The idea of photographing the Aurora Borealis, or the Northern Lights, in Alaska is a simple one, especially when you are in the comfort of your own home. I’ll just head up to Alaska in the winter, wander outside in the dead of night, and photograph the aurora. How easy is that? And, just because it is so easy, I’ll also include a river or other foreground subject. The reality behind River’s Aurora, however, was far different. I learned a few lessons about photographing in the winter in Alaska, that’s for sure.
First off, Alaska in the winter is cold. Truly cold. If you live there, you are used to it. But for a Southwesterner like myself, that’ a different story entirely. It isn’t the cold so much as it is standing still in the middle of the night. Cold temperatures are more comfortable to handle when you are moving. But standing still? At night? Oh my! For River’s Aurora, I was standing still in a deep snowbank, which didn’t help the situation. I was prepared for the cold, but I wasn’t prepared for the reality of it. That reality sunk in as I was sinking deeper into the snowbank I was in, but over time, I surrendered to the cold and waited for the aurora to, hopefully, appear.
But when the aurora finally appeared and began its dance, the cold fell away from me. The bands of light swept up and over me, leaving me completely breathless and totally enthralled. The dance of the lights over the frozen river, and in this case, frozen photographer, was extraordinary. River’s Aurora completed that magical moment in time and made it all worthwhile.