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I arrived in Fairbanks, Alaska this late afternoon, picked up a rental SUV, and checked into the Hampton Inn, which is a fantastic (and inexpensive) little hotel. +Julian Cohen and Ildi had arrived at 2am this morning, and after a day’s rest, they were ready to head out for our first night of looking for the aurora borealis (northern lights).

None of us have spent a lot of time in cold places, so we bundled up in a way that seemed like it would, theoretically, keep us warm in the freezing Alaskan night. After driving around for awhile, we ended up at Chatanika Peak, which is about 30 miles north of Fairbanks; it was our first night out, and we didn’t want to drive too far. The sun didn’t set until nearly 8pm, and by then the temperature had already dropped from 19º F to -1º F—freezing! By 10pm, it was completely dark, and the temperature had dropped further to -9º F. There was no sign of the northern lights, so Julian and I shot the sky and warm light pollution coming from Fairbanks. 30 miles away, the lights from Fairbanks still lit up a considerable portion of the sky.

The first picture in this gallery is the first aurora we saw. It was extremely faint, and there was a cloud obscuring most of it—we almost missed it! Strangely, there was also a green laser shining straight up into the sky, which also came out clearly in the picture. At around 11:30pm, the clouds had moved in, and we decided to call it a night. We packed up and started to head back. By then, the temperature had dropped even more, to -16º F, and Julian and Ildi were starting to really feel the cold. We have some work to do tomorrow to make sure we can make it through 6 hours of shooting in the extreme cold.

As we approached Fairbanks, we noticed a bright green stripe spanning the sky: aurora! We pulled over and took some more shots.

Northern lights over a random highway isn’t so exciting, but it was still pretty cool to see. A few minutes later, it was almost too dim to see any green. Also, when we pulled into the hotel parking lot, there was another bright aurora, just sitting there in the sky. Aurora is everywhere, here! (but we couldn’t shoot these effectively—clouds had moved in)

Equipment notes:

My 5D Mark II did very well at -16º F. I shot nearly 300 pictures in 3 hours, and the battery was still half full. By the end of the evening, the metal parts of the camera were too cold to touch without having gloves on. I packed all my freezing camera gear into a Pelican case and brought it into the warm hotel room sealed; the gear inside will warm up slowly (to avoid condensation). Per the advice of experienced cold-weather shooters, I kept batteries in my inner pockets and only put them in the camera when I was shooting.

I wore:

Head: synthetic, wind-proof beanie, parka hood
Top: capilene base layer, fleece pullover, Canada Goose Expedition parka
Bottom: capilene base layer, fleece pants, shell
Shoes: liner, wool socks, Sorel Caribou boots
Gloves: Thinsulate fingerless w/pull-over mit (these are magic)

For the most part, I was toasty warm during the 3 hours I spent outside. By the end of the evening, my toes were just starting to get cold, so I’ll probably throw a couple toe warmer heat packs in there tomorrow night. Hand warmers were useless when they were in contact with the outside air, but were very effective when sealed in insulated parka pockets (and would warm my hands when I stuck them in there).

#aurora #auroraborealis #northernlights
RAW LIFE412's profile photoClarissa Lund's profile photojacke micheal's profile photoRenata Sousa's profile photo
Wow! Amazing light! What a dream it would be for me to see this in person. Well made!
Liz C
Oh my goodness just spectacular 
+Eric Cheng Truly excellent post Eric. Really found that an interesting read and very informative. Thank you x Nice shot too :O))
Fantastic post, can't wait to see what you manifest over a 6 hour shoot, may you be blessed with a clear sky filled with vibrant colors.
Beautiful is no word to say for this awesome picture!
Speechless, you so lucky. This is going to be my new wallpaper.Great Work..Hope to see of your work soon.
that's an amazing picture. Nice photography!
omg !
beautifull picture
nice shoot :)
that looks awesome that is really cool
Is this pic reall or 3d effect?
The Aurora Borealis is awesome to see first hand... I hope to return to Alaska someday to see it again..
Beautiful! Seeing the Northern Lights is definitely on my bucket list. Great tips, awesome read!
That's on my bucket list, northern lights, mmmmmm
Fantastic!! Heard so much about it. What a wonderful experience to be there!
this must be the coolest natural phenomena..... its really awesome..... need to see one of this.....
Looks amazing man! sad that on G+ you cant fully see its beauty, or maybe its my screen. Good to hear how well the camera did. I took my Canon Rebel Xsi out in the -12 C and it did well too though after all day shooting and freezing myself i think the glass i was using (50mm) was getting a bit too cold. When i am states side again i will be getting my 5 D Mark II =) at last!
GORGEOUS!!! Love it :) Thanks for sharing...
what a nice pic yar ...and i wish i could also see such things in my life.......................
Beautiful, Beautiful! I love the contrast with the snow below. Stay warm and post some more!
Saw them once when I was very young. Should have seen them more since I grew up in Minnesota but never thought to look up. Now that I live in Ohio I keep waiting for a good CME to drive them this far South when we have clear skys. Great pic!
i'm gonna have to make it up there and see that some day
incredably amazing beautiful example of th northern lights ... thank u for sharing this lovely photo...
amazing fabulous image. And thanks for sharing the photo.
K N Lam
Awesome picture.
thats one of those photos you wait your life to catch. Had to copy the image as looking for backgrounds for best friends wedding portrait & this is a winner
so jealous would love to see it like you did when i was twelve i seen the northern lights amazing but nothing like you have shown beautiful
i am good. but my class has to take the msa
+Eric Cheng is this photo edited? 
Awesome! We stayed at the Hampton Inn in Fairbanks this past summer. Nice place.
nick s
beautiful and amazing
Pam L.K
this is beautiful
its very very_______________ nice
Awesome composition and use of available light. Gorgeous.
Nice Picture I would have been so proud of my-self if I could make Such !
WOW!! its just soo AMAZING!!
i just did a report in school on that!!!
I can feel this, quite honestly, deep in my body. Having slept at the foot of a glacier at 20C below and awoken to a silent, crystalline dawn, I can say that there is something so immeasurably profoundly about clear, cold nights in the silence of the outdoors that it cannot be expressed in words. A spiritual experience like no other, and I looking at this brings that gift right back to me. Thank you SO much for sharing!
There are a couple of very nice pull off's on the highway to Fairbanks that have an excellent view of Denali. Look for them on the left on the Anchorage edge of the park.
I hope that one day I will be able to go see this. So beautiful.
wow! its the most beautiful thing that i have ever seen in my whole life its amazing
That is an awesome sight to behold
cool i wish i could go there
Good pictureopf the Aurora there....
My father was stationed in Alaska when I was a child. To see it in person is to be awe-struck. Great photo!
I have all way wanted to go and see the lights..But man that is a beautiful pic..Thanks
wish i could go there
Jas Lim
great~ is amazing...
I seen it on You Tube but I would love too see it in real life. 
i love it as you like it and its so beautiful for us
That is really beautiful. I too would love to see the Northern lights in person, it's truly amazing.
Wow! Both the northern lights and the stars! We dont see very many stars just south of L.A. That is beautiful!
+Eric Cheng good thing you didn't have to open up the Tauntaun. I heard they smelled bad.
Tan bello que parece casi irreal que tengamos este tipo de paisajes en la vida real. Felicidades excelente toma.
Beautiful pic of the Northern lights, just fab, this is the place I want to go to and just thrive spiritually! Thank you for sharing Eric X
Wow! Spectacular! Seeing the Northern Lights is one of my dreams. I love that you listed what you wore and how you shot in such extreme cold.
One of the nice benefits of living where it's cold. I live in Michigan, but I don't get that kind of show in my back yard.
Been there, wouldn't have missed for Nada.
So.. BEAUTIFUL... @_@" I wish, I'll get the chance to see it too one day... 
I grew up in Northern Minnesota near the Canadian border - the aurora borealis (and clear views of the milky way, planets, etc) inspired a lot of us to take up astronomy and meteorology as a profession. About 10% of our class wound up in science fields dealing with space, physics or astronomy....which I think is a pretty high number.

Since moving south (which is pretty much everywhere) I haven't seen the northern lights. I miss them quite a bit, and have very vivid memories in my head (and on film, of course). You might be cold +Eric Cheng but you are fortunate...
Green for the thorn in cacti, red in the fruit ove nights morning.
Awesome thanks for the pic & story :) !
I love the northern lights. few years back it shined way into calif. i got to see it.
Awesome scene
God's own creations....<3
It's so so so so damn beautiful...!!!
Itu yang hijau cahaya apa ya yang di langit? Benar-benar suatu keberuntungan
I must go north and see this with my own eyes. It's on my bucket list.
Wow I'm going there when I retire but I'm doing all the states well 49 of them unless they build that bridge to Hawaii Nice shot I'm sure your enjoying that!
This is God's idea of a laser light show. Love it.
You're making me homesick for Fairbanks! Beautiful photo!
really a very nice view...Awesome picture
Yep it is cold here, I moved from Baja California to Anchorage Alaska.
And the weather is different.
Aaahhh! The trolls have arrived. I thought using our real names would resolve that affliction. Please accept my apologies on behalf of this idiot.
Did not see it here we are in africa which part was it,or some crazy lunatic playing with his lazers and green ones
Amazing pic,makes life worthwhile,made my day,thankyou.
I saw the lights once but it wasn't even close to this picture.

Nice shot.
It would be cool to see aurora in person.
I always wanted to go to Alaska. Especially in the summer when humidity is killing me here in NYC.
Personally I think the northern lights have a mystical look, I'd love to see it with my own eyes, but for now I'm happy enough to see in pics, thanks for posting this picture it's lovely, very very nice, you've captured a lovely piece of our earths beauty
Cool pic.. Saw lots of these when I lived in northern Sweden. 
Absolutely Breathtking!! 
i want to see this up close before i get to old
Wow!!!!!!! is so beautiful I want to see it email me it at please
God's artistic work. Soo awesome in beauty...
now that is awesome, am from anchorage, saw one up close one night right in front of the apartment, twas so amazing..,
Looks like swamp gas...wish iwas there
dats cooool i hope to see it for real very soon
ive never actually seen the northern lights, but i heard that theyre amazing.
AKA aurora borealis we studied this in school about a month ago
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