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North Shore photographers capture stunning shots of northern lights

A strong solar storm resulted in a spectacular show of the aurora borealis Friday

Tripod – check. Wide angle lens – check. Aurora forecast – set to high.

While many people across the North Shore were thrilled to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights on Friday, serious photographers were on the prowl early, scoping out their spots.

Just don’t ask exactly where those are.

North Vancouver photographer Mark Teasdale changed his plans Friday evening and headed out to a secret spot in Whistler.

“I wanted to go where it was as dark as I could get,” said Teasdale, who opted to skip the “gong show” of crowds who converged in places like Porteau Cove and the Cypress lookout. He wanted water to provide a reflection and mountains as a backdrop.

By 9:15 p.m. the celestial show had begun, and Mother Nature didn’t disappoint.

“I got lucky,” said Teasdale, who captured images with his Nikon Z7 and Z9 cameras set on interval timers to 30 second exposures. “It’s the best I’ve ever seen.”

Northern Lights captured over Whistler on May 10, 2024. | Mark Teasdale

According to, the northern lights happen when particles from the sun hit the Earth’s upper atmosphere but are redirected to the poles by the Earth’s magnetic field.

Ian Crook, a West Vancouver resident and president of the PhotoClub Vancouver was also keen to capture the aurora but avoid the crowds.

“It was pretty obvious it was going to be a spectacular event,” he said.

Crook headed up the hill, to a spot somewhere in the British Properties, looking for a shot where he could capture a big sky above Vancouver. “The real story is the light,” he said.

Crook said when he started taking photos, around 11:30 p.m., it wasn’t clear where the best images would come from.

Because cameras are much more sensitive to light than the human eye, much of the spectacular depth of colour could only be seen through the lens, he said.

“I was very lucky to get them when they were visible over Vancouver,” he said.

For Justin Lee, an amateur photographer who grew up looking through a telescope at the sky from his North Shore family home, the aurora borealis on Friday combined two of his passions – astronomy and photography.

“It was a very active time for the sun,” said Lee, who said sunspots – dark spots that appear on the surface of the sun – have been visible recently when the sun is viewed through a special filter. “That’s where the (solar) flares are being ejected from.”

Lee said he and his dad went out to look at the Northern Lights on Friday night. They’d first planned to go to a park, but ended up on a school field in West Vancouver which provided enough darkness. One of the visually interesting parts of the experience was looking up and being able to see the “corona” of the solar storm directly overhead. “Normally from Vancouver it would be very low on the horizon,” he said. “But this time it was right above us.”

For West Vancouver photographer James Almas, Friday’s light show presented an opportunity to capture an experience he’d lost out on previously.

“I actually booked a trip to Alaska to capture the northern lights. Then Covid hit,” he said. “To have it so close to home in my lifetime - you’ll never see it.”

Almas headed over to Spanish Banks with his camera to capture the aurora framed against the North Shore mountains.

“With the naked eye you could see the light green and the odd purple and pink,” he said. With a tripod-mounted camera he caught some spectacular shots until about 4 a.m. – long after the crowds had left.

The northern lights over the North Shore, captured from Spanish Banks. James Almas

Back on the North Shore, amateur astronomer Michael Markwick headed down to Dundarave Beach in West Vancouver after seeing posts from NASA about the approaching solar storm.

“We thought our chances would be pretty great,” he said.

He wasn’t disappointed.

Markwick said he’s seen the Northern Lights in Ontario before but “I’ve never seen them with that spectrum of colours. They were all around us. It was breathtaking.”

Markwick said he stayed at the beach until his neck got sore and left with a feeling of appreciation for our place in the universe and the enormity of the solar system.

“I left with a sense of hope,” he said.