The first night out to watch the aurora, we realized we had a problem when we turned on the engine for warmth, and the headlights came on. This was a MAJOR problem. First the car lights would cut into aurora viewing. Second, eyes take a full 5 minutes or more to fully adjust to the darkness, and lastly, photographing the aurora is impossible with all that extra light. Our choice was, never run the car for warmth, or somehow cover the lights. The first night we choose to not run the engine, it was cold, but the show was worth it. The next day, the first thing we did was call the car rental company to exchange cars. Bad news, all of their cars worked this way.  More bad news, not only did our rental agency not have a car for an exchange, but neither did any other rental car company in Fairbanks, we called them all. Next stop, the car dealer, although they were pleasant, they were absolutely no help, insisting that what we wanted to do couldn’t be done. We now needed to devise someway to cover the lights. we came up with idea of using blackout material. After all this was the land of the midnight sun, and they did indeed have material for that!  A quick stop at the fabric store, then on to the hardware store for duct tape. We were set. Now, each night that we went out aurora watching, we were able to run the engine for warmth, listen to our books on tape, photograph, and enjoy the show all in total darkness. 

 All the rest of our aurora watching and photographing went smoothly. except on our last night. We were out watching the best aurora displays that we’ve ever seen, the temperature was –18F, and windy. Remember, the colder the better for aurora viewing. During the evening, the wind picked up, it became so windy that I had to use my backpack with everything in it to weigh down and steady my tripod.

 There were some other problems as well, duct tape does not stick to anything when it’s extremely cold. In fact, when the temperatures drop to –18F, duct tape doesn’t even have a sticky side, both sides feel exactly the same. So. our light blocking material, that was held down over the headlights by the hood in the front, and on the sides with tape, soon began to flap in the wind.

 My camera and lens ceased working. It was just too cold. I always keep spare batteries in my inside vest pocket, but even these fresh warm batteries could not coax the camera to work. Even if I was able to get the camera to advance the film, I was afraid that the film would break, from being so cold and brittle.

 So I put my camera and tripod back in the car and just looked skyward watching the most fantastic light show we’ve ever seen, and, for the first time ever, I was aware that my eyes were cold!


These aurora photos were taken a-top Cleary Summit, Fairbanks Alaska. Even though the displays were on going for long periods of time, they had very little color. Green is the most often seen color in auroras and that was the color of choice during these displays.


 35mm Magic Home






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