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My Love/Hate Relationship with the Aurora

8 Mar
Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) seen over Colville Lake in December, 2012.

Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) seen over Colville Lake in December, 2012. This is one of roughly five aurora photos that I’ve ever taken in my entire life on this planet.

*Note: Please take this post with a grain of salt, it is intended to give you a chuckle more than anything. 

I can’t stand aurora photos. There, I said it. Anyone who knows me well, knows that pictures of those waving green globs of goo drive me up the wall. I’m not exactly sure when it happened, but I know it was sometime shortly after my first few months in Yellowknife. I recall being asked to judge an “Aurora Photo Contest” for some ad agency and they wanted my opinion. At first, I was captivated. What beauty! What glorious angels could harken such lights to appear ‘cross our blissful night sky? I swear that Eros, himself, was playing ten thousand flutes just for me! I looked at another. And then another. And then another. And one more still. And more after that. This continued for over 3 hours and I think Eros and the angels said “Screw it, we’re outta here” because the beauty and wonder was completely and totally lost. At the end of that session, I couldn’t look at another aurora photo – it became unbearable.

Fast forward a few weeks after that, as I was settling into my new job as photo editor at Up Here Magazine, a general interest publication that covers Canada’s Far North. I would often ask photographers for pitches: “Send me some work and your ideas – I’d love to see what you have!” And there it started again. Slowly but surely aurora photos would creep into my emails. Aspiring photographers would show up with portfolios full of aurora photos. And worst of all, during our annual photo contest, my inbox would be absolutely flooded with the unsightly pictures!

Green blobs with trees at the bottom.

Green blobs with trees at the bottom.

Over and over and over again, they continued to pile in.

Wasn’t there anything else in this beautiful, spectacular North that people could photograph? What about the people? The culture? Anything but this godforsaken aurora! And then, after several thousand aurora photos, I became numb. My inner aurora had faded.


Roughly seven months ago I decided to try the life of a freelancer. It was time to move on and really challenge myself. So far it’s been a great ride and I’ve worked with some great clients both locally and nationally that I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. But the aurora stigma has a way of rearing its ugly head, even when things are hunky-dory because just a few weeks ago I got “The Request”:

“Hi, we really love your work – do you have any aurora photos?”

“Could this really be happening?”, I thought.

“Um, well I do but not very many,” I said.

“Well, we really want to show people what the North is like, and an aurora picture would be perfect,” the voice on the other line said.

“I’ll check my archives and see what I can dig up for you,” I said.

And that was it, my first (and probably last) aurora request from that client. So I guess the joke was on me. For whatever reason, for whatever purpose, those pictures of green goo really resonate with people. It is what the Statue of Liberty is to New York or the Eiffel Tower is to Paris. The aurora is loved around the world, and for that I must step back and graciously accept defeat.

People have asked me if I actually and truly hate the aurora, and my answer is of course not. I guess for me, the magic of the aurora doesn’t happen when I haul out a clunky tripod and fiddle around with my camera and look at it on my computer. Sometimes you just gotta look up, take it all in, and be totally awestruck and happy with where you are in the world.

My Tips for Aurora Photography

  • Go outside when the aurora is out
  • Stick your camera on a tripod (make sure you have a camera that lets you manually set the shutter speed)
  • Point your camera at a bunch of trees and make sure the aurora is above those trees
  • Take a 10-30 second exposure as the lights “paint” themselves onto your camera’s sensor
  • Be amazed at: A) How cool it looks, and B) How frigging easy that was

Yellowknife to Dawson City and Back Again

17 Sep

The Dempster Highway, Yukon.

Most people wouldn’t consider driving across Northern Canada for their honeymoon, but me and my wife (and most Northerners I know) aren’t like most people. For 12 days, we drove more than 5,000 kms across 2 territories and 1 province. Along the way we saw caribou, moose and sheep, camped in scenic campgrounds, shopped in quirky stores, visited good friends and meandered through some of the most stunning landscapes in North America.

If you get the chance, we recommend this trip – the Alaska Highway, the Northern Rocky Mountains, the Dempster Highway and the Top of the World Highway were all highlights. I don’t normally take many landscape photos but I couldn’t really help myself on this trip, the views were just too nice not to photograph. Pretty sure by our last day Heidi had enough of all the pull-overs we made. Still, these pics don’t really do any justice to what you see in person. You have to experience it yourself.

PS – 99% of these shots were taken either out my car window or just off the highway. It goes to show you just how scenic this drive is. Enjoy!

Our route: South-West from YK to the Mackenzie Hwy to the Liard Hwy. South to the Alaska Hwy (British Columbia). West to Whitehorse to the Klondike Hwy, north to Dawson City. Turn around and come back.

Bison on the Liard Highway.

The Liard River at Blackstone Territorial Park.

Tetsa River.

Stone Sheep.

Toad River gas station, only $1.59/litre!

Over 8,000 hats in the Toad River restaurant.

Aquamarine river – not sure why the colour is like this.

The Liard Hotsprings (under construction).

Nugget City, population: this sign.


Whitehorse walking trail.

Friends Katharine, Terry, Arthur and Wilbur’s home at Marsh Lake, Yukon.

Our cozy accommodations at Marsh Lake.

Stewart Crossing, Yukon. This is the food store, in case you were wondering.

Northern flair.

Best stop on the Klondike Highway.


Near Dawson City, along the Klondike Hwy.

Dawson City, Yukon.

Dawson storefronts.

“The Slide”

Dawson-style graffiti.

Today’s menu.

The Yukon River.

The Top of the World Highway – really tough to capture how epic these views are. The highway literally runs at the top of a mountain and overlooks mountains everywhere. It was a bit nerve-wracking driving so close to such a steep drop.

Weird photo. The sun was partly out and shining on the trees in the foreground while all the mountains in the background were in the shade. Looks like a bad Photoshop job!

The Dempster Highway at Tombstone Territorial Park. We missed the fall colours by a few days but I like these with the snow.

Tombstone range.

Tombstone Territorial Park.

Saw RV’s from California and as far away as Florida.

Back at Moose Creek for breakfast, heading back to YK.

Heidi, super-pumped for her bacon and eggs.

Five Finger Rapids.

Free Gold Road, Carcross, Yukon.

Forest fire area, Klondike Hwy.

Lake Laberge.

Northern Rockies Lodge, Muncho Lake, B.C.

Muncho Lake flight sked.

Float plane on Muncho Lake, photo taken with iPhone.

Restaurant at Northern Rockies Lodge, most of woodwork and carvings – including the huge map on the wall – all custom made. Yellowknife really needs a place like this.

Cabins at Muncho.

Northern Rockies along the Alaska Hwy, photo by Heidi Kane.

Near Toad River.

Our deer friend (get it?)

View along the Alaska Hwy.


21 Feb

Master of Ceremonies, Heidi Raulin, as Ursula Von Icebergs

The second annual Brrrlesque show takes place this weekend here in Yellowknife and the town is a buzzin’. Last year’s show was such a hit that this year’s sold out in seven minutes! It is especially cool to see a burlesque revival taking place here in the North, and you can expect it to be like the shows of yesteryear: full of parody, comedy, music, dance, and of course, hot chicks. I’m personally looking forward to it and proud of all the hard work these ladies have put into this. And on that note, I present to you the stars of the show, the women of Brrrlesque!

Amber George as Lemon Locks

Jill Peterson as Ginger Demure

Jessica Florio as Luscious Lynxie

Andrea Edmunds as GG Delicia

Lulu and Lolah Spanx

Erika Nyyssonen as Gracey Finass

Mardel Johnson as Belle Gin Fizz

Becky Davis as Lily Mae Dawgwood

Aingeal Stone as LuLa Sivious

Anne Marie Guedon as Amaryllis Lafleur

Margaret Bell as Sassparilla Honeypotts

Mary Tapsell as Ivonna MacDeluv

Meta Antolin as Cyn Isterwich

Sara Murphy as Lady Labrador

Sarah Elsasser as Eva Knievel

Tara Newbigging as Onyx Fire

Kate Witherly as Kiki Kincaid

Kayla Cooper as Katerina Almaz

Kimberley Galbaransingh as Handsy Coppafeel

Paco Greau as Manzelle Olila Folie

Kelly Merilees-Keppel as Mistress Sparkles Bandersnatch

Nicole Garbutt as Lucy Caboose

Michelle Hannah as Inés Capable

Let Me Introduce Myself. Again.

23 Jun

Just did a presentation at the Northern Communicators Forum here in YK. I’m too chicken to actually give a live presentation so I figured I’d do a narrated slideshow instead. Seems to have worked out okay and I thought it’d be a nice addition to my website’s bio page. Always good to let people know as much as about you as possible in the photo biz. Enjoy!
Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Patrick Kane Photographer“, posted with vodpod

Photo Show, March 6 @ Snowcastle

18 Feb

For 5 years, I’ve been lucky and humbled enough to have travelled to some pretty cool places I never imagined I’d see. More importantly, I’ve met some incredible people who live amazing lives in the most remote part of the world: The North. 

On Saturday, March 6,  I invite everyone to come see the people and places of Canada’s Arctic. This collection of photography celebrates the diversity of people and ideals that span our three territories. Hopefully my photos take you North too; to hear the stories of the people who call it home.

Exhibit to take place at the Snowcastle, March 6th from noon-5pm. *Viewer discretion: there will be some images of subsistence/commercial hunting that may be disturbing to younger children.

Photogs I Like

15 Jul

Some of the people who inspire me (or so I like to think)…

Helene Cyr

Picture 4

Erika Larsen

Picture 5

Arianna Lindquist

Picture 12

David Alan Harvey

Picture 6

Lynn Johnson

Picture 2

Steve McCurry

Picture 1

Joe McNally

Picture 11

Amy Toensing

Picture 10

Ryan McGinley

Picture 7

Fritz Hoffmann

Picture 9

Dan Winters

Picture 3

Ed Kashi

Picture 8

Giant Con Vid

6 Jul

My buddy Jay Bulckaert ( just shot a video for the YK indie band, Giant Con. Here’s their site with their music and other stuff: Anyway, needless to say it was a pretty great feeling to get principal shooting done. I helped Jay as executive producer/grip guy/idea dude/hired goon. The whole process really opened my eyes to the amount of time and effort it takes to shoot a short film. One thing to note: we shot this video, which is to be a 30-minute period piece about Yellowknife in the 1940’s, with less than $2,000 and about 40 actors. We received donations and props and food from local businesses and associations – a testament to what kind of place Yellowknife is. Thanks to:

The NWT Mining Heritage Society/The Rocher Family/Javaroma/all the local businesses and people who threw us a couple bucks/friends and family and actors who helped out.

Drunky Drunk Drunk

19 Jun

My coworker at Up Here Magazine, Tim Querengesser, did an article about the drinking lifestyle here in the North and it’s caused a bit of a backlash.

Here’s his article

Anyway, I was out with another friend the other day and I ran into a few bar-owners/managers all getting wasted on a Tuesday night. The conversation went something like this.

  • Bar Owner: “That Up Here Magazine article was sho shtupid. Dint even make shense. Whos this guy shinks he is – comin ‘ere tellin’ us we gots a drinkin’ problem in tha North?!”
  • Me (thinking): “Is this the definition of ironic?”

Anyway, aside from that we also ran a photo of someone having a good, responsible time with alcohol, friends and family and this person’s flipped out and is threatening to sue. She thinks people will think she’s a drunk. We probably should have captioned that photo better but we were only trying to show that, yes, there is a positive side to boozing.

Tim writes:

“Considering the hurt booze seems to cause to Behchoko, it seems uncouth to suggest alcohol is also a positive part of Northern life. But it’s kind of true. To understand why people drink, you first have to ask why they wouldn’t. It’s a question I find easy to answer. Truthfully, in the North, there are few reasons not to drink, especially during winter. Having moved North of Sixty three times, on each occasion I’ve found community in groups loosely connected through drinking. Arriving in Yellowknife in the summer of 2008 was the same. I immediately fell into the party circuit, making friends beside campfires while drinking beer.”

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