In late August, we’ll begin our highly anticipated Northern Lights—or Aurora Borealis—tours out of our Fairbanks, Alaska headquarters. Visitors are typically very excited to embark on one of these tours after hearing about the beauty of the Northern Lights for their entire life. They’re rarely let down either, especially when the timing is right.
In fact, the allure of the Northern Lights and the effect that they have on people can be quite extreme. One man named Todd Salat, featured in an article in the Laramie, Boomerang, even gave up a promising career as a geologist to become a full-time photographer of the natural wonder. After witnessing the Northern Lights, Salat could not stay away for long, and after a while, he made the decision to transform into the “Aurora Hunter”. He’s now been spending almost every night for 17 years surveying the Arctic sky, waiting for the perfect shots.
The article contains interesting tidbits about the ins and outs of photographing the Northern Lights. The constant motion of the lights in the sky, for example, makes it particularly difficult to get the timing just right. And while a simple shot may be able to capture green light commonly seen by visitors, a longer exposure can reveal brilliant reds that are invisible to the naked eye.
The long nighttime hours that Salat puts in to photographing the Northern Lights are the precise reason why he’s able to make a living off of doing it. He captures “once-in-a-lifetime” shots and sells them at fairs, art shows, and galleries. While visitors who experience the Northern Lights in Alaska often take some fantastic pictures, it takes many hours and a great deal of patience to take photographs of the caliber Salat achieves.
Many guests on 1st Alaska Outdoor School’s Northern Lights tours arrive with camera in tow, which we encourage. Some common tips for photographing the Northern Lights include shooting away from the artificial light of towns and cities, focusing on an infinity point with the brightest spot in the center of the shot, and using a tall tripod to aim towards the sky and keep your camera steady for long-exposure shots. It’s also important to protect expensive equipment from chilly temperatures if necessary.
If you’ve got an itch to see the awesome Northern Lights for yourself, visit the 1st Alaska Outdoor School. Just don’t be surprised if, like Todd Salat, you are unable to tear yourself away.