Skiing Under the Aurora, Yukon, Canada

Photograph by Reuben Krabbe

“The trick with these images is that they're taken in complete darkness,” says skier Tobin Seagel, shown here in front of the northern lights in the Yukon's Tombstone Range. “The flash goes off for a fraction of a second—not long enough for your eyes to even notice. Imagine skiing into a line and you can't see anything!”

Seagel and photographer Reuben Krabbe departed from their base camp after a late dinner to capture this shot. “It took a lot of effort to put the boots back on in the cold after a long ski day and tour 45 minutes out to where we wanted to ski,” says Seagel, who lives in Squamish, British Columbia. The duo skied and shot for around three hours. Each attempt to capture the photo took around 40 minutes to set up. “Despite the minus 30ºC cold, it was easy to stay out under the aurora—one of the most indelible experiences I've ever had.”

Getting the Shot

“This single photograph of a skier and the aurora was the reason for a trip to these mountains,” says photographer Reuben Krabbe, who had been thinking about this photo for several years. “The Tombstone Mountains lie right underneath the ideal latitude for the aurora, so it offered a great place to try to capture this dream image.”

Just getting on location was a challenge. “When flying into the Tombstones our ski plane almost crashed, so we had to circle back to the airport, forcing us to walk for two days with 150 pounds of gear each. And when we finally got on the mountains, the avalanche conditions were terrifying,” says Krabbe.

Using long exposures, Krabbe constantly adjusted his lighting as the aurora light fluctuated. With a strobe set up below the skier’s mark, Krabbe was ready to trigger the strobe after a 20-second exposure, hoping Seagel would hit his mark while skiing practically blind in the dark.

The pair headed back to base camp at 2:30 a.m. thinking they didn't get the shot. It was only when Krabbe opened the file on his computer that he knew he’d captured the image he’d been hunting for years.

“I feel as though the chances of aligning all the factors—the aurora, clear skies, moonless night, south-facing perspective, aligning light levels when they are always changing, time of night, snow quality, and a skier—is like winning the lottery,” recalls Krabbe.

Krabbe photographed with a Nikon D700 and 17-35mm lens, along with two pocket wizards and an SB-800 Nikon strobe.

Follow Krabbe on Instagram (@reubenkrabbe), Twitter (@reubenkrabbe), or Facebook (@reubenkrabbephotography).