Friday Night Adventure

My biggest hobby is photography.  I love to shoot the northern lights but also shoot landscapes and wildlife.  Last Friday, the northern lights were going to be very active.  The predicted light show was going to be amazing, and I wasn’t about to miss out!  I had taken the week off work since it was my birthday so I was rested and ready.

I loaded up my camera bag, made sure my batteries were charged, fueled up my truck, gathered my many layers of clothing in case the weather got colder (or windier) than expected, and off I went for a night full of excitement.  I get pretty excited when the lights are very active.  One might say I’m like a child because I’m always in awe when watching the lights and taking pictures.

I decided that this would be a good night to go out to the nature center to take my photos.  I like to find different spots so I can have a variety of foregrounds.  It’s also quite dark there – something that’s a basic necessity to avoid light pollution from the city lights.  As I drove the road leading to the nature center, I realized it had been a number of years since I had been there.  The road was now wider and there were nice large turnouts to park in.  I found one near the river and decided to park there.

I surveyed the area and chose the perfect spot in my turnout.  The river was about 30 feet away from me.  Beyond the river were the mountains reached toward the sky.  This would be a beautiful foreground for a picture.  The northern lights would cut across the night sky just over the mountains and reflect off the river.  “Perfect,” I thought to myself as I backed my truck up.  I like to park my truck in such a way that headlights from oncoming traffic won’t interfere with my picture-taking process.  It also helps hide that I’m a small woman out in the dark alone.  Even though I am armed, I prefer not to invite possible trouble.

I set up my camera and tripod and took a couple of test shots to make sure my exposure and settings were just right.  It was now time to wait for the show.  As I was waiting, I leaned up against my truck to watch the sky and listen to the sounds of the night.  The stars were bright and beautiful.  Without the city lights, you could see millions of them.  I could hear the river gurgling away even though it was still partly covered by ice.  The owls were hooting in the distance.  I remember thinking how peaceful and beautiful the night is.  I decided to light a cigarette and relaxed against the truck again, taking it all in.

I heard a “kerploop” in the river.  “What the heck is that?” I thought to myself.  I decided it must have been a chunk of ice falling into the water and went back to losing myself in the beauty and stillness…….and then I heard it again, and again, again, and realized it was moving past the back of my truck.  Listening to it, I could tell it wasn’t a moose moving through the water.  There wasn’t enough splash to the “kerploop” noise I was hearing.

I always carry a small flashlight on me so I can see the back of my camera to adjust settings if need be.  I decided to flash it toward the river.  The light was too weak and the darkness too thick for it to do me any good.  About that time, I heard the river traveler leave the river and go into the brush and trees to my left, still about only 40 feet away from me.  Quiet……whatever I heard was now just in the brush and trees, no longer moving.  I opened the door of my truck and picked up my large flashlight and shined it in the direction of the brush.  Still, I couldn’t see anything but brush and trees.  Then I heard a stirring over there.  Whatever it was wasn’t walking.  It seemed like maybe it was looking at my light.  I strained to see but nothing still.

Then I heard it.  That wuffing sound.  It’s a warning sound.  From a bear.  Knowing that a bear can clear 40 feet faster than I could get into my truck, I heeded the warning.  I grabbed my camera, tripod and all, shoved it in the front seat of my truck, and climbed in right over it.  I wasn’t going to chance shutting the door and walking around to the driver’s side.  I pulled the door shut behind me and stood in a contortionist position so I was able to shorten the legs on the tripod and climb over to the driver’s seat.

Good thing I have a healthy heart because I could feel it pounding so hard that I was sure it was going to jump right out of my chest.  I decided now would be a good time to vacate the area and find a new spot, hoping the lights wouldn’t come out before I settled again.  I ended up driving an hour north and found a turnout near another river.  There are bears in this area as well, but they tend to be on the wooded side of the road and are normally up higher.  This river was below me and is much wider so the chances of a bear coming up the bank would be slim to none.  Knik River Lights 20170419 3338_

It ended up being a good thing, that bear running me out of the first spot.  The lights were low on the horizon that night and the mountains would have most likely blocked most of my view.  I still got a few good shots and was much more relaxed there!

Knik River Lights 20170419 3254_

Cheers to living in Alaska and all the excitement that goes with it!

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~ by unknown2neone on April 29, 2017.

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