Alaska Aurora borealis photo tour

Northern Lights over Mt. McKinley - Slideshow


Aurora borealis photo tour.

"Carl is such an incredible guide, so knowledgable about the terrain and also has an incredible sense of humor which made my trip just that much more memorable. I am planning on returning next year for another trip with Carl and plan on many more after that." --- Donelle M. Washington. More testimonials here -->

Aurora Borealis Photo Tour

The aurora borealis; few phrases carry quite the same mystique as the aurora borealis, or northern lights. And few, if any, natural phenomena carry quite the same magic and power over the human spirit, over seemingly the entire natural world, than the Aurora borealis. Simply, there's nothing quite like it.


Photo Tour outline
  • - Accommodations in Fairbanks, Alaska.
  • - Travel by automobile daily/nightly as needed to our photography locations.
  • - 6 nights to photograph the aurora.
  • - Optional Alaska winter scenic photography.
  • - Small, customized photo only group.
  • - Flexible itinerary.


* * * * * * *

Grab your camera and pack your longjohns! Most experts hope 2016-2017 to be another high point in the solar cycle, with fantastic aurora borealis predicted for the coming winter/spring. So far, this fall has already provided photographers with some spectacular opportunities, and the coming spring promises to be just as grand. The cycle will likely begin to decline sometime in the next few years, so for this trip, sooner is better than later.


This could be the perfect year for you to get out and photograph the aurora borealis. Check out this gallery of images from 2013 trip participant, David Campbell, from Australia. Dave worked hard and came away with some great images. We had a blast shooting together!


Watch the timelapse video below, check out the photos and details on the page and give me a shout if you have any questions.


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  • Aurora Borealis Timelapse Video Aurora Borealis Timelapse Video

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Aurora borealis photo in Wrangell - St. Elias National Park, Alaska.
A Rising Vapor column - Click on the image above to see more vertical Aurora borealis Photos.



This photo tour is a great opportunity for photographers interested in shooting the aurora borealis. While no one can ever say with certainty exactly when and where the aurora borealis display might occur, Fairbanks is certainly one of the best locations in Alaska to view the northern lights. Just as critically, it's a great central location within Alaska to get around the state to other potential shooting locations.


This has 2 benefits to your photography. Firstly, it means you aren't stuck shooting the same scenes and compositions night after night. One night we might be framing the aurora borealis roaring over the top of Mt. McKinley, and the next evening you could be standing on the high open subarctic tundra, composing the snow-laden spruce trees of the boreal forest against a swirling, Rising Vapor column. A diversity of photos is available that simply is not possible when locked in a remote cabin in some inaccessible backcountry wilderness.


Secondly, mobility gives you many more options to actually find the aurora. Given the aurora borealis' often fickle willingness to display, a compounding challenge is finding clear skies. Clouds can roll in and cover the most wondrous spectacle you ever saw, and it's awfully frustrating to not have the option available to jump in your car and drive a hundred miles off to clearer skies. The advantage of local knowledge is immeasurable.


Local Knowledge

The advantage of all the resources a local Alaskan may have that folks from elsewhere typically do not. If the weather threatens to disrupt our planned itinerary, I'll jump on the phone in the afternoon, call my friends in Glennallen and see what the skies look like over there; or south toward Denali National Park. Or north toward the Arctic. You simply can't beat the benefit of local knowledge when it comes to finding locations to shoot the aurora borealis.


Free ebook Download - Photographer's Guide to the Aurora Borealis.

Free ebook Aurora borealis photography guidebook.

Aurora Borealis Photography

We'll be concentrating on the aurora borealis. That means shooting at night. Secondary options will be the endless array of Alaska winter scenics and landscape photography opportunities in interior Alaska. But that will be contingent on the weather and the aurora borealis displays. Our priority will be the northern lights, front and center. if the aurora isn't happening, as can happen, or the weather doesn't cooperate for northern lights photography, then we'll spend out time on alternatives. But the primary focus will be photographing the aurora.


Photography Schedule

This will be determined completely by the aurora borealis and the weather. That means we'll be effectively "on call" during the night. You'll be heading out to shoot in the dusky afternoon for sunset options, and then waiting to see what happens with the aurora. The aurora borealis can come on anytime, right after sunset, or later at night. We'll use every option available to best predict when the displays might occur, but for the most part, it's a waiting game of cat and mouse.


You'll be catching up on sleep during the day. You'll be shooting at night. Trying to do both simply doesn't work, beyond one day or so. For this photo tour, the key is being as flexible and "ready to go" as possible. .


What You Need

You'll need to bring warm winter clothes. A headlamp (or 2). Your camera gear. See this comprehensive guide to shooting aurora borealis photography for an in-depth look at what works and what doesn't work (better yet, download the eBook version of that entire series of articles via this link). In brief, you want 2 cameras, wide angle lenses, and solid tripod/ballhead. Faster lenses will be an immeasurable benefit. No filters for aurora borealis photography, but your standard polarizer and GND filters are helpful for any landscape photography we may do. If you have any questions about camera gear or clothing options, just send me a note before the tour; but it's mostly covered in the link above.


Carl Donohue - Guide, photographer and traveler.
Enjoying a backcountry ski near Mt. Blackburn, Wrangell - St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska

Your Guide

Carl Donohue; an experienced and professional backcountry guide, frontcountry guide, photographer, photo tour leader and teacher. I'm a certified Wilderness First Responder, and have years of experience in the field with folks.


As an artist, I'm not only a photographer, I'm also a musician, having graduated from Atlanta Institute of Music and taught and played guitar for a living for most of my adult life. I've spent years as a music instructor, and working as an instructor in the arts is something I enjoy immensely.


A thorough bio is available on the "About Carl" page of this website.


What's Provided

This photo tour covers your accommodation and your travel from Fairbanks, as well as professional photo tour and guiding services. Meals are not included. This is not really a photo workshop, as the purpose here is not instruction, but rather shooting. I'm always more than willing to offer any assistance of course, and share what experience I have that may be of benefit to you.


Getting there

You'll need to travel to Fairbanks, and we meet there. Fairbanks has a major airport, so it's pretty straightforward. you can, if you like, fly to Anchorage and drive up; depending on road conditions, allow 6-8 hours, or longer. The photo tour will base out of Fairbanks, so when we finish up, you can fly back home right from Fairbanks as well.



Though not imperative, it's probably a good idea to bring a set of snowshoes if you have some. Rentals can be organized if you need them. Weather delays are not unusual with Alaska air travel at any time of year, so you should aim to get to Fairbanks the day before the trip begins, spend the night, and we'll meet up on Day 1 of the trip in Fairbanks.


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2017 Dates


There has already been quite a lot of interest in the 2017 dates, so if you're thinking about a trip, please contact me directly.


If these dates don't fit your itinerary, please contact me asap and ask about an alternative. Being local, it's often easy enough for me to accommodate requests for a custom trip, or substitute dates. Last minute options outside the scheduled tours are available.


Read what makes my photo tours so special.



This trip is being offered at a rate for early bookings: $2500.00



$1250.00 deposit. Balance is due 45 days prior to the trip departure. Deposits are generally non-refundable, unless there are some truly extenuating circumstances. Please review the complete terms and cancellations policy here.


Contact Expeditions Alaska join this photo tour


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A sampling of aurora borealis images from Alaska: We'll be driving wherever we need to go to seek out great foreground locations, clear skies and spectacular aurora borealis displays. Below I've posted a few other images from various aurora photo tour trips in February and also the fall.


Aurora borealis over boreal forest, arctic Alaska.
The aurora borealis over the snow covered boreal forest, arctic Alaska.


The aurora borealis over the Alaska Range and the oil pipeline.
The aurora borealis over the Alaska Range and the oil pipeline, Alaska.


Aurora borealis over Mt. McKinley, Denali, Alaska.
The aurora borealis and moon over Mt. McKinley, Feb trip, Alaska.


Northern lights over reflection, Alaska.
Northern lights over their reflection. March tour, Alaska.


Northern lights and Wrangell - St. Elias Park.
Northern lights over Wrangell - St. Elias Park and the Copper river. Fall Trip, Alaska.

Aurora Borealis Photo Tour at a Glance


Tour Highlights - Aurora borealis photography. Northern lights in a variety of settings.


Why take this photo tour? Flexible, experienced and knowledgable photo tour leader, and a a perfect centralized base to work from make this one of Alaska's premiere nature photo tours.


Level If you can stand the cold, and handle long nights, you'll be fine. Not a strenuous tour.




2017 Dates

  • Photo Tour #1: Feb 18-24
  • Photo Tour #2: March 11-17
  • Photo Tour #3: March 18-24
  • Photo Tour #4: March 25-31
  • Arctic Fall Tour (Brooks Range): TBA


2017 Price

Special Book Early Offer $2500.00


Similar Trips There is nothing similar to the aurora.


More photos Aurora borealis or northern lights photos


* Accommodation in Fairbanks
* Daily/nightly transport
* Experienced Photo Guide
* Alaskan-owned business
* Photography Only trip

Please note this is NOT a backpacking trip; You stay in a hotel, and will travel by automobile; any hiking will be short and simple.


More info/booking


All Trip Prices


Aurora blog posts



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