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The Northern Lights
Apr 03, 2018
By Kell Benson 1 Comment Categories : Travel

The Northern Lights

I just got back from one awesome roadtrip! And I mean that in the literal sense of the word, “extremely impressive or daunting; inspiring great admiration, apprehension, or fear.”

I drove from Jackson Hole to Fairbanks, Alaska and back. It spanned two weeks and was over 6,500 miles and numerous tanks of gas. My goal was to see the Aurora Borealis, and hopefully capture their beauty. Spoiler alert…I was lucky enough to do both. My German Shepherd, Beira, and I headed out from Jackson Hole in early March with high hopes and studded snow tires.

We first headed for Banff and Jasper National Parks in Southwest Alberta. Both parks are dotted with lofty peaks and alpine lakes with incredible views at every turn. Incredible opportunities abound for photographers Driving the Icefields Parkway in winter was the first of many roads with potentially challenging road conditions that proved to be of no consequence during this trip. Some of the highlights were Moose Meadows (Bow Valley Parkway), Bow Lake (Icefields Parkway), Big Hill & Big Bend (Icefields Parkway), and the Athabasca Glacier (IcefieldsParkway).

After driving out of the mountains we prepared for several days of driving through vast forested tracts of British Columbia, Yukon, and Alaska. We stopped for a night in Johnson’s Crossing, Yukon, about 80 miles from Whitehorse. I figured I’d ask the nice folks who run the hotel/restaurant/gas station/convenience store/rv park/laundromat/bakery/gift shop where I might go to see the Aurora and they gave me a suggestion of a little spot below a bridge down by the Teslin River. Turns out this was the perfect spot. Seeing the lights this first night in Northern Canada was incredible. The ribbons of light danced overhead in incredible patterns before fading into the night sky. During the night only a handful of vehicles crossed the bridge which created an interesting effect as the headlights illuminated the guardrail on the bridge and the trees on the far side. After this night I was encouraged for what the rest of the trip might produce. By the time I got to Fairbanks the next night, clouds settled in blocking the night sky for several days. I took some time exploring the area; scouting where I might be able to capture the lights if the weather broke. I ended up heading to Denali National Park, where I took a short hike and was able to catch a glimpse of Denali, albeit from 65 miles away, and it was as impressive as I remembered from when I was 15, the last time I was in Alaska.

I was able to see the lights a couple of nights in Fairbanks, but both of the suggested spots I tried (Murphy Dome, and Ester Dome) had radio antennas with blinking red lights that cast a red hue on the foreground, not quite what I was hoping for, even though the light show was pretty impressive. Some of these areas, Murphy Dome, in particular, are quite popular with tourists and tour buses, so getting away from headlights can be somewhat challenging. After checking the weather forecast I decided to head back into Yukon where the weather was more favorable. The first night I missed a good light show, simply because I was too tired didn’t wait long enough. I learned a valuable lesson that night. If you’re hunting the aurora, don’t ever assume that it won’t come out based on the first half of the night. I talked to some other folks in Whitehorse who were able to see quite the show as the hours creeped til dawn. Somewhat disappointed, I decided I wouldn’t let that happen again on this trip. So I spent the last two nights I had in the North out looking until I was satisfied. That’s when I stumbled upon Tagish Lake, South of Whitehorse. Here I watched and photographed an incredible Northern Lights show for several hours, with a strong band of green to the North with ribbons of red, purple and occasionally blue stretching into the sky overhead.

This trip made one thing abundantly clear to me, I’ll be out searching for the Aurora again soon. Maybe not this season, but could be again in the fall or next winter.

I hope you enjoy the images, and if you have any questions about the trip or the images, feel free to contact me with a comment below, or through the contact page on my site.

Thanks for reading…until next time, keep on shooting.

 

  • I saw the northern lights on my NOLS course right there in Wyoming. I was up near Gannett Peak and we were dug in, in snow caves. All of a sudden the sky was waving in green and red. It was a big show and I believed it was seen even farther south. I think National Geographic had an article about it.
    Nice write up. Sounds like a fun trip.
    Rob