"North Pole, Alaska - Aurora Viewing" Top 5 Page for this destination North Pole by Glacierwolf

North Pole Travel Guide: 12 reviews and 54 photos

Welcome to North Pole - Watch the Aurora

North Pole is a very children friendly town with Candy Cane painted street lamps and Christmas named streets. However, it's also a great place to view the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights). On the south side of the town - heading down the Richardson Highway - You will see a sign for the Chena Lakes Recreation Area. A favorite 'jump off' spot for miles and miles of exotic atv and snowmachine riding - also the perfect place to watch the Northern Lights. You can walk or drive up the large containment dike in several areas.

The Norther Lights tend to come and go in 20 minute cycles. Best watched between 10pm to 4am from October to March. Dress warm!

The Aurora Borealis - Norhern Lights - Where from?

The wonderful Northern Lights we enjoy weekly living in North Pole, Alaska are the product of sunspot activity. When an active sunspot points toward the earth it creates a CME - Coronal Mass Ejections - and particles come speeding toward earth. The lighter particles arrive in about 12 hours........... heavier ones can take up to 40 hours arrival. Quite often this activity can go on 2-4 days with fast moving particles arriving on top of slower ones ejected the day before. This overlap is what makes the more spectacular pictures.
You can now get aurora predictions and email alerts over the internet. Visit NOAA's "Space Weather Now" at http://www.sec.noaa.gov/SWN/ and click "Todays Space Weather". This site is geared more toward people interested in protecting their expensive satellites - but - is very helpful to photographers. Getting a 6-12 hour notice beats sleeping on the couch and sticking your head out the window every 30 minutes all night long.

Aurora Photography

Taking pictures of the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) and Ice Art is cold work and very hard on your camera and lenses. A good steady tripod that is fully rubber coated will make it safer for you and your camera - the rubber will prevent your fingers from frost-freezing to the metal at -35F. You will taking time lapse photography - so - a remote is needed - cable, wire, or IR is fine - just anything besides your shaking freezing fingers!

In the afternoon or before going to Chena Lakes - step outside and adjust your camera for infinity. On most lenses this is just a slight twist back from end stop. On an auto camera, let it focus on a far away object then lock it down. This will prevent the camera from false auto-focusing in the cold. This will assure the picture and stars come in nice crisp focus. That, and at -35F the lubricant inside your lens is more like peanut butter ? bad for life of the lens and very hard on the battery to move the lens.

A fast lens - F/1.8 or better is needed for professional results. Otherwise your ISO is too high (grain in film, noise in digital). If you have to use a F/2.5 lens be sure it's set for widest angle, don't go above ISO 400 and take 12 -14 second exposures. At F/1.8 and ISO 400 it's just 2-4 second exposures. Big difference.

Keep your camera warm. Film will easily break if it reaches the outside temperatures lower than 20F. Batteries fail quickly. Have two to three batteries handy in your warm pocket. Swap batteries often ? do not wait for the fail light to warn you ? that battery will not work after warming up.

Expect to shoot 100-200 high quality pictures per night. When the aurora is out ? it?s quite a show! Watch where your breath is moving ? don?t let it settle on the lens ? this is a real picture killer. Always shoot at the largest file size possible with digital. If you do not have a 2GB memory card ? bring a lap top to download into!

Feel free to email any questions on Aurora or other Alaskan photographic subjects. Kevin@northpolegallery.com

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Once in a lifetime Aurora Viewing
  • Cons:Frostbite, Frostnip, cold, slippery, dark, and scary at nite.
  • In a nutshell:I have traveled all over Alaska and chose North Pole as my home.
  • Last visit to North Pole: Nov 2005
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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