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Sunday, March 20, 2016

Aurora Adventure (Night 1)

Read part 1 here.

So, we reach Fairbanks about 9pm and Jason called in an order for some pizzas for dinner to pick up on the way back to his property at North Pole.

Just some background here: Auroras are very finicky. They're an unpredictable phenomena and even when NOAA gives us the deets on a solar flare heading our way and website claims that it will come out that night doesn't mean it will. And even if it does, it's still flighty - appearing for short bursts and disappearing and returning randomly throughout the night. There's also weather to consider, of course. I had a lot going against me when I booked the flight for basically the sole purpose of an Aurora sighting. It was a long shot, but luckily, it was one that paid off.

Now first of all, a comment on Alaska Aurora Adventures - the name of the tour company Jason and his wife run. Small groups are great for one thing. But this Aurora viewing house he has was wonderful. It had electricity, a flat screen TV, a wood stove to keep us warm, a nice kitchen, chairs, tables, a couple of couches, and a fully functional plumed bathroom. This may not seem luxurious to most - probably expected. However you'd be singing a different tune if you ever go on the Chena Lodge Aurora tour, which I'll tell you about in another post.

So we settled in the cabin and a few more people joined us, including two Australian men who I could just listen to talk all night long. Jason brings us outside at about 10pm to show us a few different locations to shoot some good photos on his property, and already the Aurora decided to show up a little bit. It was very faint at first but started to become stronger. I set my camera in a few locations to get some shots.

These pictures I am going to show you may look epic, and they are nice, but my lens wasn't focused the entire night, so if you blow them up to size, the stars are very blurry.

Another interesting thing to note about Auroras is that they are not as visible to the naked eye as they are on a lens with a 20-second exposure. This was also a very mild storm - probably a 2-3 on the scale, so with only your eyes it was still fairly faint and the lines moved slowly.

It then disappeared for a while and I had to take a nap at one of the tables as it was difficult to stay awake for so long. There was nothing to do in the cabin besides chat with people (which I don't do because introvert) and wait for it to come back. Jason's wife brought cookies which I completely missed out on while asleep, but then when the Aurora came back around 1am, I was ready.

This time it came back stronger. This is probably my favorite shot, however this one -

- Looking like a rainbow over Jason's house, is a close second.

You know, in all honesty, I don't think I was really awestruck by the whole thing like I expected to be. I was so concerned with 
1. Setting up my camera for the best possible shot
2. Not freezing to death

Considering what you see with the naked eye is a lot less impressive than the photos, it was difficult just to sit there and watch it. I wanted to capture it. I've always been that way - being so concerned with getting something on film that I miss the actual experience of it. But I don't regret it one bit.

I really wish my lens had been focused though, because then I could go and take some of these to be printed and hung. Instead they will have to be appreciated in a small size on my computer!

Around 2am the tour was officially over, and we were driven back to our respective hotels. Mom wasn't feeling very well, as she's been fighting pneumonia for over a month and had been on a few rounds of antibiotics already to fend it off. The wood stove exasperated her symptoms as did the lack of sleep. We didn't get in our beds until after 3am, completely exhausted. The next day was going to prove to be a challenge!

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