Fish On

Fish on!  Auroras leap over the Alaska Range from the Denali Highway east of Cantwell.

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The “Fish On” Experience

Fish On! That's what I felt like yelling when this big, emerald green aurora cleared the whitecaps of the moonlit Alaska Range and leapt into the deep blue starry skies above. It wiggled and thrashed about as the aurora performed aerial acrobatics that would have impressed any angler!

Finding the fishing hole was a discovery itself. It was March and I was exploring the gravelly Denali Highway east of Cantwell when I came upon a sign: "Winter Road Maintenance Ends Here." Snowmachine and truck traffic had packed the snow fairly well so I locked in the 4WD to avoid fishtailing and kept on going. I found an inviting spot where the trees thinned (didn’t want to get a snag), baited up with my favorite lenses, cast out the tripods and then did what fisherman do, waited patiently…

The first couple nights I had several nibbles and one decent bite but none of them were keepas. But on the third night a trophy-sized aurora struck and I set the hook. Fish On!

I gripped my camera firmly as I opened up the f-stop then lengthened the exposure time to give the aurora some line. Play 'em. Grab the net! My tackle moaned and groaned in the cold weather but held tight and in the end it took three, slightly overlapping, 12-second exposures to get the whole thing into the boat (my first aurora panoramic stitch job).

Did I capture it? Nah, the aurora has way too much energy for that action. I like to think in more sporting terms of "preserving the moment." It was catch and release, and it fed me well.

Todd Salat

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Photo Info

Denali Highway, Alaska
Nikon D80 with Nikkor 17-35mm/f2.8
15 seconds, ƒ/2.8, ISO 400

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