‘Incredibly grateful’: Island photographer captures northern lights from Lantzville beach

Photo: Julie Boyer
Nanaimo-based photographer Julie Boyer captured this photo of aurora borealis, or the northern lights, from a beach in Lantzville, Monday, Sept. 18, 2023.

Photographer Julie Boyer had her eyes on the skies and was in for a spectacle when aurora borealis was visible from one of Vancouver Island’s sandy shores.

On Monday around 9 p.m., she and a group of friends headed to the beach in Lantzville, north of Nanaimo, to capture photos and videos of the northern lights because they were forecast to be highly visible.

“I feel incredibly grateful that we actually got to see them,” Boyer told CHEK News, marvelling at her footage showing purple and green hues. She was equipped with just her smartphone, which has an astrophotography app.

“The forecast was for a cloudy evening,” she said. “I could see that the probability [of seeing the lights] was very, very high because of the storm, but the chance of seeing them seemed to be a zero per cent chance because of the clouds.”

She sent the footage to CHEK News, and you can watch it here:

“It was just so fun. I was with a few friends, and to share that with friends makes it even more exciting than if I was just there by myself,” the self-proclaimed “phone photographer” said in an interview Wednesday.

Karun Thanjavur, a senior astronomy lab instructor with the University of Victoria, told CHEK News earlier this summer that a nearing 11-year solar cycle would make the dancing lights more visible in southern regions, including the Island.

“It’s all connected to activity on the sun,” said Thanjavur at the time. “Many more sunspots are happening, very large sunspots, and that is what’s giving rise to the solar activity and what we call a coronal mass ejection.”

Coronal mass ejections are explosive outbursts from the sun, according to the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research. If the outbursts collide with the earth’s magnetosphere, which is an invisible bubble around the planet that protects from the sun’s radiation, it results in the northern lights.

Boyer usually captures photos of sunrises, so to have her camera out and ready at night was a new feat that helped expand her portfolio. CHEK News previously spoke with her in August after she took photos of a meteor shower.

“I’m primarily a sunrise photographer. So every day, I head to the beach in Nanaimo, usually the lagoon or Departure Bay, for the sunrise,” she exclaimed. “Then I go for an ocean dip.”

Boyer is happy to call the Island home and says she’ll be back on the beach tomorrow, ready to capture more photos of the sunrise over the Salish Sea.

“You got it!” she added.

The Canadian Space Agency has northern lights viewing tips online, and those who missed out Monday may be in luck as the University of Alaska’s aurora forecast remains “active” for parts of Canada.

-with files from CHEK’s Mackenzie Read

Ethan Morneau

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