City Name
Home » Recent posts » Guide to Capturing Northern Lights in Edmonton

Guide to Capturing Northern Lights in Edmonton

Guide to Capturing Northern Lights in Edmonton

Hoping to see the northern lights in Edmonton? Well, this magical light show may not be on the city’s skyline every night, but lucky for you, it does appear frequently!

If you want to chase these dancing lights, here’s your guide to capturing the Northern Lights in Edmonton.

When and Where to See the Northern Lights around Edmonton 

The best time to chase the northern lights in Edmonton is around September to April. The phenomenon appears on an average of about 90 nights per year. 

You can capture it at the Beaver Hills Dark Sky Preserve, Elk Island National Park, and Cooking Lake-Blackfoot Provincial Recreation Area.  

How to See the Northern Lights at Beaver Hills Dark Sky Preserve 

How to See the Northern Lights at Beaver Hills Dark Sky Preserve

Source: DarkSiteFinder

Operating hoursMonday - Sunday (Open 24 hours)
FeesAdmission Rate – $8

Beaver Hills Dark Sky Preserve is nestled in east Edmonton. It’s a 300-square kilometer (116-square mile) dark sky preserve that is an ideal spot for stargazing and chasing northern lights. 

The area is beyond the city’s light pollution radius, so you can have a panoramic view of the skyline. Besides that, the staff reduces the use of artificial light in the vicinity so you’ll have a clearer view of the majestic dancing lights when it occurs. 

If you wish to see the northern lights while it’s still warm, you can drop by in September. 

It’s also when the preserve is holding its annual Star Party, so you can witness the natural phenomenon with your fellow stargazers.

How to See the Northern Lights at  Elk Island National Park 

How to See the Northern Lights at Elk Island National Park

Source: Parks Canada 

Operating hoursMonday - Sunday Open 24 hours
FeesAdmission Rate

• Adult (18 to 64 years old) – $8.50

• Senior (65 years old and above) – $7.25

• Youth (17 years old and below) – Free

• Family/Group (Up to 7 people) – $16.75

Camping Rate

• Astotin Lake – $27.25

• Overflow – $16.75

• oTENTik – $128

• Astotin Lake Campground (Winter Camping) – $5.25 per person and night

• Oster Lake Backcountry Campground (Winter Camping) – $10.50 per person and night

Elk Island National Park is a 194-square kilometer (75-square mile) park where you can explore trails and experience guided hikes. It’s also part of the Beaver Hills Dark Sky Preserve.

In this park, you can camp while watching the aurora display or seasonal meteor showers. Moreover, they also conduct an annual party – Milky Way Day. 

In this event, you can bring your whole family to enjoy a campfire or a breezy night at Astotin Lake while waiting for the aurora borealis. 

How to See the Northern Lights at Cooking Lake-Blackfoot Provincial Recreation Area 

How to See the Northern Lights at Cooking Lake-Blackfoot Provincial Recreation Area

Source: Space Tourism Guide 

Operating hoursMonday - Sunday 7 AM to 11 PM
FeesAdmission Rate - Free

Cooking Lake-Blackfoot Provincial Recreation Area is a 97-square kilometer (38-square mile) forested park. 

It’s open year-round and offers 170 kilometers (106 miles) multi-use trail system and four expansive staging areas for picnics, nature walks, horseback riding, and more. 

Since it’s also part of a dark sky preserve, you can observe the nocturnal environment and wildlife. Furthermore, you can marvel at the star-studded sky and wait for the northern lights at the designated areas in the facility.  

Just note that this area is for day use only, so you can’t camp here. However, they allow overnight camps conducted by youth organizations or educational groups. 

What to Do to Capture the Northern Lights on Camera

1. Bring the right gear.

Seeing the aurora borealis can be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for some, so capturing the phenomenon on camera is a good way to encapsulate the moment. 

Smartphone cameras nowadays have come a long way, but it’s still better to capture the aurora using a digital camera or DSLR. Having the right camera and gear is vital in getting high-quality pictures. 

Don’t forget to bring a tripod to steady your camera hands-free and avoid blurry pictures. Moreover, with a tripod, you can appreciate the scenery and lights without constantly checking your camera. 

If you plan to use the aurora as a backdrop for important events such as weddings, birthdays, parties, or photo exhibits, by the way, you may need professional help. Try checking out our list of the best photographers in Edmonton for ideas. 

2. Adjust your focus.

To optimally capture the majestic lights as they dance across the night sky, you must tinker with your camera’s settings. Start by adjusting the lens’ focus. 

Do it during the day so you can better see and focus on the landscape you want to include in your photos. 

However, if you plan to set up everything at night, you can also use a star in the sky as a marker to set your camera’s focus. 

3. Experiment with your camera’s ISO and shutter speed. 

First of all, capturing the northern lights doesn’t have a fixed cheat sheet. That’s why you have to take your time to see what adjustments can give you the best results. 

Several factors such as ISO and shutter speed can affect the overall picture. 

ISO is the camera setting that can darken or brighten a photo. Since you’ll be taking a photo when it’s dark, you must use a higher ISO (around 1200 to 2000). 

On the other hand, shutter speed is the time it takes for the camera’s shutter to close. A faster shutter speed is equal to less light and freezing motion, while a slower shutter is equal to more light and capturing movement or motion. 

Photographers recommend starting at 15 seconds shutter speed. Nonetheless, you can still experiment with your shutter speed until you get your desired result. 

4. Wear warm clothes. 

Dress for the occasion when chasing the northern light! Getting a good shot of the magical dancing lights typically involves long periods of waiting and being on the lookout.

For this reason, it’s essential to wear clothes that will keep the night’s chill at bay. Wear enough layers and bring some coffee or hot chocolate to keep you warm as the temperature drops. 

Furthermore, you should also check the weather conditions before you venture into this escapade so you can prepare the things you have to bring. 

5. Grab some spare batteries.

If you plan to stargaze or go northern lights hunting in winter, make sure to bring fully charged batteries in an insulated pocket as a spare. You see, the cold weather can cause your camera’s batteries to lose power faster, so having a backup is best. 

Besides that, we also recommend bringing multiple memory cards rather than having one with a large capacity. 

This is to ensure that you have enough space for the photos you’ll take, and you can easily replace the memory card if it gets damaged or misplaced.