Litte Daylight, Cold Temperatures, A Long Ski.

Alaska, Landscapes, Photography, Portraits, Sports, Travel

Above: At 10:28 a.m. the sun has yet to rise above tree line, snow can be seen blowing off peaks in the Alaska Range. Elliott Highway, 37 miles north of Fairbanks. 

It was an… ambitious adventure. Nordic ski 14 miles into Colorado Creek Cabin, in White Mountains National Recreation Area, starting about 55 miles north of Fairbanks. Distance wasn’t the issue. The problem at hand was twofold: temperatures around -35 degrees fahrenheit, and less then 5 hours of daylight. Stopping more then 2 or 3 minutes meant quickly becoming chilled, and wasting precious daylight. 

It’s fascinating to review the time-of-day pictures were shot, tracing the sun path.

At exactly noon, the sun is already hidden behind some trees, with a frozen lake in the foreground.

At exactly noon the sun is already hidden behind trees, with a frozen pond in the foreground.

At 12:16 p.m. some of the only direct sunlight to be had.

At 12:16 p.m. some of the only direct sunlight to be had.

Nick pauses partway into a long uphill on a cold cross-country ski.

Nick pauses partway into a long uphill on a cold cross-country ski.

Sporting thick  fur mittens and hauling a moose skull, the only person we encountered on the 6-hour ski said “you have a ways to go.” Taken 2:21p.m., Nov. 30, 2013.

By the time darkness really took hold Nick and I had just slogged up the final ascent. I was far too exhausted to stop and fumble with my camera, and risk chilling off again.

When not sleeping or eating the cabin was a blast, but the next day brought another 14-mile ski back. Luckily the return was all downhill. 

Even two weeks later, as my blisters and frostbite continue to heal I wonder why we thought it would be a good idea. It really comes down to mind over matter, living in Alaska requires perseverance and toughness. Sometimes a little personal reminder is necessary. 

Northern Lights: Long exposures, a Satellite and a Satellite-Receiving Dish

Alaska, Landscapes, Photography

The Northern Lights visited last weekend, thanks to a solar flare that sent charged particles towards Earth. In a news brief, alerting northern residents to the likely lights display, The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner quoted a NASA scientist saying “This is the strongest flare seen so far in 2013.” It will likely be the last significant show of 2012-2013 winter, Fairbanks already has over 15 hours of sunlight, with dusk and dawn expanding far on either end.

I work late on the weekends, Friday night I had my tripod, but the lights weren’t very dramatic. Saturday night the lights were much stronger, but I foolishly was without tripod. I tried to find adequate surfaces to rest my camera and relied on the 2-second self timer, effective, but far from ideal.

2-second self timer, camera on the ground. A 40-second exposure allows the photographer to step back and enjoy the show, even while photographing.

2-second self timer, camera on the ground. A 40-second exposure allows the photographer to step back and enjoy the show, even while photographing.

Although April 10 recorded the strongest solar flare of the year, it did not produce the most dramatic lights I have seen this winter. Those came over the nights of March 16 and 17. I went out with a tripod that night.

Earth's originally satellite the moon, a satellite receiving dish and radio tower, all visible on top of Ski Boot Hill as northern lights streak overhead.

Earth’s original satellite – the moon, a satellite receiving dish and radio tower, all visible on top of Ski Boot Hill as northern lights streak overhead.
Setting the camera pointed straight up creates a fun, abstracted form. The Big Dipper is visible in the top-left portion of the photo.

Setting the camera pointed straight up creates a fun, abstracted form. The Big Dipper is visible in the top-left portion of the photo.

Thanks to all the wonderful visitors I’ve had over the last few days. I’ve greatly enjoyed viewing your blogs as well.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Foreign. National Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week

Alaska, Photography, Portraits

Winter has arrived. Sparkly-white snow dominates the landscape, already scarce daylight will continue to diminish and temperatures hitting negative numbers will likely drop another 50 degrees. Though these are conditions I have enjoyed my entire life thanks to stable housing and adequate clothing, not all do. My weekly photo challenge of “foreign” will focus on the life of those who do not.

Every year UAF takes part in National Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week. Volunteers stand outside all day, even camping in tents if UAF deems it’s not too cold, to raise awareness for the homeless in Alaska. I’m used to cold weather, but these people are brave.

Alaska has scary homeless statistics. According to University Alaska Anchorage Justice Center Alaska ranks 10th nationally for estimates of homeless people based off total population, one-quarter of one percent, and it’s rising quickly. When including those people who stay in shelters, with friends or in temporary housing the number is estimated at  4,500.

These pictures do not illustrate actual homeless people, just those trying to raise awareness. Perhaps I will use this occasion to find some truly homeless people in Fairbanks and document their trails and tribulations.

© Robin Wood

Volunteers warm their hands around a barrel fire, November 16, 2011.

Volunteers during National Hunger and Homeless Awareness Month at University of Alaska Fairbanks.