Darlene Tanner shares a passion for photography, particularly capturing images of storms and northern lights, with her partner, Tree.
On Sunday, however, she used her day off to brave a frosty Alberta morning on her own and ventured into the cold in search of a special natural phenomenon: light pillars.
“I woke up at about 2:30 a.m. and I suspected that there would be ice crystals in the air, so I got ready and left the house by 3 a.m.,” Tanner told Global News on Tuesday.
“I just started driving to Blackfalds, Lacombe and [the] Red Deer area… I knew that if the light pillars were out, they would be there because there’s more light pollution.”
Tanner’s hunch was right. She was able to capture stunning images of the vertical line of lights that appeared to be coming down from the sky.
“A lot of people say that it looks alien-like or UFO-like or something out of this world,” she said.
Tanner said she has successfully gone out in search of light pillars for the last three or four years.
“I find that it has to be at least -12 C, -13 C… and colder — the colder the better,” she said. “The ice crystals have to be in the air, and you can see them.
“You can totally see them (ice crystals). A lot of people think it’s snow… a good sign is seeing sundogs or a halo around the sun in the daytime, that’s a good sign that there’s ice crystals there because that what also makes those.”
While many people in central Alberta are anxiously awaiting mercy from Mother Nature after being faced with extremely cold temperatures through the beginning of February, Tanner said she is grateful for the frigid stretch.
“I love it,” she said.
“We absolutely love it. We put on three layers and we go because you can see a lot of things out there. Two weeks ago, we saw moondogs with light pillars with a moon halo with a lunar pillar and with the moon, Venus and Jupiter… all at the same time. And a meteor passed over the top of the moon, all in one shot.”
READ MORE: Stunning pillars of light seen over Ontario
Tanner said she and her partner often venture far off from their home in Alix, Alta., to far-flung places like the Northwest Territories and Iceland, to capture images of northern lights. In the summer, she said they enjoy taking photos of storms.
Watch below: Some videos from Global News’ coverage of northern lights.
According to Global News meteorologist Tiffany Lizée, this optical illusion occurs when man-made light refracts off a cluster of ice crystals in the air.
It is dependent on the type and position of the ice crystals: they must be hexagonal and form low in the atmosphere
The light source needs to be tall — like a streetlight — and the pillar doesn’t necessarily appear directly above the light source.
In order to see this optical illusion, the observer needs to be in just the right spot.
–With files from Global News’ Tiffany Lizée
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