouds in the sky. Coming just over the treetops, the light has already taken on that golden hue photographers call the Golden Hour. Light at this time of day travels further through the atmosphere and is split into different colours like through a prism. Only the red light touches down, the rest shines on into the vacuum of space. We get to enjoy the reddish part.

The Forks, wrapped in cold

The Forks, wrapped in cold

After that, darkness sets in and the cold intensifies. Downtown, the stores close and the places to get a bite to eat get filled up. Not so for this photographer (diet, anyone?). I get to roam around the city streets and the rivers. Often I end up across from the Forks on the waterfront. If the temps are clement enough, I sit down for a while and enjoy the view. Other times I take a picture or two like the one above.

Taking pictures on bridges during the night has proven to be a hazardous occupation, a few times already, cars swerved in my direction in order to knock over the tripod and camera. For that reason I have given up on roadside light trail photography, my life is worth more than my gear and an interesting picture for posterity.

Holy Trinity Church, Poplar Park

Holy Trinity Church, Poplar Park

Out side of the city, possibilities are endless. Often it is a bit necessary to scout out the places during daytime. This little Ukrainian church on Road 88 in Poplar Park was the result of one of those scouting trips. By day it is nice and quaint, by night it takes on a whole new “spirit”. Even if the green spirit of Lady Aurora never showed up that night.

On Road 32E, looking North

On Road 32E, looking North

A different night, not far from the Poplar Park church at the Anglican Church in Libau, Lady Aurora did show up. When that happens, the nights turn magic or haunted, depending on the time of the year. All you need to do is go out with a friend or two, dress warm and enjoy the show.

Oak Hammock Marsh

Oak Hammock Marsh

Sometimes, however, that expected Aurora show does not materialise. That happens more often than not, lately. The sun’s activity seems to be at an all time low and aurorae or Northern Lights have become rare. The above picture was taken on one of those nights. The expected Aurora activity was high, the temperatures from low to very low (I think it was forecast to be –34C that evening), but nothing showed up for the majority of the night. When I finally left and went home, the clouds started rolling in.

Lake Winnipeg at night

Lake Winnipeg at night

Another such night was with a friend as well. We left for Lake Winnipeg on the ice, only to find out that we had been wrong about the time the Aurora was expected to show up. I guess that Greenwich Mean Time is not exactly the same as Central Standard Time Smile. The moon was out in full and lit up the whole scene. Instead of sulking over the fact that there was not going to be a Light Show, I decided to take pictures of the scenery instead. One of the perks of shooting at night in winter is that there are no mosquitoes to chase us away.

Light Pillars over Winnipeg

Light Pillars over Winnipeg

Other nights are announced as being just ordinary. No forecast of anything interesting, yet when I went outside for a late night walk, I was surprised to see all kinds of light pillars in the sky. Once I got back home, I took my camera and left for a spot just outside of the city. The fun with these shots is that everyone who has taken these has a different picture. Even if they were taken from the exact same spot. All pillars are created by bright lights from road lights, traffic lights of even rolling trains.

Riel Power Station

Riel Power Station

One shot became particularly spectacular over a local power station. Filled with bright lights as if electricity doesn’t cost anything, they all reflected off of the crystals in the atmosphere. If this had been possible in ancient times, the chronicles would have been filled with miracles, apocalypse and perhaps a Messiah. In today’s world it can only be attributed to Manitoba Hydro.

So for those who think that winter nights have to be spent in front of an open fire in company of (wine, friend, etc), just go out with your  camera and see what else a winter night can offer. You may be surprised.

Until next time…