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.
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
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
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.
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!