Well folks, this post is officially #100 on this blog. A huge thank-you to all who have supported me and followed in my growth as a writer and photographer! It’s amazing to go back to old posts and reflect on how this site has changed. Some things have not changed much; it is still my mission and joy to bring you photography of wildlife, landscapes, and adventure, and couple some science along with it! Have a favorite moment on this blog from the last 100 posts? I would love if you left it in the comments below! Don’t worry – this site won’t be going away anytime soon 🙂
Early this afternoon I was being pulled by six eager sled dogs. Trails had been degraded and made icy by the recent 50 degree temperatures, and the sled which normally has some drag in snow, slid like it was on Teflon behind the twenty-four turning legs. The excited dogs would have fun as fast as I allowed. Of course my preservation of self made sure to reign in their energy; dumping a sled on these crystallized trails hurts more than on the snow! My sleeves were rolled back and my ungloved hands gripped onto the handle of the sled. The passing breeze did not even feel cold in the 55 degree temps. Leaning around turns and dodging spruce trees, I made my way along the fire break of Old Murphy Dome. Not a cloud was in the sky as we passed impressive vistas stretching to the north. In the distance, the snow of the White Mountains was starkly white against the tree covered hills of the lower foothills.
I passed by Jeff, who had stopped his team in front of me. He wanted me to practice passing another team, and commands of “Gee”, “Alright”, and “On-by” ensured that the leaders knew to keep moving past the other team of stopped dogs. We practiced the procedure a couple more times. Over the winter Jeff has done a great job getting me comfortable with the sled, and teams. It was important to practice passing for our upcoming trip to the White Mountains. More dog-sledding adventures will be reported I return from Crowberry Cabin!
We made several stops along the way to help cool the dogs down. The warm spring temperatures are a dramatic change to the -30 degree temperatures only three weeks ago! Each time the dogs would dive into the snow banks, and push their faces into it. Their panting faces were obviously smiling. It was a beautiful and great day to be a dog or a driver. I did my best to capture their doggy-grins and the excitement of the day. I hope you enjoy!
Dome and Sooner take a quick break under the bluebird conditions. With the warm temps, I’m sure there is an advantage to being a white dog!
The following series of George captures his antics as he cools down in the snow. He looks like one happy pooch!
George cools down and gives me the big eye while straining against his tug line.
George grins for the camera.
Maybe my favorite picture of the day! I love the faces of George and Hera in this shot. Happy Dogs!
Hard to beat the scenery when while on break!
A wider view of the surrounding area and dog team. Such a wonderful day!
Leaning back and taking a picture of the action as we head along the trail!
Like a chick pecking its way out of a shell, one by one the patches of snow fell off the trees of the forest. As each ounce was shed from the trees, they raised up their still lifeless twigs up as if glorifying the sun, thanking it for removing the burden of many months. Throughout the forest cascades of snow starting from the tops of the highest branches tumbled and glinted like diamonds in the sun as the chunks were forced through the sifter of small branches by gravity. The warm rays of sun, an unknown entity through winter, warmed the dark branches. One by one they were free.
The first time you taste spring after the winter is a moment of true joy. The resilience to cold developed through the winter makes you bold enough to walk in the 30 degree temps in a flannel. Moist air on your lips from evaporating snow, the heat of the sun on your face, and a touch of warm breeze on your face may make you bound for joy. Literally bound. It’s a bound that brings a smile to your face, and if others saw you, they would smile too. The feeling of spring is infectious.
Watching the bonds of spring being softened and eventually broken is a great thing! As the sun warmed my face this week the world was a visual wonder. Snow fell from the trees in smatterings and piles, sliding off from its own weight or from external catalysis. Busy chickadees feeding around the well-stocked feeder at my house perched on twigs, gleaned through the branches, soaked up the heat, and ensured all of the snow was sloughed away from the imprisoned trees before taking flight again.
The first taste of spring is bittersweet. The knowledge that it ‘came too soon’ only pushes me to enjoy it more while I can. Winter certainly will try to take hold once again, and I will inwardly smile knowing that the next time it may be vanquished for good.
A few days ago the winter wonderland at the Sustainable Village was erased in an afternoon. I realized that the moment was happening so quickly that it could be captured on camera. Setting my up my camera I timelapsed the scene for the rest of the day. As you watch this video, focus on a spot and watch the change. I hope it gives you cheer and excitement for spring. Even if it is just a taste!
There’s an unavoidable fact in Alaska these days: the days are long… really long! The summer solstice is a celebrated event by Fairbanksians and Alaskans in general. For weeks now the nights have been filled with light and bird song, but the coming of the Solstice means above the Arctic Circle the sun does not set. It spins in circles overhead and drops low on the horizon before ascending for another pass around the pole That’s what I went to see!
Eagle Summit, Alaska is located 50 miles south of the Arctic Circle. It’s surprising that the sun stays up all day fully above the horizon, but the elevation of Eagle Summit (3,624′) makes the sun refract higher than its actual position of 1.75 degrees above horizon (information from the BLM billboard at Eagle Summit pulloff)
My goal was to set up a long timelapse to capture the day and the swinging sun. The culmination of 13 hours of patient waiting captured the a low lying sun which seemed to go super-nova. Over the course of the day rain showers hung high in the atmosphere and refracted the sun which went from white to orange as it got closer to the horizon. At 2 AM the sun’s path bottomed out, and it began to swing high back into the sky changing back to white.
There was lots of time to explore the summit. Wildflowers were carpeted across the mountain top. Horned Larks and Northern Wheatears were common on the summit, and large marmots were always in vigilance somewhere. Northern Wheatears spend almost 8 months of their time migrating between India and Alaska. They raise their chicks on the tundra before migrating back, which is incredible!
As low sun was captivating – there was nothing else to do but watch it, and enjoy it. I saluted it made sure we were entertained by jamming out “three little birds” (video below) along with some other classic tunes on the Ukulele.
Tonight left me speechless, and if you had seen the explosive, pulsating reds and greens across the sky, you may have been too. DISCLAIMER : Poeticism, superlatives, and lists of glamorous, stunning, beautiful adjectives will abound in this post, for this was no mere night and cannot be described with just plain words :P. If this grammatical superfulism is not your style, I would not blame you for skipping straight to the images on this one.
The aurora tonight was viewed about 5 miles from Murphy Dome. It started out as small pinnacles of colorless light in the sky which reminded me of shafts of lights streaming through a window into a dusty room — the cosmos is indeed full of dusty rooms. At first I thought the northern lights were just lights from the town. But it was not so. The lights began to grow brighter and quickly showed their emerald sheen. They grew into blended columns of dark green, light green, lime-green, and moss green light that filled the northern sky. The green gave way to red, but by give-way I don’t mean they were replaced entirely. Rather. the towers of green pierced through the red back drop that saturated the sky to the north-northwest. The reds acted very differently than the greens, and seemed to never pick a form. They chose to just be the canvas for the greens to dance upon. And dance they did. Flowing curtains of green morphed and changed so rapidly that remembering what it used to look like only tore your attention away from concentrating on its new shape. Because the band of Lights split the cosmos going 180 degrees from horizon to horizon, the direction that you craned your head was important to your viewing experience. I would recommend the UP -Crane because the UP-Crane allows you to view the nucleus of the aurora. Above your head, on nights such as this was one, the core of the Aurora reaches into the depths of space. The pillars which serve to block the sky in banded patterns to your left and right seem to stretch out and lengthen as you stare directly up at them. Like balancing a pencil on your nose by its eraser and then focusing on its sharpened tip. This portal of time feels like it would lead you to another dimension if you could jump just high enough to each it. The nucleus of the aurora is often the fastest changing. It grows and contracts while sending out electric pulses which pop, undulate, and meander across this sky. The beauty of the Aurora in its complete randomness.
Getting away from some of the poetry, I’d like to talk about my next upgrade in Aurora photography. First it was know-how, second it was cold-beating insulation (still in development) and now one of the next steps in my Aurora photography is a wide angle lens. However, I’m not that versed in lenses (especially old ones) and I would love to hear opinions on wide angle lenses for Micro-four Thirds. I’m looking for anything that would give me wider than 18mm ( in 35mm equivalent) and have considered old c-mount lenses (Cosmicar 8.5mm f/1.5) as well as MFT such as the panasonic 7-14 mm f/4.0. Leave a comment if you have any thoughts!
Without further ado, here’s some pictures from the night. The images start with the low-level reds which were soon exploding across the sky. Sorry for the intrusive Watermarks on these images, but I’m being a bit more protective of these captures compared to some others. Remember, if you ever want an image, be sure to contact me!
We were fortunate enough to have clear skies here a couple of nights ago coupled with a good Aurora forecast. So I took my gear over to Murphy Dome just outside of Fairbanks and set up for some shooting. It was my goal to create a time lapse and honestly thought I had it nailed until I got back to the house and imported my pictures. There were definitely some issues with this shoot, so lots of learning to be done! Here’s what I found out:
It was -10 degrees that night. I tried to help my camera out by wrapping it in tinfoil and adding some hand warmers. It was not enough and the images showed the sensor in my camera struggling in the cold. The predominant issue was the loss of one of the colors that left a purple tint on the foreground. I had to correct for that. I am going to be creating a wrap and heating system for my camera for future shots.
The sensor issue (cold) led to underexposed shots at settings that should have been well exposed
I shot at 3200 ISO so that I could shoot shorter exposure (6 seconds), but the result of that was very noisy shots that made it hard to correct for the issues listed above
In a non-camera related a close, low spruce tree in the shot for the ‘art’ of it, I wish I hadn’t done that! :p
However, with all that being said I have a product that might give you the desire to see the Lights up here! :). It’s not just a picture, make sure watch the video! There will be more northern lights timelapse photography as I implement new strategies.