2014 Northern Lights Photography Workshop

October 29, 2013 | | Comments 0


Churchill Northern Studies Center, Canada

February 26 – March 4, 2014

Aurora Over The Trees Of Churchill ManitobaWatching the Aurora Borealis dance across the night sky is amazing. Capturing great photographs of this magical phenomena is an even more rewarding experience. I am delighted to announce that my good friend, Dr. Jim Halfpenny, and I will be leading another Northern Lights Photography Workshop up to Churchill, Manitoba again this March.

This trip is a photographic expedition to a remote part of the world. We are going to Churchill because Churchill is one of the rare places on Earth where some level of Auroral activity is visible almost every night. The Northern Lights are best photographed from places where the world is still cold and dark. Space on our photography workshop is very limited but there is still room for a few more photographers who are eager to watch the night sky and to learn more about photographing in a world of snow and ice.

Aurora above the Churchill Northern Studies CentreEarly March is a time when the sun sets slowly at the edge of the Arctic. Up at 59* 45′ north, the sun does not drop vertically below the horizon in March. Instead the sun moves through a long, graceful arc shallowly angling below the horizon each night at this time of year. This long arc creates extended periods of blue and purple twilight light. With such long twilights, followed by long dark nights, we will have plenty of time to practice a variety of sunset and night photography techniques.

We have picked the first week of March for our workshop to avoid excess moonlight. A big bright moon can drown out a faint Aurora and makes it harder to get great photographs of the night sky. There will be daily lectures on digital photography techniques, on the science of auroras, and on life in the polar regions in between our nightly photo shoots. Expect to come away from our expedition as an aficionado of all things Arctic.

Photography lecture topics include working with high ISO settings, proper exposure for night photography, time-lapse photography techniques, and how to shoot safely out in the cold. David Marx will also demonstrate image processing techniques with Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. We will also spend some time exploring the Eskimo Museum, the Parks Canada Visitor Center, and have ample opportunities to enjoy the northern culture.

The Science Behind The Northern Lights

Auroras are created when charged particles collide with the Earth’s atmosphere. When solar flares erupt from the surface of our sun, high energy particles are thrown out into our solar system. When these particles collide with the gases in our upper atmosphere their energy can be transformed into rays of light. When billions of these collisions happen at the same time they produce the waves and colors of the Northern Lights.

Our photography workshop is headed to the Churchill Northern Studies Centre (CNSC) because it places us directly under the Auroral Oval. Churchill, this tiny little outpost at the edge of the Arctic, is perfectly placed at a latitude where the lights shimmer across the sky with great frequency. The Auroral Oval is a statistical construct that measures the probability of observing the Northern Lights. If you live in Florida, the probability of witnessing an incredible Auroral display is less than 1% even when there is a lot of solar activity but up in Churchill though that probability climbs to nearly 100%.

Workshop Leaders

Illuminated Igloo and AuroraDavid Marx loves photographing landscapes and the night sky. David has been teaching digital photography and digital image processing software since 2002. Over the years, David has taught digital photography programs for the Rocky Mountain School of Photography, the American Society of Media Photographers, FirstLight Photography Workshops, and the Bob Marshall Wilderness Institute at the University of Montana. David’s entertaining teaching style works well for photography students of all skill levels.

Dr. Jim Halfpenny is a true polar explorer as well as a scientist, author, and fantastic educator. He has worked in both polar regions and this fall he completed his 24rd year of teaching classes up at the CNSC. Jim is a former Director of the Mountain Research Station. He was a Research Fellow of the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research (University of Colorado), and he is a Fellow of the Explorer’s Club and recipient of the Antarctic Service Medal from the U.S. Navy. Click here to see some of Jim’s fantastic Aurora Borealis photos and Northern Lights time-lapse videos. You can learn more about Dr. Halfpenny’s work at and

Workshop Details


Aurora Borealis Over A Frozen LakeThe Churchill Northern Studies Centre (CNSC) where we will be staying is located about 20 miles east of the town of Churchill, Manitoba. The Centre is an active research station for scientific experiments and it provides dormitory living including bunk rooms and cafeteria-style food. Accommodations are spartan but warm and comfortable. This is not a luxury hotel but it is charming and one of the best places in the world for this kind of photography workshop. The CNSC even has a heated observatory dome on the roof and platforms specifically designed for night photography!

Although Churchill is known for its polar bears, their presence is a fall phenomena. Polar bears congregate in Churchill in the late fall while they are waiting for the Hudson Bay to freeze. In March, the bears should be out on the pack ice hunting for seals so we will not see them.

Again, timing is critical for this workshop. When the Hudson Bay has open water it can produce dense fog. In March though, when the Bay is frozen, there are fewer fog banks and thus a much higher probability for clear night skies. We cannot make guarantees about the weather or the Aurora but last year’s workshop was treated to great light shows almost every night. Arctic storms can roll through at any time but all of the signs point to March 2014 as high point for serious photographers with a passion for the Northern Lights.


This is not a winter survival workshop. If all goes well then we will never be far from a heated vehicle or a warm building. But we are going to the edge of the Arctic and we will be outside late into the night. It is not uncommon to see temperatures up here well below zero. Exposed skin invites frostbite when the temperature plummets or the wind blows. Photographing in these conditions requires additional equipment and preparation. We will provide detailed suggestions on how to dress for success in this climate later but it can be done and the results can be incredibly rewarding.

Workshop Price

Cost: $3500* (US) includes roundtrip airfare from Winnipeg to Churchill

Minimum of 7 participants and a maximum group size of 12

*Our workshop fee includes your lodging and transportation expenses for the week however this fee does not include airfare to and from your home up to Winnipeg. Rooms at the Churchill Northern Studies Centre (CNSC) are double occupancy. Whenever possible we will match you with a spouse, friend, or suitable companion. Our meals at the CNSC are included in the workshop fee but personal extras, spirits, and gratuities are not included.

You will be sent a briefing packet with more details upon registration. For additional information about the trip logistics please contact Jim Halfpenny at 406-848-9458 or via email at

To reserve your spot please visit

Aurora Time-Lapse Videos From Last Winter’s Northern Lights Photography Workshop

Great photos of the Northern Lights are stunning but to truly understand the magic of this phenomena it helps to see it in motion. Check out these short time-lapse clips that we captured last winter during our workshop at the CNSC.

2013 Northern Lights Photography Workshop Slideshow

Our participants captured some superb photographs of the Aurora and our travels in Churchill. We are proud of their work and hope that you will enjoy seeing some of it in this brief slideshow.


Filed Under: Lightroom Classes and Photography Workshops


About the Author: David Marx teaches digital photography workshops and Adobe Photoshop Lightroom training classes. David is an Adobe Certified Expert in Photoshop Lightroom and in Adobe Photoshop. David has lead workshops and seminars for the Rocky Mountain School of Photography, the American Society of Media Photographers, FirstLight Photography Workshops, and he teaches annually at the world-famous Blackberry Farm Resort. For more information on his Photoshop Lightroom training seminars and digital photography field workshops please visit You can also follow daily updates and see new images from David on Google+.

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