In the last blog post, “Who’s Afraid of the Denali Highway?”, I shared our experience crossing the Denali Highway for the first time. It was quite exciting, but before we crossed we arrived in Paxson and drove to the first pull off to get our bearings and grab a quick bite in the RV. It was the evening of our 6th wedding anniversary and I began to think about 7 years ago when we witnessed the aurora for the first time. The “highway” was going to be quite secluded from any city lights. I ran outside to assess whether or not we had a chance to repeat our luck. The sky was beautiful, but heavily scattered with wispy clouds. Normally, I would be tickled pink, but I was hoping for clear skies. We proceeded to fix dinner and got to sleep a bit earlier than normal … setting the alarm for 11:30 pm.
When the alarm rang, I got dressed for the cold and the wind, which I could hear howling outside. Is everything ready? Camera with proper night shooting settings? Tripod set up? Remote shutter connected? Fresh memory card? Fresh battery? Proper wide angle lens attached? All systems seemed like … GO. The stars were brightly lit and that’s when I realized that the skies had indeed cleared. Yippee!
In & out of the RV I went, trying to get warm from that wicked wind. On one particular run outside, we saw it … the aurora, also referred to as the northern lights. It was stretched out on the vast landscape before us. At this point it was relatively stagnant … just fabulous light which would intensify and then retreat.
Composition … I searched my surroundings for something that I incorporate into the frame to make the shot more interesting. OK, secret be told, this is actually a really nice outhouse in the lot that we were parked in. LOL. I know, quite romantic, but who cares, it was a structure and served the purpose I was looking for. Now the light was beginning to include a hint of purple hue as well.
It was then that the lights began to float across the night’s dark sky. I distinctly remember hearing the wind, feeling it against my face, and I became quite thrilled. Yes, my senses went back to that first night on August 30th, 2007 … Chena Hot Springs – Tom & I snuggled up under multiple blankets, freezing, as we laid down on top of a picnic table and watched the northern lights as they danced across the sky. Of course, I would run over to my tripod on occasion to try to capture the experience.
As the aurora intensified and other colors appeared, I no longer felt the cold. All I felt was the sensory overload that I was experiencing and the endorphins or whatever flowing through my body … touching my soul like only the aurora can.
In some cultures, witnessing the aurora is considered to be one of the most prized events in their lifetime. Some say that the experience bestows good relationships and fortune on its lucky observers. We never expected to see it the first time we did, so it was quite the pleasant surprise. It totally moved us spiritually, as the lights fell like curtains dancing in the wind.
At this point, I thought it was dwindling and I figured that I would be satisfied with what I had already witnessed. I retreated into the RV and put my PJs on for the night. Before I got under the covers, I took one my shot at the night skies. This is what I saw … and all bets were off … in my bare feet and PJs (I’m talking single layered), I ran out with my tripod in hand and began shooting in awe again. In actuality, it was even colder than before, but it didn’t matter.
Point is, I didn’t even feel it. Tom stayed inside for a bit, then finally joined me, with proper clothing on, of course. Oh, and he offered me my jacket. Always the sherpa. <3
On August 30, 2008, we got married in Chena Hot Springs in honor of our 1st aurora experience. Seemed appropriate that we would once again see them on August 30th, some 6 years later. Sort of like renewing our vows. :-) Each year, on our anniversary, we go out into nature and present each other with a gift from nature. I don’t think we could have asked for a better one.
Reminds me of the David Gray song “Sail Away”.
Lyrics: “Crazy skies all wild above me now
Winter howling at my face
And everything I held so dear
Disappeared without a trace”
I’m sure that wasn’t the actual meaning of the lyrics, but it was to us. I couldn’t say anything better to describe the experience. You totally get lost in the experience. I still get all emotional when I hear that song … ask Tom. LOL
Coming Up: A Week in Denali National Park. Stay tuned. :-)
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