Photo: Ryan Dickie

Topics: December 2020, Ethical Living | Society

Dene photographer captures the spirit of the Northern Lights

Ryan Dickie's "Naa’kah" photo series depicts his own personal and cultural connection to the lights


Ryan Dickie has been watching the northern lights since he was a child in Fort Nelson, B.C., where he still lives. His house faces north, so when he sees the skies lighting up through his window, he can quickly grab his camera and jump into his truck.

Dickie captures the area near Fort Nelson (bottom right), including Folded Mountain (bottom left). It helps him reconnect with his ancestry and nature.

His community, the Dene people, call the lights naa’kah, and Dickie grew up knowing they were his ancestors dancing above him. “When you witness a northern lights display rippling and dancing and moving around overhead, it’s pretty hard not to think on a spiritual level,” Dickie says. “Sometimes the way it affects you is kind of unexplainable.”

To the Dene people, the northern lights mean ancestors are looking down.

Dickie’s series Naa’kah is the result of over four years of chasing these lights. He usually heads to the outskirts of town around midnight between late August and the middle of October, when the skies are most active, and he uses a long exposure to capture the patterns. “In the wintertime when everything is blanketed with snow and the moonlight,” says Dickie, “you feel a sense of awareness and connection.”


Dickie takes a lot of his photos at midnight.


This story originally appeared in our December 2020 issue of Broadview

Amy van den Berg is a writer based in Northern Ontario

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