Red Sky at Night : Aurora Delight!

The incessant baying of sled dogs, a starlit night, and a beautiful red aurora. When I went out to Black Spruce Dog Kennels to capture the aurora I was waiting for the effects an X-flare to hit the earth. Two days before the sun had let loose one of it most powerful class of flares. Even though the flare was not directly headed to earth, the ejected plasma was expected to react with our earth’s magnetic field and cause some auroras! My goal for the night was to tie together two cultural pieces of Alaska – dog mushing and the aurora. Incredibly, the aurora started showing up on my camera at 6:00 PM on my camera along with the moonrise. On an ‘ordinary’ night the aurora will begin at 10PM – the early aurora was a good omen for what was to come!

From a technical standpoint this is one of my favorite auroras I’ve captured. The stars were pin-point sharp and as you’ll see the pan over a dog-sled adds a ton! Shooting over the activity of the dogs was a lot of fun – but I had to leave so they would kennel up. If you have ever been around a group of sled dogs they bark, bay, and howl when strangers are around!

Artistically, the reds are some of the nicest colors I’ve captured. They only appeared for about 25 minutes during the night, but it was stunning! Sitting under the aurora, I thought of the old adage “Red Sky At Night, Sailor’s Delight”, and thus the title of this post was born!

I arrived home at 5:00am and the aurora was still dancing over the Sustainable Village. I snapped a couple of captures for finally calling it a night, which you’ll see below. Overall the aurora was visible for 12 hours due to the x-flare activity!

The timelapse video here captures the reds of a beautiful aurora and a little slice of life at the Black Spruce Dog Kennels.

I guess these dogs were already tired of great aurora displays ;). Shot at Black Spruce Dogsledding
I guess these dogs were already tired of great aurora displays ;). Shot at Black Spruce Dogsledding
The aurora hangs over a staked sled at Black Spruce Dogsledding.
The aurora hangs over a staked sled at Black Spruce Dogsledding.
This image of the was taken at 5:00 when I arrived home at the Sustainable Village.
This image of the was taken at 5:00 when I arrived home at the Sustainable Village.
A curious sled dog checks me out... I wonder what color a dog sees the aurora in??
A curious sled dog checks me out… I wonder what color a dog sees the aurora in??

17 thoughts on “Red Sky at Night : Aurora Delight!”

  1. Fascinating to me that the Aurora was UNDERNEATH the clouds, creating motion-within-motion. Seems to me that would be unusual? Have you seen/shot subepidermal Aurora before?

    Sled dog made me laugh. We got introduced to him via the dancing leash pedestal, then get to meet him face-to-face as your scan enveloped his/their kennels. And his peek-at-you-before-I-go-go-bed was hilarious.

    1. Actually the clouds in this case were wispy enough to let the aurora light through, giving the illusion the aurora was below them.

      It’s amazing how active the dogs are through the night. There is always at least one that is barking and awake at all times! The spinner was one of them I think 🙂

  2. How fascinating and fun to shoot the auroras as you do! I know how excited I get to see it once or twice a year … I can’t imagine as often as you. I would never get any sleep! Haha.

    1. Hahaha, yup, and no sleep is the reality of it sometimes! Especially with how active the aurora has been this year. Some of the people I know who have been in AK for awhile are jaded by the lights. But I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of watching!!

  3. So beautiful Ian! I see why you love it there. Every day is gorgeous artwork. We miss you in Maine. David and I were talking about you last night at chorus. I always wish you all the best!

    1. Thanks Holly! It is certainly beautiful here, and just so darn big that there’s always something to do :). I do miss singing though! Still haven’t joined a chorus here in AK, mostly just signing to myself on the guitar or at an occasional open mic night.

  4. Ian, I so enjoy these pics and videos. I had a Siberian husky for 8 years and a custom-made “Little Shadow” sled made of ash, which explains some of my fascination for the North and my acceptance of MN winters (except today as I am stranded in Farmington). I wondered what was revolving in the time-lapse, but Chuck mentioned a “dancing leash pedestal,” so that must have been it.

    Thank you for the attribution on the music. It sounded like something E. Grieg would write, so I’ll have to Google this composer. Keep photographing, writing, and posting; readers love it.

      1. “Yarded.” I’ve never heard that term, but it makes perfect sense. Yes, sled dogs will fight with each other and other creatures. That was my main concern when I was out on the sled: what dogs would we encounter, would they be loose, would there be more than one or two, what about a raccoon or skunk? Every deer spotting was a test of strength, and even stray cats were trouble. It worked out, but there were some scary encounters. I never did sled at night, so that helped, but I would’ve enjoyed the night skies. I can’t even imagine how many more challenges there are in Alaska vs. MN.

  5. In the staked dog sled photo, it almost seems the green swirl of aurora hovering over it are the spirits of dogs and their mushers from years gone by. I, too, appreciate the “Alaskan Life” component to your photography. Day after day, life and the aurora entwine themselves to create a unique life and environment.

  6. Cool Ian! Hope someday I get to Alaska to see the auroras and to Churchill to see the Polar Bears/Whales. I posted your blog link to the DL Photography group so maybe you’ll get some questions on your techniques.

    1. Hi Cleone, great to hear! I would be more than happy to answer any questions they have. Thanks for checking in! Polar bears are still on my list too! Hopefully this coming summer I’ll spend some time around (but not too close!!) to those white giants!

  7. Hi Ian, as always, this is “Heaven Art”. I think that the aurora was putting on a special show for the dogs; such vivid colors and swirling!
    We have a new e-mail address which I have typed in. Hope it works.

  8. Hi Ian, as always, Heaven’s “light art” is amazing. I think that the aurora is putting on a special show just for the dogs, being particularly vivid and swirling!

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