Photo of the Week: The Northern Lights in Fairbanks, Alaska

Photographer John Johnson booked a five-day trip to capture the aurora borealis with his camera, and Alaska did not disappoint.

See the Northern lights: It was on professional photographer John Johnson's life list when he booked a five-day trip to Fairbanks, Alaska, arriving in late March, at the tail end of the suggested season for viewing the aurora borealis phenomenom. Johnson had been chasing the phenomenom with his camera for seven years, even flying around the world to Norway from his home in Los Angeles, but so far he had struck out. This time it was different.

"I booked three excursions during my stay and the aurora borealis got the memo," Johnson said. "I returned with beautiful, full-frame, digital-still and time-lapse sequences of the Northern lights." He credits Fairbanks tour company 1st Alaska Outdoor School for facilitating this experience, one which earned him recogntion for this week's photo of the week (see below for details on submitting your own photos).

The photo was taken on a Canon EOS 7D using a 10-22mm lens at 22mm and set at f/2.8, ISO100 with a 14-second exposure. While Johnson was in Alaska, he also lucked out and was able to photograph an equally rare "sun dog" effect. More of Johnson's photos appear at his photography website.

Fairbanks, the largest of Alaska's interior cities, is known for being a prime spot to view the Northern lights; it's in the "aurora oval" area around the North Pole—the expected area to see the lights. The city brags that "if you stay 3 nights in Fairbanks, you have an 80% chance of seeing them [the lights]." The town has an international airport to help get you there, and if you plan to photograph this natural effect of the heavens, brush up on these tips for photographing the Northern lights and hope for a clear night.

There's more to do in Fairbanks than stay up throughout the night to photograph the Northern lights. A variety of museums are located in the city, with exhibits on antique cars, Alaskan art and native cultures. The city is also a great staging ground for visiting Denali National Park. For more information, see Where's guide to Alaska.

And if you can't get enough of the Northern lights, we recommend you watch Johnson's time-lapse video of the aurora borealis:

Aurora Borealis from John Johnson on Vimeo.


Hit Us With Your Best Shot!
Enter your photo into Where's Photo of the Week competition. Whether you're a professional, a passionate hobbyist or were just lucky-to-be-there-at-the-moment with a camera phone, email us or submit your photos to WhereTraveler Flickr group for consideration in our Photo of the Week. We'll pick one photo each week and recognize you on our homepage.

How to enter your photo into the Photo of the Week:

OPTION 1: Email your photo submission to with the subject line: "Photo of the Week entry." Be sure to include your contact information.

OPTION 2: The Flickr Option

  1. Join Flickr.
  2. Add yourself as a member of the WhereTraveler Flickr group.
  3. Upload your photo to your Flickr account.
  4. Add it to the WhereTraveler Flickr group (more detailed instructions here). Photos should be a minimum of 1,000 pixels wide. If in doubt, load the original, full-resolution image.

All winners will be contacted upon selection of their photo.