Northern lights photos represent hope for Sask. photographers

Sask. photographer Dre Erwin and his friend Jon Ray recently photographed an illuminating display of northern lights in northern Saskatchewan. The pair say photography has a therapeutic effect and the photos represent hope.

"That probably was one of the most amazing northern lights shows that we've seen," said photographer Dre Erwin

Dre Erwin and Jon Ray photographed the northern lights near Pinehouse, Sask. (Dre Erwin/Dre Erwin Photography)

Earlier this week, two Saskatchewan photographers shared an experience they will not soon forget.

Dre Erwin and Jon Ray photographed an illuminating northern lights display near Pinehouse, Sask., a village west of La Ronge.

"I think that probably was one of the most amazing northern lights shows that we've seen, at least the top five,"  Erwin told told CBC Radio's Saskatchewan Weekend.

Erwin says photographing the northern lights is unpredictable, and he's been left waiting in the cold for hours with nothing to show for it. 

That was not the case on this particular night. 

Dre Erwin and Jon Ray say photography has a therapeutic effect on them because it allows them to connect with nature and find hope in their photos. (Dre Erwin/Dre Erwin Photography)

"What stands out to me is the period of time we were waiting and not knowing if the lights were going to show, and then all of a sudden the entire sky lit up," said Erwin.

 "Having seen these lights, to me, represents hope, represents positivity, and for us it's so fun to be out there as a team looking at these pictures and experiencing it," he said.

Photography has had a therapeutic effect for Erwin, who got into photography a few years ago when he was dealing with personal struggles. 

"While I was going through some of this pain, I would often drive by this old barn off in the distance in a farmers field," said Erwin.

He dusted off a camera that was sitting on his shelf and tried his hand at photography. 

 As he found peace photographing the aging barn, a storm rolled in. 

"These are the kind of pictures photographers dream about getting. This was the first time I've ever been out and I'm getting these pictures. It was very exciting. I can't explain how happy I was at the time," he said. 

Dre Erwin and Jon Ray say this was one of the best northern lights displays they have ever seen. (Dre Erwin Photography)

As the storm got closer, Erwin's happiness quickly turned to panic as he realized a tornado was developing.

"I remember running with my tripod and my camera and thinking to myself, I'm too young to die. I've got so much to live for," he said. 

Erwin eventually made it back to his truck, and when the skies started to clear he connected the storm with pain he was going through and the clearing skies represented hope.

Photography provides safe haven

Ray said photography has had a healing effect on him as well. 

After growing up around alcoholism, Ray said taking photos has become a safe haven for him.

"I started to drink at a really young age, following in my parents' footsteps, and when I met [Erwin] just recently, I started taking pictures and almost everything went away," he said. 

"It makes me want to keep doing it more and inspire other people," said Ray.

Erwin said he has teaching photography to some of the young people in Pinehouse as well.

"Some of the youth were coming to me and telling me how photography and seeing the northern lights helped them deal with their anxiety and their depression," said Erwin. 

"I realized at that time if photography can help me, and photography can help them, then photography can really help anyone," he said.

With files from CBC Radio's Saskatchewan Weekend