IT ISN’T EASY to admit, but I’m still afraid of the dark. Every time I go night shooting, I swap fresh batteries into my headlamp. It’s my emergency beacon. During 30-second exposures, my imagination wanders to thoughts of charging grizzly bears and stalking mountain lions. When the shutter finally closes, my headlamp snaps me back to reality.
I’ve never encountered a single animal on a night shoot, and I’ve been on plenty since Jasper National Park became a Royal Astronomical Society of Canada “dark sky preserve” in 2011.
The designation not only recognizes Jasper’s night skies as southwestern Canada’s best viewing platform but aims to protect them, too. Dark sky preserves exist to guard nocturnal wildlife habitat and quality night sky viewing. Lights won’t be switched off, but Parks Canada, local businesses, and residents are encouraged to adopt responsible lighting strategies to prevent artificial light from creeping skyward and creating the orange-haze effect known as light pollution. Tourism Jasper’s role is to promote both the best star gazing areas, like Pyramid Lake and the Athabasca Glacier, and the annual Dark Sky Festival, which takes place in October.