570km driving north, 3 day window, a 3 year on-going photo shoot, northern lights and spring snowboarding. When all of these factors finally came together my friend Gabe Rivest and I found ourselves driving 7 hours north to the famous Dempster Highway to find some end of season snow and northern lights. With the potential of northern lights being active we were wishing that the Tombstone Mtn Range would deliver great weather, allowing us to finally get the northern lights snowboarding images. After trying over the past 3 winters I was getting very anxious to nail these images, hence the last minute trip to the Tombstones.
We arrived in the early afternoon to be greeted with a warm 5°C and a beautiful blue sky filled with a warm sun that seemed to bump up the temperature up another 10°. Gabe and I set up shop and ended up finding a great location just above the Tombstone lookout and ended up building a quarter pipe with the slushy spring snow, so that come midnight it would firm up giving us a perfect feature for the lights. While waiting for 10pm sunset Gabe and I enjoyed the afternoon sun with some fun in the sun snowboarding accompanied by an enjoyable sunset on the Tombstone Valley.
After all of the fun in the sun we ended back at the cook shack to set-up camp and wait for the lights to appear. After a long day driving and then enjoying sweet rays of sunshine, sleep was looking very comfortable and with no light activity, very tempting. Gabe ended up peeking his head out the door at 1am and saw a little action so we ended up jumping on it, and a few minutes later we were trudging through knee deep snow racing towards the car as the sky was lit up and dancing all around us. After 3 years we were doing it, everything was ready, our feature was iced up and the lights were dancing. Once we arrived I set-up the flashes and tripod and camera and Gabe began to get warmed up on the feature. With the snow now frozen over Gabe’s in-run was as icy as could be and dark as the only light we had was placed towards the quarter-pipe for him to be able to jump properly. Gabe was one of the best models I have worked with as he was getting bruised by the icy conditions and lack of light but the images were stunning! Better than I could have imagined. As easy as the shoot sounded we ended up having to wait patiently for the light shows as the lights were fading in and out over the course of an hour and a half, which is not that uncommon. Luckily with all of the waiting I was able to snap a few beautiful shots of the lights dancing through the night, while Gabe would walk back up the hill for the next round.
For the images, I ended up setting up my Canon 5d Mark II on a Gitzo tripod with a shutter release cable. I synched my 2 Canon flashes with Pocket Wizard Multi-Max’s during the 15-30 exposures. The flashes hiccuped on me a a few times but luckily we ended up getting some great images, and Gabe ended up walking away with a nicely bruised body!
After a later evening and finally hitting the hay just after 3am, we ended up enjoying some sleep and were ready to plan our next day. We went out for a quick hike around to see what the snow conditions were like and after sinking in our snowshoes and splitboard we threw out the idea of hiking a beautiful north facing ridge and ended up going for a drive further down the Dempster Hwy to find something else. It was challenging to find something doable with just snowshoes and Gabe’s splitboard as most of the south facing faces were completely dried up of snow and the heavily snow packed north slopes were a long trek through the slush. However we ended up finding a beautiful line on Angelcomb Peak on km 81 along the Dempster Hwy. We jumped out of the car and started our climb through the knee/hip deep soft snow, through the alpine tundra, back to hard pack snow, rocks until finally making it to the top. The best part of this grueling hike was lugging 40lbs of camera gear and a snowboard up there! As much as I complain about the deep snow and the steep rock climbs it was absolutely remarkable.
A long and steep way down!
Gabe's dog Taiga even joined us on the hike, and made it down the face once Gabe was done!!
'Sitting on Top of the World'
Big looming rocks, steep lines, fresh snow equate to a beautiful view with the Ogilvie Mtns in the backdrop!
Although the lower and lower we went the snow turned rotten and heavy but Gabe was still able to find some fresh powder pockets
Blue-bird cliff drops! Who would have thought they can be found in the Yukon
I ended up setting my 300mm lens up, on a remote camera way off in the distance to get a second angle of Gabe
9:30pm sunset tailgrab sequences in the Ogilvie Mountains
After a nice and close toe edge hand drag into the sunset Gabe and I made it off the mtn at around 10:30pm and headed back to the cook shack for an evening of northern lights. After the first day we had the images we came to get and after the second day we had come away with dozens of incredible images, and still 3 days later we are just coming down. Heading to the Tombstones we knew we had a good chance of getting the images we wanted but little did we know just how amazing it ended up being!