Ryan's Journal

"My life amounts to no more than one drop in a limitless ocean. Yet what is any ocean, but a multitude of drops?" — David Mitchell

My Friend Aurora

Posted from North of Fairbanks, Alaska at 9:44 pm, January 10th, 2018

We’ve started on phase two of this trip, moving from our temporary home in downtown Fairbanks to the Aurora Borealis Lodge on a ridge twenty miles outside of the city. Without any city lights the aurora is visible across the northern sky, and we’ve had two straight clear nights where the displays were epic. Tonight there are clouds covering the sky, but the forecast calls for some clearing around 1AM, so it may be a late-night wake-up to catch the evening show.

The logistics of photographing this natural wonder are still a challenge to me – between keeping the camera steady for long periods, focusing in the pitch black, and not freezing to death it has been interesting. At one point last night I was heading back outside after coming in to warm up and noticed that everything looked blurry in my viewfinder – turned out there was a layer of ice covering my lens, and I had to wait a bit to let the camera thaw; that was a first in the three decades since my dad gave me my first 35mm.

Aurora Borealis, taken north of Fairbanks
Last night’s northern lights display, taken just before midnight.

2 responses to “My Friend Aurora”

  1. Awesome. My only vacation to Alaska was from December 23 to January 4 visiting college friends. All I wanted was to see the northern lights, and a moose. I saw plenty of moose, but it was cloudy the ENTIRE time I was in Alaska. The lights remain a bucket list item. Thanks for sharing the picture!

    1. When I did the three month road trip through Alaska and the Yukon back in 2002 I only saw a good Aurora display ONCE, but it made an impression and seeing the Aurora was put on the list of things to revisit someday. Fairbanks in January might not be the most comfortable time of year, but we did our research and found that it was the most likely to have clear, dark nights, hence the journal posts from a cabin where outside our rental car needs to be plugged into a heater to keep the engine block from freezing solid.

      That said, if your bucket list allows you take vacation (I’m actually working during the day on this trip), you might consider Iceland, where it’s not always clear at night, but you’re less in danger of freezing to death and you can take some great daytrips.

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