No Filter Required: Don’t Miss the Registration Deadline for the 3rd Annual Photography and the Night Sky Workshops

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Photography Workshop participants wait for nightfall. Photo by Robert Holmberg.

The deadline is fast-approaching to register for the popular Photography and the Night Sky workshops this fall.

Due to the growing demand, participants need to sign up by Fri., May 29. Space is limited – there’s capacity for up to 12 persons for both the youth and adult workshops.

Both sessions are open to anyone who’d like to attend, including seniors, for the adult class.

The third annual photography workshops are a collaboration between Science Outreach, Athabasca University, the Rotary Club of Athabasca and AUGO Geophysical Observatory, as well as other volunteers.

The instructors, Bromley Chamberlain and Robert Holmberg, will share their extensive knowledge of the vast night sky and its accompanying spectacular strobe-light action — the majestic Northern Lights.

According to the Northern Lights Centre in Yukon Territory: “Northern Lights are actually collisions between electrically charged particles from the sun that enter the earth’s atmosphere.”

“The lights are seen above the magnetic poles of the northern and southern hemispheres. They are known as ‘Aurora borealis’ in the north and ‘Aurora australis’ in the south.”

Chamberlain and Holmberg will teach participants how to capture the dazzling, dancing phantoms on film in all their resplendence – the more vibrant turquoise or purple or red tones are generally invisible to the naked eye.

Athabasca Night Sky: Electrifying the prairie. Photo by Bromley Chamberlain.

Athabascan Night Sky: Electrifying the Prairie. Photo by Bromley Chamberlain.

“Green is the most common colour you can see,” says Chamberlain, a freelance photographer and multi-media journalist.

“It’s easily picked up by the human eye. But sometimes it can look white. Purple is really hard to see – sometimes you can see a skiff of it but when it shows up on your pictures you can fully see it.”

That’s what makes the photos appear so wondrous. That gleaming, gem-like brilliance we often see in photos of Aurora is the real deal, filter-free. No Instagram to burst them with brilliance. What you see is what you get and, according to Chamberlain, it’s pretty much what humans would actually see in real-life (if we had bionic eyes).

The 2015 Rotary Adventures in Photography and the Night Sky Workshop for Youth runs Fri., Sept. 11 to Sun. Sept. 13. Attendees, from grades 9 through 12 are often children of AU staff. But most are students sponsored by Rotary Clubs throughout northern Alberta.

The cost is $350 but up to three youth from Aspen View Regional School Division will be fully sponsored, at no cost, by the Rotary Club of Athabasca. That includes the cost of food and lodging. Like a weekend camp-out, youth who don’t live in the vicinity can stay with assigned Rotary members from the Athabasca community. Interested students in other school divisions are encouraged to contact a local Rotary Club and request a full or partial sponsorship.

Viewed from the two AU observatories, like any good slumber party, teens ought to be prepared to stay up late—Chamberlain says Northern Lights tend to peak with awesome light shows post-midnight.

While the Northern Lights happen throughout the year, she adds the best times to view them is between September and April.

Coming to Athabasca gives both groups the chance to see the incandescent sky performance and  learn how to photograph it. Chamberlain notes shooting the night sky is a very specific field of photography— more technical than landscape shooting and requires special equipment.

In fact, many night sky photographs actually involve a very long exposure where one’s camera stands detached and takes the picture for as long 10 or 30 seconds.

And while the Northern Lights are clearly one of Athabasca’s brilliant secrets, the adult workshop is in for a double delight. On Sept. 26-28, not only will they get to see the Northern Lights – they’ll also witness a full lunar eclipse.

Martin Connors, professor of Space Science and Physics, and former Canada Research Chair in Space Science, Instrumentation and Networking, will be on hand to explain photography and technologies used to capture the eclipse which falls that Sunday.

The three-day Night Sky and Photography workshop for adults costs $200 (if they use one of the program’s DSLR cameras), or $180 (if they bring their own, similar camera). Held at both of AU’s observatories (AUGO Science Observatory in Athabasca and at Narrow Lake), the workshop will explain the scope of low-light photography as it relates to astronomy.

For more information about how to register for either workshops, visit the Rotary web page: