Sep 19th

2012

N68 W133 – AURORA!

Camped on the shore of Lake Ethel in the Yukon, I woke at 4am, poked my head out of the tent, and saw the sky aflame with the northern lights, it was like coming face to face with glory, or hearing the voice of God. There’s something ineffable about the experience, the lights just hanging there as if they’re just waiting for you to show up before they dance. I crawled down the ladder from the tent on top of my Jeep, fumbled for my gear and my headlamp, and spent an hour photographing the lights as they danced across the sky over the lake and nearby hills. I’ve got one shot I’m thrilled with, hoping it survives the monitor shock when I get it onto my larger displays at home. That photograph, and others I’m making on this trip, will end up in the my fine-art book next year.

This trip has been amazing. There have been times, driving through the hills ablaze with golden aspens, that I’ve lost my breath, other times, in the solitude and serenity of the hills that I’ve come close to tears for the beauty as it spreads out before me towards the horizon in ochre and russet browns, to meet snowy hills and blue skies. I missed the peak of the turning of the leaves here in the north, but would easily trade that for seeing these first snows falling on the still-colourful taiga. I’ve spent two weeks wandering around the muskeg with my tripod and cameras, playing at being a photographer while secretly just being an observer, there for the heady bliss of being somewhere so beautiful, so wild, so remote.  I’ve crossed rivers, the water halfway up my doors, to camp on rocky spits in the middle of rivers, and climbed high into the hills to explore old mines and feel the wind whip the mud, thick from the Dempster Highway, off the Jeep. On days like this, as much as I adore what I do with a camera to my face, the photographs pale next to the experience itself.

I’m in Whitehorse now. Stocking up on things, looking for a shower, and getting Emily’s windshield repaired. By the time I rolled into town this morning she was held together with superglue and duct-tape after taking a bullet, a really large rock, and the weight of my buddy Al as we fixed my roof-rack. Holes and cracks, the poor thing was quite a sight! Back to the woods this afternoon, and the beginning of a long slow, week-long, return to Vancouver. See you when I get back!

Comments (25)
  1. Bill

    September 19, 2012 at 12:18 pm

    Love the post. Wish I were there myself.

  2. Jason Barden

    September 19, 2012 at 12:20 pm

    What an awesome adventure. I look forward to more details and images!

  3. September 19, 2012 at 12:35 pm

    I am only imagine the adventure you are having, looking forward to seeing more of your images and pending fine art book.

  4. leonie

    September 19, 2012 at 12:41 pm

    interesting new rig you’ve got on the top of the jeep there David

  5. Dave Benson

    September 19, 2012 at 1:39 pm

    sure hope you treat Emily to a bubble bath upon her return to Vancouver… she deserves it after where she has been able to take you…

  6. Anna Velkey-Solvberg

    September 19, 2012 at 1:52 pm

    What an adventure in the true sense of the word! So serene and so humbling – the great outdoors gets to you, doesn’t it? :)

  7. September 19, 2012 at 2:24 pm

    Thanks for sharing your trip. I’ve been wanting to drive up the Dempster Highway from my home in Tacoma for many years now. I keep a pdf of the road guide on my computer desktop as a reminder. Following your adventures on the highway are renewing my passion for getting there. Now that the kids are out of college and on their own, I might be able to afford to take a month off from work and go – with any luck, next August or September. David, you say you are past the peak, when, do you think, is the best time to go?

    • September 22, 2012 at 2:40 am

      Joe, I was there back in 2009 at the start of Sept, 2nd-6th, and the colours were at their peak in Tombstone Park, like for David, the scenery there just took my breath away. Darwin Wiggett has also been there for the fall colours, so you can check with him. Obviously it can vary from year to year but late August, early September tends to be the time.

  8. Jim

    September 19, 2012 at 3:04 pm

    I’ve been wanting to leave a comment on a number of posts as you’ve described your trip. I’ve been at a loss for words that are different from what everyone else is expressed. After today’s post I’m just going to give up and say with all sincerity: WOW!

  9. September 19, 2012 at 3:36 pm

    Nice David. Finally abusing that Jeep in good old northern canadian ways!

    That is deep water in photo number 3. Were you worried when it started leaking around your feet?

  10. September 19, 2012 at 4:09 pm

    Great to hear we will be able to see some of the images from this trip in your book next year. Hopefully some of these Jeep shots will make it to one of their brochures soon, who wouldn’t want a vehicle who could make it through an adventure like this.

  11. Matt

    September 19, 2012 at 6:02 pm

    David,
    Are you serious about the shot at your windshield? Your material is amazing. Please keep it coming as it inspires and motivates me. Thank you!

  12. Len

    September 19, 2012 at 8:42 pm

    Thank you for keeping the world in awe of this adventure through your voice and vision.
    It’s my 50th approaching fast and the Dempster is my planned solo adventure.

    Awesome David, just awesome!

  13. Nel

    September 19, 2012 at 9:59 pm

    I want to come with you….. :)

  14. Sandy Silva

    September 19, 2012 at 10:43 pm

    Emily rocks!!!!!! Love the images!!!!! Can’t wait for your fine art book….true hightlights in my life …:) Safe travels home David…:)

  15. September 19, 2012 at 10:49 pm

    Great short of the aurora. With places like this who cares if America ever lets you in. Head north!

  16. September 20, 2012 at 10:20 am

    The aurora image is truly beautiful. Great work. Was the sky really that green? I think you may find that it is a bit out of gamut when you print it…… No matter, I’m sure you can fix that, and it is so breathtaking.

    You are a brave man, my friend, that image with the water halfway up the side of the jeep proves that! May luck and good fortune be with you all the way back home!

  17. Craig Carlson

    September 20, 2012 at 1:28 pm

    Dave,

    Awesome stuff! Great photos but maybe even more moving text too! I’m using your stuff to slowly wear down the wife’s aversion to camping! Keep it coming! ;-)

    Craig

  18. September 22, 2012 at 2:42 am

    David, great story and isn’t the Arctic amazing!!! Can’t wait to get back there again. Thanks for sharing your latest, awesome adventure.

  19. Adair D

    September 22, 2012 at 10:31 am

    thank you…

  20. Ralph Milton

    September 23, 2012 at 9:08 pm

    David,
    I recently bought but just tonight began to read “Photographically Speaking.” I didn’t read the blurb about you (athour blurbs are generally tiresome) but by the time I got to page 23 I found myself saying, “I know this guy!” Not in the sense of being an aquaintence, but in the sense of resonating with who you are. What really gave you away was quoting Anne Lamont, ML King and Lear. I’m sure you’ll get Annie Dillard in there soon.
    Reading your bio, I wasn’t surprised at the four years of theology, from VST, I bet. Well, I haven’t studied there, but they gave me a DD a few years ago. My life has bopped around like yours has, early years spent in broadcasting, then teaching communications in the Philippines and in Nairobi, 10 years as a TV producer, then a writer and publisher, and finally, now in my dotage, photography. All the above is simply to thank you for your clear writing, your no-bs style, and your clear vision. I look forward to learning from you in the future. Bon Voyage!
    Ralph

  21. September 24, 2012 at 9:53 am

    Love the roof-tent in that last image… or wait a second…. :-)

  22. October 3, 2012 at 1:20 am

    I so wished I’d had the holiday time to join you and Al on the trip, the pictures look amazing: especially the Aurora shot! Looking forward to seeing your fine-art book.