Chasing the Northern Lights is always on the top of peoples list of things to do in Fairbanks Alaska if they are planning a trip there. For me, chasing the Northern Lights has always been number one on my bucket list. I’ve always been intrigued with photographing the sky. Sunsets, sunrises and the stars have always been something I will drive for hours to catch the perfect photograph of.
At the end of October 2015 I came to a point where I just needed a break from the normal day to day life and I knew a personal trip would be a perfect get away to rejuvenate my soul. A trip that wasn’t based around workshops or clients, a trip where I could truly unplug and just be me. It was end of wedding season, I was exhausted and to say the least I just needed a break to regain clarity in life.
I was driving down the road one evening and I heard this song by Thomas Rhett, Die A Happy Man on the radio.
“If I never get to see the Northern lights
Or if I never get to see the Eiffel Tower at night
Oh, if all I got is your hand in my hand
Baby, I could die a happy man”
Being single, this song hit me in a weird way. I like country songs, I like love songs and I like being in love, but for me the lyrics above held two things that were on my bucket list that I didn’t think I would be ok with never getting to see. I do want to be married and I would love to experience the things on my bucket list with someone I’m in a relationship with, but not at the expense of being in a relationship.
I went home that night, pulled out my journal, found my bucket list tucked deep inside the pages of my life (in written form) and made up my mind to go to Fairbanks, Alaska. I then turned on my computer, did a google search on things to do in Fairbanks Alaska other than of course my purpose of going to chase the Aurora Borealis (aka Northern Lights). I booked my flight and hotel within the next few days (with my extra hotel points and flyer miles, perfect use of them for a rainy day) and within minutes I was set to leave for Fairbanks, Alaska in two weeks.
Within the next two weeks I did a ton of research on where to see the Northern Lights in Fairbanks, what apps to use, what to wear and what tour I should take. Below are some of the things I discovered that were very helpful to me when I went (specifically for shooting the Northern Lights.)
*Rent a 4×4 truck, you’ll have to go out of the city to see the Northern Lights
*Book Ronn Murray for a tour. Even though I am a professional photographer, I do not live in Alaska, I do not know the climate, I do not know the best spot to shoot the Northern Lights and Ronn and his wife do! I did my research on this and everyone and everything pointed to them. By far this was the best money I spent on a tour, for it prepared me to not only keep my gear from getting destroyed, but also to not get myself hurt in the wilderness while shooting. Also once booked they will help you prepare for the trip and answer any questions you have.
*Buy arctic gear. I bought my bibs online at REI (they have a variety of sizes and have an excellent exchange policy if you need to exchange) Coats you can get there too, I bought mine at Burlington Coat Factory. Boots from Zappos these are what I ordered which were amazing. Don’t forget wool socks, an under layer of water-wicking material as well 2 sets of gloves (thick for warmth and thin for shooting) and head covering.
*Bring a tripod and take backup gear. You are going to shoot the Northern Light and with the weather anything could happen to your gear. However there is a great camera shop in Fairbanks if you get in a situation where you need gear.
*Chapstick will be your best friend as well as coffee (because you’ll be out very late, but won’t want to miss things to do during the day which I’ll share in a later post)
The list could go on and on, but thats the basics.
Aurora Borealis, she was amazing! I’ve never had an experience like that in my life. It was spiritual, it was breathtaking! As I stood under the sky watching her dance as in worship to The King of Kings, I stood in awe. Surround by nothing but wilderness in one of the most desolate places I’ve ever been I didn’t feel alone. It was for me a visible sign of Heaven colliding with Earth, letting me know that He is always closer than we think.
All I can say is, if you are looking for things to do in Fairbanks Alaska go see the Northern Lights. I’d also say, if you are waiting to check something off your bucket list then do it! Don’t wait! That night while driving and listening to this sappy love song about someone saying they would be ok to give up their dreams to just have someone by their side, I decided that I was not ok with doing that. I want to be married and be in love, but that day may come years down the road and for me I feel we should do things now for tomorrow isn’t promised to us!