Anchorage Aurora Quest | Alaska Northern Lights Photo Tour 2017-11-17T20:22:52+00:00

Anchorage Aurora Quest | Alaska Northern Lights Photo Tour

Tour Description

Embark on an exciting journey to scenic locations with magical views of northern lights rippling over snowy peaks and dancing across dark waters. Anchorage Aurora Quest significantly increases the odds of aurora viewing success by allowing you to reserve as many nights as you like [space available] and pay only when when conditions are optimal for the tour to run. Northern lights are a natural phenomenon dependent on both space and earth weather. Though we can never 100% guarantee the lights will be out, with the help of available technology we can increase the odds of success. This tour is for everyone who has viewing northern lights on their life list, from serious photographers to sightseers. If desired, you will be coached on how to best photograph auroras and provided a tripod. Aurora portraits are also offered while on tour.

Check out Twilight Photo Tour for a package including a  10% discount on the Anchorage Aurora Quest [conditions permitting for the tour to run].

Who

This is a small group tour for sightseers* and all levels of photographers.

Even if a tour looks to be sold out, please CONTACT US. Seats often come available quickly due to a booking policy that allows guests to book multiple nights in advance. There is a good chance we can get you on tour!

*Due to the small and exclusive nature of this tour, we are not able to offer discount for non-photographers.

When

Sep 1 - Mar 31

Nightly when conditions are right, which means 3Kp or higher and less than 25% cloud cover. If the aurora report lists the tour as scheduled to run, submit payment on your booking invoice by 6 pm. Once payment is received, you will receive a pickup time [usually starting around 10 pm]. Duration is 4-6 hours.

Where

Ssshhh, it's a secret, but we have several favorite locations within a 70-mile radius of Anchorage that offer wonderful views of the night sky, and great land features such as reflective lakes, forests and mountain peaks. The location[s] we visit are based on conditions at the time, and we may travel to 1-3 locations during the evening.

Mode of Transportation

All-wheel drive vehicles with seating for 3 [or 4 for groups]. Driver is your photography guide.

Conditions

This is a moderate activity that involves short walks (up to one mile) on snow and ice. Weather conditions may include wind, and temperatures range from 0ºF [-17ºC] to 50ºF [10ºC].

What's Included

  • Anchorage area hotel pickup and drop-off [Girdwood and Alyeska Resort bookings may be made for groups of 6 or more].
  • Narrative on the science and lore surrounding auroras provided by your guide.
  • Light snacks and water [we strive to reduce the amount of plastic that ends up in the environment, so fresh water from a jug along with refillable cups].
  • Hot beverage selection including hot cocoa, cider, tea or coffee.
  • Handwarmers
  • Creative and technical photography instruction is offered by your professional photographer guide.
  • A limited number of tripods are available for loan.

IMPORTANT BOOKING INFORMATION

  • Even if a tour looks to be sold out, please CONTACT US. Seats often come available quickly due to a booking policy that allows guests to book multiple nights in advance. There is a good chance we can get you on tour!
  • Make as many reservations as you like [separate for each night so you are not overcharged], but PLEASE DO NOT ENTER PAYMENT on your reservation until the above report announces the tour will run. If you prepay and the tour cancels due to poor conditions, there will be a 10% processing fee.
  • We use modern technology to insure conditions will be optimal for viewing, but auroras are still unpredictable and that's part of what makes them so special. You may opt out of a tour if conditions are marginal, but once payment is received and the tour departs, no refund will be issued if auroras do not appear as expected.
  • Please cancel your reservation at least 24-hours in advance if your plans change. If you are not available for the night you reserved and the tour runs, you may be billed for your seat if it could have been filled by another guest.

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Attention: By reserving an Alaska Photo Treks photography workshop, tour, class, private or group instruction, private or group guided tour, you are agreeing to our Booking Policies and Liability Waiver. Please read the link before completing booking.

northern lights photo tour

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How likely am I to see auroras?

A: Aurora viewing is dependent on both space and earth weather. While forecasts for the former are based on much scientific data coming from many tracking stations, space weather tracking and research is still in its infancy, and data is available only from a limited number of satellites. It's best to expect the unexpected. Based on the previous year's statistics, conditions were right to run 28% of the scheduled tours. Of the tours that ran, auroras were seen 90% of the time. Your chances increase greatly the more nights you have available to tour.

Q: How many reservations can I make?

A: As many as you like. Just be sure to enter a separate reservation for each night, so you are not overcharged if/when the tour runs. Also, cancel reservations as quickly as possible if your plans change.

Q: Are there refunds if auroras don't show or are not very active?

A: We do our very best to ensure conditions are optimal to see auroras. Nature sometimes surprises us in pleasant and unpleasant ways. Whatever happens, it is our aim to make the best of it. We will show you a variety of night photography techniques and prepare you for taking advantage of a better aurora viewing situation you will hopefully experience in the future. Once the tour commits to run and you have submitted payment, there are no refunds regardless of conditions.

Q: What happens if I book multiple nights and successfully see auroras early on?

A: You may cancel the remaining reservations or keep them. We've had guests go out with us multiple nights and often, when auroras get going, they stay active for several nights in a row.

Q: I made a reservation, what's next?

A: Enjoy your day in Anchorage and if the weather is clear, it might be wise to take an afternoon nap. Check the aurora report here by noon and if the tour posts to run, submit payment by 6 pm. Once payment is received, you will be given a pickup time at your location.

Q: How far from Anchorage does the tour travel?

A: Our destination each night will vary according to conditions, but we usually travel within a 70-mile radius and visit 1-3 locations.

Q: How long will I be outside?

A: Up to 2 hours. There are some locations where we may stay within close range of the vehicle, and others where we may walk up to 1-mile. Much depends on conditions and capability of the group.

Q: Are there restrooms available?

A: Not many. Most State Park Restrooms are closed this time of year and there are few other options available in the wee hours of the night, other than a bush or tree. Toilet paper is provided.

Q: Will I learn to photograph the northern lights?

A: Yes! The tour is guided by a professional photographer who will help you set your camera in advance and explain what the settings do.

Q: Do I have to be a photographer to take this tour?

A: No! We have many sightseeing guests. The tour is guided by professional photographers, so if you would like a complimentary aurora portrait you can have one.

Q: I've heard Fairbanks is the best aurora viewing location in Alaska, can you really see auroras from Anchorage?

A: Anchorage is within the aurora band and has a fair share of viewable nights. Read on for a complete list of pros and cons concerning both locations.

How to Prepare

Recommended Gear

  • Camera with manual settings
  • Wide angle lens wide aperture [something in 24-70mm f/2.8 range will work well, but the wider the better]
  • Charged battery [preferably at least 2]
  • At least 4GB memory card
  • Sturdy Tripod [we have a limited number to loan]
  • Remote shutter release or cable shutter release
  • Flashlight

Photography equipment rental available at Stewart's Photo Shop.

Clothing

Dress in warm layers! We may be away from the vehicle for up to 2-hours. It's important to gear up appropriately and plan to keep moving while out. It's also better to wear one pair of warm socks than two. This is because the more socks you add, the more likely you are to constrict circulation. Try to leave a pocket of airspace around your foot in the boot. Also wear a warm, moisture-wicking under layer, mid layer [preferably fleece] and thick, snow proof outer layer, along with hat, scarf and gloves. Arctic gear including bibs, parka and boots is available to rent at 6th Avenue Outfitters.

  • Warm and comfortable snow boots with good tread
  • Moisture wicking socks
  • Moister wicking under layer
  • Fleece jacket
  • Well insulated and snow proof outer layer [coat and pants]
  • Hat, scarf and gloves

Getting Ready

  • Rest up before your scheduled booking[s].
  • Use the restroom in advance. There are very few restrooms open in state parks this time of year, and limited public options available in the wee hours of early morning when the tour takes place... though there are complimentary trees and bushes available at all locations. 🙂
  • Once the tour has confirmed to run and you have received a pickup time at your location, please be ready at that time. Auroras usually don't become active in our zone until after midnight, but sometimes there are spectacular, early sub storms and it is always sad when we miss them while looking for tardy guests.
  • If capturing the northern lights on camera is your main objective, we strongly recommend reading a Shoot Recipe|Photographing the Northern Lights before the tour. You'll receive additional coaching in the field.