Aurora borealis photo, over Fireweed Mountain, Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska
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Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and the aurora borealis photo, or northern lights, Alaska. Please click on the image above to view a larger version of this photo.
We’ve had some pretty great weather here through the month of February, and that means, a great time to get out and look for northern lights. Working on my own project, rather than photo tours, I was able to hit a few destinations I wanted to shoot that are a little more hit and miss; less reliable than some others, but places I wanted to shoot nonetheless.
One of those places is Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and Preserve. Inevitably I’d be in the wrong place at the wrong time in a place slightly larger than the country of Switzerland; I’d head off in one direction and then have fog and haze cloud up the skies, or I’d head off in another direction, and the lights display would be directly behind me. The mountains in front me being what I want to shoot, and the lights behind me. Not a great mix.
But, such is what happens when you have specific ideas in mind; it’s important to be flexible in nature photography, and particularly so when shooting the northern lights, but part of working on a project involves fulfilling your own ideas. Spontaneity is great, and I’m all for it. But I’m also interested in trying to make a photo of something I envision ahead of time, and working toward that.
Photo of the aurora borealis over the Wrangell Mountains and Copper River, Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska. Please click on the image above to view a larger version of this photo.
The northern lights over the broken boreal forest of arctic Alaska. Please click the image above to view a larger version of the photo.
Sorry for not keeping up with the blog these last few months. Blogging regularly is hard; really hard. Sometimes I’m busy, or behind with my image editing, and sometimes, to put it simply, I’m just not that impassioned about it.
I’d like to be more disciplined about posting regularly, and more inspired to keep up with my own photography more consistently as well as that of others I enjoy, but sometimes, I think, the world of the internet is so overwhelming it’s easier to switch off and disengage than try to keep up and follow everything that flies by. I’ve probably missed hundreds of great posts around the web, I’m sure, but if that’s the worst of my recompense, well, things aren’t too bad I suppose.
Mt. Sanford, Mt. Drum, the Copper River and the Night Sky. The moon rise to my left threw a nice soft light on the fog over the Copper River Basin. Click on the image above to view a larger version of this photo.
With a host of people heading north this winter/spring to photograph the aurora, I thought it might be of some interest to talk a little about the process of shooting photography at night; I know a lot of people have little experience with that, and it really can be a challenge at times. Particularly on a cold frozen night in Alaska when the northern lights start going crazy overhead.
So, the first thing I’d suggest, if you haven’t already, is read over my 3 part article on shooting the northern lights. There’s a downloadable PDF at the end of that article you can keep for future reference.
So, now that you’re prepared, consider the moment. It’s dark. It’s cold, maybe minus 20 degrees F; cold enough that your hands start to really feel it after a few minutes. It’s dark. You have a headlamp on, and that gives you a little bit of vision out to maybe 30-50 yards or so. After that, you can’t see too much at all. The aurora starts to fire up, and you want to shoot it.
You can’t see your foreground and composition. Its dark. You don’t even know if the foreground is worth shooting. It’s dark. You can’t walk around all over and use your headlamp to see, because (a) there isn’t time, (b) there are other people trying to shoot, (c) you don’t want to track up all the snow by stomping around in it. So setup your test shots. This is probably the most important part of the process. Set up and do your test shots. Continue reading →
Just to wrap up the year for 2012, here’s a quick slideshow from the year – 30 photos from various trips. Good times and good memories. I hope you all enjoy the pictures. If you like, take a quick look at my “Year in Alaska” on video, over at Expeditions Alaska – some nice clips from the past 12 months; it’s pretty cool, if I must say so myself! 🙂
Aurora borealis, or northern lights, over spruce trees, White Mountains near Fairbanks, Alaska. Please click on the image above to view a larger version of this photo.
Apologies for the long delays in getting back to the blog. I’ve been busy working on a new website (details coming soon enough, I hope), and then the last couple of weeks over in Wrangell – St. Elias National Park for a snowshoe trip, and then a week in central Alaska looking for the aurora borealis.
Now I’m back for a couple of brief days before heading out again to the park for another trip, snowshoeing and photographing. So I won’t be around much at least for another week or so.
This shot was from last night in the White Mountains, just north of Fairbanks. The aurora rocked all night long. We got back in the cabin at a little after 5, then up at 9, breakfast, and on the road back to Anchorage. I was hoping to go back out tonight, but I don’t see that happening at this point. I’m tired.
People tend to underestimate how difficult it can be to shoot the aurora. It means long nights, and often little sleep. And very often, very little good photographic fortune. But sometimes we get lucky.