As the largest and least densely populated state in the U.S., the wild expanses of Alaska are perfect for capturing the raw beauty of nature. Anchorage-based photographer, Zan Butler, captured awesome time-lapse footage of the Northern Lights, unbelievably starry skies, sunsets and the tides around Anchorage between October and April. Alaskan winters may make for challenging conditions, but the cold weather meant he could shoot remarkably clear skies and mesmerizing time-lapse footage of ice melting and forming over bodies of water. He used several cameras, including a Canon 5D Mark II, Canon Rebel xTi (modified to full spectrum), Canon EF 24 – 105 mm, Sigma DC 18 – 200 mm and Sigma 8mm EX DG Fisheye.
Shooting the Northern Lights, or aurora borealis, is something many photographers dream about, but time is running out. Scientists have forecasted that the lights will appear less frequently during the next ten years as we’re nearing the end of a cycle of increased activity. The spectacular natural light show is caused by explosions on the sun that send charged particles flying towards the Earth’s atmosphere, towards the North Pole. When the particles collide with gas molecules in the atmosphere, energy is released in the form of light. Light so beautiful that you’ll risk losing a finger or two to frostbite, just to see it.
These explosions on the sun are caused by solar activity which follows an 11-year solar cycle, which peaked in 2014 and has been in a declining phase every since. After 2016, the sun’s activity will have reached its dormant phase. There will still be Northern Lights, but less frequently and with less intensity.
The good news? If you can catch the tail-end of this cycle in 2016, you’re in for even more vivid displays of the Northern Lights than usual.
Below is a collection of some of our favorite screenshots from the film: