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Shoot for the stars: how to capture the perfect photo of the night sky





Night photography can capture stunning photos of the Milky Way and aurora borealis in all their glory. It can also be tiring, cold and frustrating if you’re not sure what to do. 

Three professional photographers shared their tips with CBC to help amateurs who are hoping to capture their own fabulous photos of the night sky.

Greg Johnson is a photographer, photography teacher and tornado hunter. Johnson is based in Regina and started taking photos in 1997. Ryan Wunsch is also a photographer, photography teacher and storm chaser based in Leader, Sask. He bought his first digital camera in 1999. Before that, he was shooting with film. Amanda Shalovelo is a photographer in Saskatoon. She started night photography at 16 while exploring back roads.

From left: photographers Ryan Wunsch, Greg Johnson, Amanda Shalovelo. (Submitted by Ryan Wunsch/Amanda Shalovelo/Greg Johnson/

What should I know? 

Johnson said it’s important to practice at home before going outside and to dress appropriately.

“It’s dark outside and it’s cold and your patience is thin,” Johnson said, adding that he always prepares his settings before he’s out the door.

“Most people give up far too quickly and generally they give up because they’re cold,” he said. “They just give up because it’s uncomfortable.”

Wunsch shoots with a very wide camera lens and said he looks around for something interesting to put in the foreground of his shots.

Ryan Wunsch said a beginner should figure out how use their histogram. “What I really like for any photography is using my histogram,” Wunsch said. “That gives you a virtual representation of where the darks and the lights are going to be in your photo and how much.” (Submitted by Ryan Wunsch)

For Wunsch, getting the picture levelled properly with such a wide angle lens can be difficult. He suggests using your camera’s internal level. He said he doesn’t use a remote shutter release, opting instead for the two-second delay option because the less camera vibration the better.

Shalovelo said understanding how your camera works with light is key. She said people need to understand three basic components: ISO, shutter speed and the F-stop. Shalovelo also said practice and patience are important in very cold, dark conditions.

“You never know when [the northern lights] will come or what’s going to be around you but it’s definitely worth the wait,” she said. “What you get in the end — it’s crazy.”

Amanda Shalovelo said she started photography after her mother got a DSLR camera when she was 15-years-old. Shalovelo tried the camera once and wanted to know more. (Submitted by Amanda Shalovelo )

What settings do I use?

All three photographers said: 

  • Aperture/F-stop: shoot wide, around F1.4, F.1.8 or as wide as your lens goes. 
  • ISO: keep it high, around 1600 or 3200. 
  • Shutter speed: start with a long shutter of about 30 seconds and adjust as you go along.

“You’ll have to open your shutter speed so the camera can allow as much light as it can for the sensor to capture the image,” Shalovelo said.

Wunsch suggests manually setting your white balance to Tungsten 3200 and that getting your settings right will take time.

Ryan Wunsch said he always likes to look for something interesting in the foreground such as an old building or interesting trees. Pictured here is the Blumenfeld church in southwest Saskatchewan. (Submitted by Ryan Wunsch )

“It’s going to take a lot of trial and error,” he said. “I suggest trying a whole bunch of different settings and then going back home and looking at your pictures and learning from it that way.”

Johnson said for shooting the northern lights, the concepts are the same but you want a faster shutter speed to prevent them from being too blurry. He suggests starting around five seconds and adjusting.

“This gives me northern lights which are, you know, kind of dancing and peaking … lots of interesting definition.”

Do I need a tripod?

Yes. Wunsch, Shalovelo and Johnson all agree you need a sturdy tripod for night photography. 

“If you don’t have a tripod you have zero chance of getting anything good of the night sky,” Johnson said.

Greg Johnson said sometimes he likes to incorporate city lights into his night photographs. “It really depends on the type of image that I’m going for,” he said. (Submitted by Greg Johnson/

Any other advice?

“Putting the camera down on the ground [or] getting it up really high and finding interesting perspectives on a scene,” Johnson said. “That tends to be the best way to take photos from being kind of amateur-looking to pro-looking,” 

“Shoot what you enjoy,” Wunsch said. “Don’t go out there and, you know, find something that you think is going to be popular on Instagram and that everybody is going to like.”

Shalovelo started night photography after driving around back roads as a teenager. She said it was peaceful being surrounded by nature with no distractions. (Submitted by Amanda Shalovelo)

“If you can go and photograph what you like, you’re going to be happier and people who like that kind of photography are going to find you.”

Shalovelo said to look for points of interest such as abandoned houses or churches.

“Anything that no one would think to capture is usually the best thing to capture.”


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‘Too soon to celebrate’ Ottawa’s low case count, says Etches





Ottawa Public Health (OPH) logged just 11 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, the lowest daily total since Sept. 1.

Because of the lag between testing and reporting, the low number could simply reflect low turnout at the city’s testing sites on weekends — all month, new case counts have been lower on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. 

During a virtual news conference Tuesday, the city’s medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches said she doesn’t read too much into a single day’s report.

“I don’t think we can make too much of 11. Actually, it could be a lot higher tomorrow — I would expect that, on average,” she said. “It’s too soon to celebrate.”

Provincewide, public health officials reported 1, 249 new cases Tuesday.

OPH also declared 62 cases resolved Tuesday, lowering the number of known active cases in the city to 462. Two more people have died, both in care homes currently experiencing outbreaks, raising the city’s COVID-19 death toll to 361. 

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Santa Claus isn’t coming to Ottawa’s major malls this year





Santa Claus may still be coming to town this Christmas, but he won’t be dropping by any of Ottawa’s major malls, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Friday, Cadillac Fairview said Santa won’t be making an appearance at any of its 19 malls across Canada, including Rideau Centre in downtown Ottawa. On Tuesday, Bayshore and St. Laurent shopping centres confirmed they, too, are scrapping the annual tradition.

“Due to the evolution of the situation in regards to COVID-19, we have made the difficult decision to cancel our Santa Program and Gift Wrap Program this year,” Bayshore spokesperson Sara Macdonald wrote in an email to CBC.

Macdonald said parent company Ivanhoé Cambridge cancelled all holiday activities “due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases across the country.”

Macdonald said families that had already booked an appointment to visit Santa will receive an email with more information.  

Virtual visits with Santa

Rideau Centre said based on customer research and discussions with public health officials, its North Pole is going online this year.

“Children will be able to have a private chat with Santa,” said Craig Flannagan, vice-president of marketing for Cadillac Fairview. “You’ll also be able to join a 15-minute storytime with Santa over Facebook Live.” 

At Place d’Orléans Shopping Centre, visitors are invited to take a “selfie with Santa” — actually, a life-size cutout of Santa Pierre, the man who’s been playing Santa at the east end mall for years.

“We understand that this is not ideal, but in lieu of this tradition we will be doing what we can to maintain and encourage holiday cheer,” according to a statement on the mall’s Facebook page.

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Ottawa Bylaw breaks up two large parties in Ottawa over the weekend





OTTAWA — Ottawa Bylaw is investigating social gatherings of more than 10 people in private homes across Ottawa last weekend.

Mayor Jim Watson tells Newstalk 580 CFRA that Ottawa Bylaw broke-up two house parties over the weekend, with 20 to 25 people at each party.

“That’s the kind of stupidity that angers me, that’s where the bulk of the transmissions are taking place, if we exclude the tragedy of the long-term care homes; it’s these house parties with unrelated people,” said Watson on Newstalk 580 CFRA’s Ottawa at Work with Leslie Roberts.

“The message doesn’t seem to be getting through, particularly to some young people who think they’re invincible.”

In a statement to CTV News Ottawa, Bylaw and Regulatory Services Director Roger Chapman says, “There are still ongoing investigations from this past weekend that could result in charges.”

Chapman says recent investigations led to two charges being issued for social gatherings of more than 10 people in a private residence in contravention of the Reopening Ontario Act.

“In one case, up to 30 individuals were observed attending a house party in Ward 18 on Oct. 24,” said Chapman.

“The second charge was issued following a house party in Ward 16 on Oct. 31, where up to 16 individuals were observed to be in attendance.”

The fine is $880 for hosting an illegal gathering.

Alta Vista is Ward 18, while Ward 16 is River Ward.

Ottawa Bylaw has issued 24 charges for illegal gatherings since the start of the pandemic.

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