Sept. 22, 2016

Dark Sky Festival Tips and Tricks

The Dark Sky Festival is one of our favourite times of year. As summer turns over into fall, October is the perfect month to visit the Rockies.

It's still warm enough to enjoy the outdoors without too much bundling, and the whole park is painted in shades of red and gold. It's also the perfect time to power down and look up.

If you've never been to Dark Sky Festival before, you're in for an incredible experience.

The night sky that most of us are used to seeing is far from a true dark sky. Because of light pollution, the stars and planets that we can see from the city is only a small fraction of what's really visible from Earth. Jasper, a Dark Sky Preserve, has limited light pollution, giving us an unhindered look at the beauty above.

From October 14 to 23, we celebrate the stars with prominent speakers, bright astronomers and amateur stargazers. Join us for keynotes, family activities and ample opportunities to explore the beauty of a true dark sky.

Make the most of your Dark Sky Experience

So you've bought your tickets to your favourite speakers, sorted out your accommodations... now what? Here are our top tips to help you prepare for and make the most of the festival.

Build your Schedule

There are tons of fun events happening in Jasper on both weekends of the festival, and many of them are free! Check out the full list of events here. Making a schedule is a great way to maximize your weekend, but make sure you leave time for unplanned exploring too.

Free events you can't miss: 

Why Dark Skies Matter on October 15 (1pm) 

Learn about why dark skies are so important, and how Jasper is taking its designation as a Dark Sky Preserve seriously.  More details →

Stargazing with Parks Canada on October 15 (8pm) 

Join interpreters for a beautiful evening under the stars, learning about space through telescopes and binoculars.  More details →

 The Big Bang Expo on October 21 (12pm)

 This event is perfect for families and encourages you to get hands-on with demonstrations, experiments and displays.   More details →

Beyond the Stars on October 21 (8pm) 

Join us at beautiful Lake Annette for the key dark sky experience: stargazing. There are telescopes, activities, and plenty of opportunities to just get lost in wonder. More details →

Pack Smart

Okay, we know that packing isn't very much fun. But packing properly will make sure you're ready for anything that gets thrown at you so you can make the most of your weekend (or weekends!) at the Dark Sky Festival.

The experienced Dark Sky Festival Adventurer's Packing List:

  • Binoculars
  • Warm layers, including: a coat, scarf, mittens and toque (it cools off at night!)
  • Good walking or hiking shoes (for exploring!)
  • Your mobile phone, with offline Google Maps set up (reception can be spotty outside of town) 
  • A hardcopy map (just in case!)
  • Your schedule 
  • A notebook and pen for jotting down cool facts, constellation sketches, and notes from speaking events
  • Snacks for during the day (check out awesome local restaurants for meals)

Look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see, and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious.

Practice Dark Sky Photography

There's nothing cooler than those amazing night sky photos (like the ones filling up this page!) but they're tricky to master. We've all tried to capture the gorgeous, textured moon and ended up with a weird blurry glow. Not so beautiful. Part of the problem with shooting in the dark is that you need to have a slower shutter speed, so that your camera has more time to take in the limited light available.

Getting the exposure right in the dark can be difficult... but luckily there are a few easy ways to up your photography game, even if you're just an amateur:

Smartphone Tips 

  • To effect shutter speed, get the iPhone app Slow Shutter Cam ($1.19). 
  • For android, try Camera FV5 Lite (Free) 
  • Avoid using a flash at all times, and the HDR setting tends to slow down the speed of your camera.
  • Avoid your digital zoom as tempting as it may be, the zoom will compromise the quality of the photo. 

DSLR Tips 

  • Exposure should sit around 15–25 sec, longer than 30 sec can start to show very small star trails. 
  • Set white balance to tungsten or fluorescent (auto balance tends to create an orange night sky) 
  • Shoot your photos in raw format to preserve editing capabilities.

Want to learn more? Sign up for the 2 Day Photography Workshop on October 21 and 22nd. 

Come to Jasper Dark Sky Festival

Ready to plan your Dark Sky adventure? Find all the details you need at

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