Birthday Auroras

1:47am.  Bathroom break.  Drank too much water tonight.  OK, and the 2 glasses of port probably contributed.  No matter.

Should I peek outside?  Aurora prediction is only a 2 tonight (out of 7).  Why not?  Open door, instantly gasp.  A bright green band runs across the sky, like some outlandish milky way.

Quickly throw on extra layers, camera bag, tripod.  Cold night.  I can see my breath.

A few hastily grabbed shots.  A haphazardly grabbed photograph can be better than no photograph.  One of the lessons I learned from the great departed mountain photographer Galen Rowell is to grab whatever shot you can when the moment presents itself without worrying about perfection.  THEN re-focus and re-imagine the scene.  Spend too much trying to make the shot “just right” and the shot is often gone.

2013 Aug 25 Denali  007 - Version 2

2013 Aug 25 Denali  008 - Version 2


The lights quickly fade.  They tend to come in waves.  Run inside to throw on an extra layer, grab a headlamp.  Move location slightly to reduce the effects of light from our manager housing and a very bright moon.

A few more shots, a smile on my face.

A co-worker arrives, camera in hand.

Down the path, away from housing, to the riverbank.  Set up on some boulders, pointed at Mt. Healy.

Sky explodes.  I’ve never seen anything like it.  The lights are so bright, and moving so fast that it doesn’t seem real.  The shooting suddenly is difficult – over a 25 second exposure the curtains sometimes move out of the frame.  Reds and pinks make appearances, far more unusual colors.  Green is the norm.

In about 15 minutes it’s over.  Intense.  I’m on a high.  Glowing.

Click on one of the pictures to view them larger in a slideshow.  Trust me.  You’ll like it better that way.  It’s like candy for your brain.

Amazing.  Mind-blowing.  My birthday show last year was brighter, but the lights were nowhere near as active that time.

Cold now.  My fingers are going numb.

Up the riverbank, back onto the path.  Back toward my cabin.  Lights still visible, but not as bright.  A few employees on the picnic table, taking it all in.   Drop down to the river again for more shots.  Tomorrow will be tough with such interrupted sleep but this is worth it.

3:00am.  Show is over.  Cold.  Wet feet.  Huge smile on my face.

My birthday was two days ago.  I’ll take this as a late birthday gift from Alaska.  My daughter’s birthday today.  I’m sorry I couldn’t share this with her in person.

4:00am.  Too excited to sleep.  Photos already edited.