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Denali Dance

Denali Dance, aurora borealis photo from Alaska
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The "Denali Dance" Experience

It was just past midnight on the morning of March 10, 1998, and I was camped at milepost 135 on the Parks Highway. I was on a serious Auroral hunt and this was the 30th night this winter that I had spent with Denali in my sights. My inverted schedule began like all the rest - I turned the heater back on in my truck camper when I awoke at 7:30pm, did a few stretches to get rid of the camper kinks, cooked up breakfast around 8pm, then took a nice brisk walk. I was in a good space as I focused both my tripod/ camera setups on Denali Mountain, then settled into the front seat of my nice warm truck. The conditions were optimal; crystal clear skies, only 10 degrees below zero, and a near full moon lighting up the snowscape. So far I'd spent most of the nights just stargazing, and for the previous 3 nights the sky has been completely devoid of any Auroral activity. I had decided that maybe I was wanting this shot too much, so I just let it go... "If it happens, it happens" I thought to myself. That night it happened.

I have developed a sleep-with-one-eye-open technique for Aurora hunting. After sitting in the front of my truck for a couple of hours, that's exactly where I was - Snoozin'! All of a sudden my one alert eye screamed at my other eye to"Wake Up" and when I did I gasped!!! Huge, tall curtains of green and pink light dancing right over Denali!! I flew out of my truck and in one gigantic bound I was at my cameras. I just started clicking different exposures; 2 seconds, 4 seconds, 8 seconds, bracket Todd, bracket! This is supposed to be a relaxing thing, but talk about an adrenaline rush. The curtains were climbing right out of the Alaska Range and performing a mix of tap dance and ballet - it was absolutely extraordinary!! Within 10 minutes the peak moment was over and gracefully the Aurora bowed and faded into the northern sky. I stood there whispering "don't leave....come back..." Oh, so bittersweet.

And so it was, the highest mountain on this continent and what I believe to be nature's most magical phenomenon, the Aurora Borealis, getting together for one brief interlude, an exquisite high energy dance - the "Denali Dance."

Photograph Information:

Shot with a Nikon FM
Todd