The Alaska Aurora Train

The Northern Lights shining over an old train in Alaska
The Alaska Aurora Train

This was by far, my luckiest photograph from Alaska. Earlier in the day, I was driving from my hotel to Denali National Park when I randomly noticed two bright blue and yellow trains with “Alaska” written on them. Luckily, there was a small road a few hundred feet down, so I immediately pulled off. An Alaskan train, sitting in the snow, with evergreens all around truly seemed like the perfect representation of this amazing state, so I snapped a few photos then continued on to Denali National Park.

After an incredible day of exploring and photographing Denali, I drove back to my hotel to get some rest. Around 10pm I got an alert on my phone notifying me that the Aurora was going to be a bit active in the upcoming hours. The sky was crystal clear and there were millions of stars out, so I grabbed my camera and headed north towards Fairbanks.

All of a sudden, I remembered the trains from earlier in the day. My mind was so overwhelmed from Denali and all of the epic landscapes, that they completely slipped my mind. I exclaimed “Oh My God! If I can get the Northern Lights in the same picture as those trains, THAT would definitely be my ultimate Alaskan photo”. I quickly turned my car around and headed back south. I was so excited that it felt like a lifetime until I finally found the trains. I honestly passed them because it was pitch black and I didn’t know exactly where they were located. Thankfully, after a turnaround or two, my headlights captured the bright yellow on one of them, and I pulled off onto the small road from earlier.

The Aurora was creating a beautiful double band of green light that seemed to cascade over the trains. I setup my tripod across the road to capture a scene that I couldn’t believe was actually happening. I attached a Laowa 15mm f2 lens to my Nikon Z6 and started shooting 10-25 second exposure shots. The Northern Lights weren’t dancing wildly, so I was able to expose a bit longer. Unfortunately, the Aurora wasn’t strong enough to light up the side of trains, but nonetheless, I was still getting some really cool shots. Then out of nowhere, I heard the faint sound of a semi truck (I hadn’t seen a car in over an hour) and I knew this was my one chance to hopefully get some light on the trains. I was calculating in my head like crazy, trying to figure out how long my exposure should be, just to catch enough light as not to overexpose the trains. I went with 20 seconds, and as I looked at the back of the camera’s LCD screen, I literally jumped up and down for 5 minutes. THIS is why I am in love with photography!

A few other images from "The Alaska Train"

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