This summer, two Vancouver Aquarium staffers are visiting communities in Canada’s Arctic. Eric Solomon, director of the Aquarium’s Arctic Programs, and Neil Fisher, Aquarium photographer and videographer, will share their perspectives on people, places and experiences as they learn more about changes taking place in this region. This fourth installment is written by Neil Fisher.
This post is for all photographers out there, and as well as for those who enjoy good photography. Many of you might be familiar with the concept of “magic hour” – that magical time in the day when the sun is just about to tumble behind the horizon and the western sky explodes with reds, oranges, and pinks; the eastern sky becomes a perfectly even mid-toned blue; and everything still within the sun’s reach glows a brilliant orange.
In a place like Vancouver, “magic hour” is often marked by a chaotic rush of photographers, swarming like ants on a spilt slurpee, to the most popular locations: Coal Harbour, Light House Park, and English Bay to name a few. I would argue that this migration of photographers is so hectic for two reasons – the relatively few cloud- and rain-free evenings here, and the short duration of magic hour, which can literally just last for an hour. But what if there was a place where that “magic hour” became “magic day”?
According to Environment Canada’s weather site, in Cambridge Bay last Thursday, the sun rose at 3:08 a.m. and set at 11:05 p.m. Those times were completely accurate too, as I was wide awake for both times with camera in hand. Even though the sun doesn’t set until close to midnight, it sits patiently just above the horizon for a good four hours or so before slipping away.
The reverse occurs in the mornings. The sun quickly rises, popping out from behind Mt. Pelee in the east, then sits waiting just above the horizon for a few hours before streaking across the sky. This daily solar commute creates an entire day of “magic hour,” which means there is no huge rush to find that unique angle or perfect subject. You can take time composing a frame, trying different angles, or driving ten miles across the tundra to find a herd of muskox that is properly lit. Of course, as amazing as this twelve hours of golden light may seem, it’s important to remember that the opposite occurs during the winter months when the Arctic slips into almost complete darkness.
But before you start packing your worldly possessions and heading north, be aware that the amazing sun up here has one tiny, nasty, buzzing, blood-sucking side-effect. The Arctic tundra is by no means a dry place; the frozen ground is much like the water-proof lining found on cupid statues in elaborate gardens, easily allowing water to collect and pool. Combine countless lakes and puddles with the warmth of the constant summer sun, and you’ve got the perfect mosquito breeding environment. The sun-heated puddles and lakes are the ideal place for aquatic mosquito larva to grow. At this moment, a quick count reveals 27 mosquito bites on my right hand and 33 on my left.
There may be nearly total darkness during the winter months, and the summer may bring you the opportunity to easily squish a good 20 mosquitoes with one smack to your arm, but the photos speak for the beauty of this place.