JASPER, AB – Yuichi Takasaka has perfected the art of photographing the magical Northern Lights. He uses an arsenal of everyday household items and, of course, his beloved digital cameras.
Yuichi on location in Jasper teaching the basics of astrophotography.
Photo by Lisa Monforton.
A shower cap, a hand-held dollar store fan, duct tape, a kitchen timer and a head lamp all play a role in his passion for capturing the dancing ribbons of greens, yellows and magentas of the legendary Aurora Borealis.
Takasaka was in Jasper on the weekend to lead a night sky photography workshop during the second annual Dark Sky Festival (jasperdarksky.org), a celebration of Jasper as the largest and one of the few night sky preserves in the world, as designated by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada.
The workshop attracted a couple of dozen hobby and pro photographers, all of them interested in learning some of the techniques Takasaka has discovered through trial and error, since his first sighting of the Northern Lights in 1990 as a hobbyist photographer in Jasper.
Though it took Takasaka long hours and many years, first with an SLR film camera, he’s now keen to let people in on his knowledge. His learning along the way has helped him to become a respected night sky photographer with many photos published on NASA websites, in photography books and textbooks and sales of his standalone shots on everything thing from the Milky Way to shooting stars.
Sean Simmons, a member of the Edson, AB, photo club and a part-time professional photographer, thought it was a great presentation. “I’m always looking for new tips.”
Takasaka emphasized for Simmons how easy it is to capture the night sky. All you need is some basic (though sometimes pricey) essential equipment, says Takasaka, and you’ll be taking photos like a pro in no time.
One of his best suggestions is to always have something interesting in the foreground for perspective. “I love to make a nice foreground with the stars,” such as a moving car, boat or a tree, people, a train or mountains.”
Astonomers enjoying the Dark Sky Preserve.
Photo courtesy of Yuichi Takasaka.
Other useful items:
Some of Takasaka’s favourite viewing spots:
Sundog Wild Night Tours
If you missed the Dark Sky Festival, you can still get a personalized tour of the night sky with SunDog Tours Jasper through their Starlight Wild Night Tours. The outfitter takes guests out around the Jasper area to view the night sky, and provides telescopes and guides educated on the night sky. Tours go October to April: Adults $59, children 12 and under $27. Go to sundogtours.com for details.
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