We have a big solar flare coming in, so we’re out here on an aurora hunt. It’s a CME. It’s dynamite. A coronal mass ejection. It’s when the sun kicks off energy. And these explosions that are larger than the earth explosion type things. Coming off of sun spots. And, if that energy is pointing straight at the earth… It gets caught up in our magnetic field, and that energy, Electrons, come down our magnetic field, collide with oxygen up there, about 50 or a couple hundred miles high. And, that’s what generates the northern lights. My job as a photographer and the Aurora Hunter is to be in position. You know. Location, location, location. And, I like to think I’m composing, Mother Nature, it’s a bit of a teamwork thing. She’s got to put on the show. But, I have to be in the right position. And, of course with the right tools. And the know-how. I’ve stopped keeping track of how much time I spend out here, in terms of hours. It’s more in terms of weeks or months, or at this point years now. You know, it was always in me. Even when I was a kid growing up in the Lower 48. I would spend nights sleeping on our trampoline. Just starting at the stars. I’m in fourth grade, and I’m going “Wow, look at those stars!” (laughs). And, I’d see how many nights in a row I could sleep on the trampoline. I think my record was 23 nights in a row. So, I was doing kind of strange things, For an Iowa country boy. I can remember specifically the very first time I saw the northern lights. It was 1989. The peak of the solar cycle, and I was going to graduate school in Laramie, Wyoming. And, all of the sudden we had heard the northern lights were out, I was like, “What are those?” I’d never really seen them before. And, my goodness gracious, we were on top of a mountain in the Laramie range, and they were turning blood red. And I was like “Oh, my gosh…” “This is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen…” And, the very first picture I took, that was 1990. An old film camera, a Pentax K1000. On a plastic K-Mart tripod. I took two shots on slide film, and got them back. And, I thought “Oh, my gosh!” This beautiful green thing swirling about. And, from that moment, I was hooked. When I realized that you could preserve the auroras on film, I just experimented a ton. I had a heaping stack of slides. The no good ones. The experiments gone wrong. Too dark, fuzzy, out of focus. Too light. I had this huge garbage can full of excess slide film. And, that was just the learning curve. Well, when I go out there, it’s all about getting the shot. And, my wife and I call it “the hero shot.” The hero shot is the one where you just come home and you go “Look at this!” And everyone goes “Wow!” and you feel like a hero. It’s a wonderful feeling, you know it’s good for the ego, good for the business, but, if you kinda strip that away, it’s just good for what’s inside you, because that’s the really the hero moment in nature. Mother nature’s putting on this show that is just mind blowing. It’s unbelievable. When I first resigned from my day job, that was in 1996. And, I decided I wanted to become a full time aurora hunter, My goal from that moment until this day was to get one hero shot a year. I figured, and I’m talking the kind that somebody wants buy from you, and hang on their wall. Where the auroras are extremely bright, very active, turning colors where you can’t believe your eyes. If you get to preserve a little sample of that with a photograph, umm Well, that’s what we call the hero shot. Wow, what a feeling. I mean, oh. You’re just. You’re elevated. Levitating. You are lifted up. Your spirits are so high that, I love that feeling. And, I think I get that so much from seeing cool things in nature. That I will go way out of my way to find that. And I can, you know… the next day, I’ll be just laying there thinking about it. And thinking how lucky I was, or how fortunate. Of course, I just spent two weeks sitting there staring at the sky,
a and not seeing anything. So, you’ve got to remember luck is kind of relative term. I just feel incredibly lucky to be even in a position to where I could have been there, taken a photograph of it, and just mainly experienced it. That feeling could last for… days.