Chasing Lights

Sitting around the kitchen table late at night and into the early morning became our daily routine while in Alaska. My cousin, her husband, and I arrived in Fairbanks and had scheduled ten days total for our trip. We were hoping to see the lights either in Fairbanks or at the North Pole; we were fortunate to see them in both places and for five out of the ten nights we were there. As we sat around the table at Billie’s Backpacker Hostel chatting with others about the best times to see the lights, we were also discussing cameras. Everyone was sharing information about lenses, apertures, how their cameras did in different temperatures and how the atmosphere would affect them. Luckily, I met an amazing person who helped me with my camera and timing. Because of him we were able to come home with some very nice pictures to go with our memories. 

As the PM was slowly turning into AM, we all piled in a van and headed to the spot on a hill where everyone said the best place to see the lights would be.  And…it was. The lights filled the sky with greens, and yellow hues, and were dancing across it with such a vibrant movement. It was amazing to watch them go from thick to thin and wispy. They were strong and powerful, full, and then quickly thinned out and flowed like a river winding through a canyon. We all just stood there in complete awe and wonder. Some of us already had cameras out and were clicking away. My cousins and I were just captivated and standing still with smiles on our faces. I realized I needed a tripod so we waited until the next night to take pictures and just decided to enjoy the moment. Sean Penn said it best in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty about how some moments aren’t meant to be captured, but enjoyed.

We stood for what felt like hours and then piled back into the van. The next time we went out I was able to borrow a tripod from another nice person at the hostel. Billie’s truly is a magical place and I cannot rave about it, or her enough. As we went out, the temperature was dropping fast and I was able to get some amazing shots before my camera froze. I did not know that could happen. I always imagined the photographers with their giant lenses taking photographs of polar bears in the arctic and National Geographic photographers taking pictures swimming in frigid water, therefore thinking everything would be fine. My little Canon Rebel and I learned a different lesson that night. My camera probably knew it would happen and thought, hey lady, put a sweater on me, but I had no idea. Learning. Nonetheless, we went home with wonderful photographed memories. Other people had fancy cameras and I asked my cousins if they wanted pictures like that where the sky looked like the Milky Way. Her husband, my cousin, said, “Nope. I want it to look like how we saw it when we were here. I cannot see that purple sky and all those stars with my own eyes so I like how your pictures look. How we really see it.” In that moment I realized we captured the true moment of enjoyment. It was pretty awesome! Thank you for reading and have a wonderful Wednesday! 

-Karen Hilliard

Here are the Christmas Ornaments for 2023! These have inspired me to write about my trip to Alaska, and I hope you enjoy the journey. The link to all my Chilly Wonderland Collection is HERE!!

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