Dispatches,  Featured

Dispatches: Just follow the Northern Lights to Alaska

aurora borealis
A meteor passes through the aurora borealis seen from the dark skies north of Fairbanks, Alaska


when one thinks of places to visit during the cold DC winter, Alaska is likely one of the last choices you would make. Heck, through January this year, the DC area had more snow than Anchorage, Alaska (as measured at Dulles International and Anchorage International, respectively). And what is there to see in Alaska in the winter months besides short days, long dark nights, and lots of ice and snow? Well, for one, and the ultimate goal of the trip I took, the aurora borealis, also known as the Northern Lights.

Beyond the wonder of the aurora though, there is something special about Alaska during the winter, especially for a photographer. The short periods of daylight also means the sun is low on the horizon for much of the day creating what almost seems to be a day-long ‘golden hour’. The highest elevation of the sun during my trip was only 16° at 1P – practically almost sunset here in DC.

Starting in Anchorage and traveling the famed Seward Highway, the reflection of the Chugach Mountain Range in the glacial waters is a sight to behold. From Anchorage, it was onwards to Fairbanks, which is only eight hours by car, but to truly see the breathtaking beauty of Alaska, there is no better way than the Alaska Railroad ‘Aurora Train’. With an open air vestibule between cars, I think I spent the better part of the trip hanging outside of the train snapping photos of the beautiful views. Just make sure to wear layers!

All images © Joseph Gruber.  His work can be found on Facebook, flickr and Instagram

Dispatches is our occasional look outside of DC at the places local photographers have traveled. Have a set of photos you’d like to feature here? Contact us at editor@dcfocused.com.

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Downtown Anchorage, Alaska with the Chugach Mountain Range behind

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Sunrise over Turnagain Arm and the Chugach Mountains

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Morning on Monument Creek and the Chena Hot Springs east of Fairbanks, Alaska

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Coming round the curve at Hurricane Gulch near Denali National Park

Joseph Gruber lives in Arlington, VA after moving to the Washington, DC metro area six years ago and works as a project engineer contractor for NASA. When not chasing a sunrise or sunset, he is often found battling DC's light pollution with a passion for night photography and astrophotography.