The push to Homer

The push to Homer

Sometimes things can take on a life of their own.  This is especially true if you are traveling with a group of photographers fresh from a sleep-deprived high of some spectacular aurora photos the night before – March 8, 2012.  With space weather forecasts suggesting another good night for aurora borealis displays, we headed out to the Kenai Peninsula.  It seemed to be the only place in our region where the clouds might be clear.

With clouds enshrouding the Turnagain Arm area, we pressed through a snow storm in Turnagain Pass, turning instead of toward Seward but down to Cooper Landing.  This small town on the Kenai Peninsula is ideally situated for landscape photography – high mountain ridges rise up on both sides of the town, which rests at Kenai Lake and the headwaters of the Kenai River.  A bridge on the Sterling Highway that crosses those headwaters marks the key launching point into the river, which also presents an opportunity to photograph the landscape in the flowing waters of the river.  Scattered clouds allowed us to view the tandem of Jupiter and Venus in the western sky, and even a bit of a green aurora glow rising up above the mountains to the north.  But before the aurora could grow and present a stronger display, the clouds rolled in.  We had come too far to turn around and head north of Anchorage – so we continued on down the highway toward Homer.

Most of the trip down to Homer was a blur for me, as I sat in and out of consciousness in the back seat of one of the two vehicles making the photo convoy. At one point I awoke to us being pulled over by Alaska State Troopers because the vehicle I was riding in had one headlight that was inoperative.

Before I knew it, we were at a well-known overlook that presents sweeping views of Kachemak Bay, the Gulf of Alaska, and the Homer Spit.  A nearly-full moon was blasting its way through a strong cloud canopy that swallowed the sky.  I captured several images, drawing upon the various tonalities in the scene and textures represented in the clouds and mountains on the far side of the bay.  After a while, we headed down to Bishop’s Beach, a public beach adorned with driftwood and rocks polished and shaped from eons of tumbling in the surf.  Surprisingly, we easily spent a couple of hours playing with low light photography, long shutter speeds, rolling surf, and various compositions of deadwood and stone. While not stellar images, it was fun to take advantage of being all the way down in Homer in the middle of the night and making the best of a cloudy night.

Shortly after 3:00 a.m., we headed back to Anchorage.  Again, I dozed through most of the four hour drive, catching glimpses of clouds, darkness and falling snow.  By the time we got back to Anchorage, the skies had opened up and the sun was shining. No aurora, but a photo adventure that ably reflected the craziness that can ensue when a group of photographers decide to head out and try to capture some nighttime magic.

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