Autumn is an impressive time of year. Most days are still bright, and the comparative simplicity of summer heat, green trees and blue skies gives way to a more deep and complex panorama. The forest becomes a patchwork of green, gold, rust, amber and scarlet leaves. The skies above are a glorious deep blue, with strongly textured clouds varying from sunlight backed glowing white, through a thousand shades of grey to a heavy darkness that warns sternly of the winter yet to come. Walking the partially hidden ground generates a satisfying rustle as ones feet slide through a million fallen leaves. This is Yellowknife, capital of the Northwest Territories.

Colours of the edge of the forest

The view is serene, beautiful and quiet. Perhaps it’s possible to disregard the stark contrast between recent Turkish heat or the whirlwind commotion of home in Taipei, and here in the Canadian North - but only from behind a window’s glass. Venturing outside, the freezing cold breeze and substantial time between catching sight of another human being ensures no uncertainty: The Territories are a different world.

Yellowknife is 250 miles south of the Arctic circle, and the sole city in the Northwest Territories. Originally named after the copper knives made by indigenous people, the city is now a hub for government, mining (recently diamonds, previously gold), transportation, education, communications and tourism. Visitors come for the climate, traditional lifestyle, and to see the Northern Lights.

The Northern Lights, also known as the Aurora Borealis are natural displays of glowing light caused by the interaction of solar wind and our planet’s magnetic field. The lights can be seen with the naked eye during night time; although photos taken with a long exposure can capture a much stronger effect.

Fire lit tipis in a forest aurora

If you plan to go see the Northern Lights, here are three points which are critical: [1] Dress warmly, do not underestimate how cold you may feel in the open at night [2] Take or hire a tripod/camera mount so your camera can be perfectly still during long exposure shots [3] Find a camera that can take long exposure photos. To clarify the latter point, by long exposure I mean at least 60 seconds. If your camera can only do 15 or 30 seconds and has an average lens, you may have difficulty to capture enough light to get a bright image of the aurora. I used a Panasonic Lumix LX5 camera, which I like because it’s small and light to carry, and supports up to 250 seconds exposure.

Lime yellow aurora over the pond
River rushing down a smoothed rock waterfall
Aurora streaks over the forest tree tops
Yellowknife City - busy inside the shops but few people out in the cold
Green aurora stream
Trunk twisted by time
Stars twinkle over the aurora glow
The Wildcat Cafe
Bush of blue berries
Yellowknife from across the lake
Towards Great Slave Lake from the Bush Pilots Monument in Old Town Yellowknife