Alaska Guidebook Series

Solomon Gulch Hatchery – Valdez, Alaska
Solomon Gulch Hatchery – Valdez, Alaska – Wildlife Viewing

Along Dayville Road, less than a 15-minute drive (10-miles) from Valdez is the Solomon Gulch Hatchery. The returning salmon draw...

Savage Alpine Trail
Savage Alpine Trail

The Savage Alpine Trail is a 6.5-mile loop or 4.2-mile point-to-point day hike in Denali National Park with beautiful alpine...

Hikers overlooking the Harding Icefield at the end of the Harding Icefield Trail
Harding Icefield Trail

Hiking guide with photos to the Harding Icefield Trail in the Kenai Fjords National Park near Seward, Alaska. Easily one...

I’m currently writing and mapping guides to hiking and general travel/tourism to destinations all over Alaska. My focus is on sharing beautiful, photogenic locations that would most interest hikers and photographers, but the guide is open to anyone!

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Alaska Wildflowers

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03
Parhelia
Parhelia, or sun dogs in the sky over a snowy forest in Fairbanks, Alaska
Parhelia – Fairbanks, Alaska

There was strong parhelia and sun pillar while driving home from the Yukon Quest start yesterday. This photo was taken at 1:40 pm, very close to solar noon. So that’s about as high in the sky the Sun gets this time of year. The bright side is that we are gaining 7 minutes of sunlight per day. It’s already very noticeable, a month ago we didn’t see the Sun above those trees.

But this is about the parhelia or sun dogs, sun pillar, and partial 22° halo. The refraction of sunlight through ice crystals in the air causes these atmospheric optic effects. When it’s cold in Fairbanks (it was -30°F/-34°C) we get a lot of ice hanging in the air close to the ground and occasional ice fog. That ice and fog make conditions ideal for some significant atmospheric phenomena. If you look closely, directly under the Sun and over the snow, you can see little specs of glowing ice crystals.

CameraNikon NIKON D7100 (Current model NIKON D7500)
LENSSigma 17-50mm F2.8 EX DC OS HSM for Nikon (For Canon cameras)
Focal Length22.0 mm (33.0 mm in 35mm)
Aperturef/11
Exposure Time0.001s (1/1000)
ISO100

Moon Optics

This effect also happens with the moon, although typically not as bright because the moon isn’t as bright. Most often, I’ll see a 22° halo around the moon and occasionally a moon dog, or paraselene. Although, all the same effects from the Sun can apply to the moon as well. All that matters is the ice in the air and a bright enough light source.

A few years ago I was lucky enough to witness this while watching the aurora one night. The photo below is a moon dog (paraselene) and a 22-degree halo. There’s a bit of a partial paraselenic circle as well (moon equivalent of a parhelic circle).

Moon, moon dog and aurora borealis
Moon, moon dog, and aurora | Gallery Here

Lee Petersen
Lee PetersenPhotographer/Writer

I am currently available for freelance photography, writing, or web design. My photography and writing focus is primarily outdoors-related (hiking, climbing, biking).

Featured Articles

Otters preparing to jump off an iceberg in Columbia Bay

I’ve only been getting really interested in wildlife photography over the last three years. It is becoming on of the most enjoyable and rewarding pursuits in my life. I’ve been amassing a collection of bear, sea otter, seal, sea lion, dall sheep, and moose photos from around Alaska. You can view my wildlife portfolio at the link below.

View my Wildlife Photos
Autumn colors in tundra in Denali National Park

My passion for landscape photography started with my hobby of taking photos and love of hiking and the outdoors. It wasn’t long after I started hauling my DSLR along on backpacking trips that I realized I was hiking, climbing, or skiing to seek out the coolest landscapes I could find.

View my Landscape, Seascape, and Coastline Photos
aurora borealis from Granite Tors

Probably the biggest draw to Alaska in the winter months is the hope to view the northern lights. I love being able to step out on my front porch at night and see the sky lit up in green. Even more, I love being able to hike out to beautiful locations and view the aurora borealis from my tent door.

View my aurora borealis photos
columbia glacier

In my 10 years in Alaska, I’ve seen a drastic shrinking of most of the glaciers that I hike to and on. Some of these will be nearly gone in my lifetime and photos will be all we have to remember them. Unfortunately, whatever your political stance is doesn’t seem to matter to the glaciers.

View my Glacier and Iceberg photos
birch trees with snow

The interior of Alaska is mainly covered by boreal forest. White spruce, black spruce, birch, aspen, tamarack, and balsam poplar are really all we have for native trees. The forests are gorgeous and one of the main reasons I love living here. Although, since I do a lot of hiking when I travel there is more than just boreal forest in the collection.

View my Forest Photos

Snowy Aurora

Photo of the Day

Aurora from 30000 feet

Aurora Blog


Aurora borealis over a moonlit and snow-covered boreal forest in Fairbanks, Alaska.
2015 01 04
Aurora borealis and a full moon

Sitting at the computer last night, I had given up any hope...

A two image panorama of the aurora over one of the rock outcroppings on Murphy Dome. It was a nice, warm night to go snowshoeing, but really windy.
2014 12 16
Aurora and Milky Way from Murphy Dome

Last night I strapped on my snowshoes to take a walk around...

A bit of aurora shortly before the clouds rolled in - trees illuminated by the moon.
2014 12 14
Photo of the week — “Aurora before the clouds”

It seems like every night the clouds roll in fast, no matter...

2014 11 29
Aurora Borealis – November 21, 2014

With little to no snow on the ground I packed up my...

Featured Products

Mt. Shand stands nearly a vertical mile above the Black Rapids Glacier in the Eastern Alaska Range.
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Mt. Shand – 5″x10″ Float Metal Print

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Mt. Shand stands nearly a vertical mile above the Black Rapids Glacier in the Eastern Alaska Range.

5″x10″ Float Metal Print – Signed On Back
Other sizes and formats are available here: https://photos.lwpetersen.com/Portfolio-Images/i-zmKqwCT/buy

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Cow moose grazing on willows in Denali National Park & Preserve.
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Cow Moose in Fall Colors – 8″x12″ Float Metal Print

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Cow moose grazing on willows in Denali National Park & Preserve. (No watermark on print)

8″x12″ Float Metal Print – Signed On Back
Other sizes and formats are available here: https://photos.lwpetersen.com/Portfolio-Images/i-Hb7fZ6t/buy

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Gorgeous red landscapes over the Thorofare River and yellow vegetation-covered Muldrow Glacier.
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Denali – 8″x12″ Float Metal Print

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Gorgeous red landscapes over the Thorofare River and yellow vegetation-covered Muldrow Glacier. And of course Denali, the tallest Mountain in North America at 20,310′ above sea level. (No watermark on print)

8″x12″ Float Metal Print – Signed On Back
Other sizes and formats are available here: https://photos.lwpetersen.com/Portfolio-Images/i-zmKqwCT/buy

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Ice-covered mountains over the Black Rapids Glacier in the Alaska Range
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Ice-Covered – 5″x10″ Float Metal Print

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A lot of snow falls up here covering the mountains of the Trinity Basin of the Alaska Range in ice. This is part of the small remaining accumulation area of the Black Rapids Glacier. I’m amazed at how such a conglomeration of ice and snow can take the appearance of simply being draped over the mountains. (No watermark on print)

5″x10″ Float Metal Print – Signed On Back
Other sizes and formats are available here: https://photos.lwpetersen.com/Portfolio-Images/i-VMftqNx/buy

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Birch reflections in the seasonal wetlands at Creamer's Field in Fairbanks, Alaska.
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Boardwalk – 8″x12″ Float Metal Print

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Birch reflections in the seasonal wetlands at Creamer’s Field in Fairbanks, Alaska. (No watermark on print)

8″x12″ Float Metal Print – Signed On Back
Other sizes and formats are available here: https://photos.lwpetersen.com/Portfolio-Images/i-sd83XLd/buy

$95.00 $80.00
Anderson Falls near Valdez, Alaska
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Anderson Falls – 8″x12″ Float Metal Print

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Anderson Falls in the Chugach Mountains near Valdez, Alaska. (No watermark on print)

8″x12″ Float Metal Print – Signed On Back
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Auroral Corona
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Aurora Corona – 8″x12″ Signed Metal Print

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8″x12″ Float Metal Print – Signed On Back (no watermark on print)
Not a minute after that eruption on the horizon this auroral corona danced overhead and seemed to last for a really long time. Usually only appearing for a few seconds, I think I had about a minute of shooting this one. In the center, you might be able to make out the big dipper, but the stars were pretty dim compared to the northern lights that night!
Click here for more sizes and formats! (unsigned)

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Parhelia over Black Rapids Glacier
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Parhelia over Black Rapids Glacier – 5″x10″ Float Metal Print

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I photographed this awesome sight while doing field work out on the Black Rapids Glacier in the eastern Alaska Range. The view is to the southeast and you can see the Loket Tributary flowing into the main branch of the glacier center-right. Living in Fairbanks (a little under 100 miles north of here) we get to see a lot of optical phenomena from ice in the atmosphere. In the winter we frequently see halos and parhelia (sun dogs). It’s pretty rare to see the tangent arc and even rarer to see a parhelic circle – the line that continues ‘horizontally’ from the sundog. At times this made a full 360° circle around our heads from camp. The stitching together of this 14 image panorama was not fun and it isn’t perfect, but I think it came out nice enough. (No watermark on print)

5″x10″ Float Metal Print – Signed On Back
Other sizes and formats are available here: https://photos.lwpetersen.com/Portfolio-Images/i-PXbnKsT/buy

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Waterfalls and islands in Prince William Sound near Valdez, Alaska.
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Waterfalls into the Sound – 8″x12″ Float Metal Print

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Waterfalls and islands in Prince William Sound near Valdez, Alaska. (No watermark on print)

8″x12″ Float Metal Print – Signed On Back
Other sizes and formats are available here: https://photos.lwpetersen.com/Portfolio-Images/i-rcRDMdh/buy

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Grizzly bear in fall foliage in Denali National Park
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Grizzly in Fall Colors – 8″x12″ Float Metal Print

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Grizzly in Fall Colors. Near the Primrose area of Denali National Park & Preserve. (No watermark on print)

8″x12″ Float Metal Print – Signed On Back
Other sizes and formats are available here: https://photos.lwpetersen.com/Portfolio-Images/i-gb2MDcD/buy

$95.00 $80.00
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Winter Sunrise – 5″x10″ Float Metal Print

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This is a pretty typical mid-winter scene in the Alaska Interior. There’s not much wind in Fairbanks, so the snow sticks to the trees for a while. The sun is always low on the horizon when it’s up around winter solstice, so it never gets much past the sunrise stage. Beautiful light makes up for the lack of light. (No watermark on print)

5″x10″ Float Metal Print – Signed On Back
Other sizes and formats are available here: https://photos.lwpetersen.com/Portfolio-Images/i-PXbnKsT/buy

$70.00 $60.00
Blue stream on the Black Rapids Glacier in the Eastern Alaska Range
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New Stream – 8″x12″ Float Metal Print

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A blue stream forms in the snow on the surface of the Black Rapids Glacier in the Eastern Alaska Range. (No watermark on print)

8″x12″ Float Metal Print – Signed On Back
Other sizes and formats are available here: https://photos.lwpetersen.com/Portfolio-Images/i-TMF5Lg4/buy

$95.00 $80.00

All Featured Posts

Incredible northern lights display over a snow-clad forest in Fairbanks, Alaska.
26 01 2015
Boreal Winter – Black and White, Day and Night

Welcome to the Alaska interior, welcome to the boreal forest. This is a unique biome. Coniferous trees dominate the landscape, yet stands of birch and aspen remain plentiful in many...

The week when the northern lights wouldn’t quit
08 01 2015
The week when the northern lights wouldn’t quit

Purchase Print Where do I even begin? I mean, the title kind of says it all. As I sit here writing, I am purely exhausted. I was driving to the...

Panorama of the new Polaris sculpture and Immaculate Conception Church and the downtown Fairbanks "skyline". Nice warm light in the early afternoon.
02 12 2014
Fairbanks in Black and White

  From October until April we live in a mostly monochromatic world. The sky makes some pretty dramatic colors at sunrise and sunset, but in the middle of the day...

Crossing a stream on the Canwell Glacier
31 10 2014
Exploring the Canwell Glacier

Hiking Guide to The Canwell Glacier Below A water carved canyon along a lateral moraine on the Canwell Glacier - gallery | prints Living as close as we do to...

A stream in the Rainbow Basin between the Canwell Glacier and Rainbow Ridge in the Eastern Alaska Range.
02 10 2014
Camping in the Rainbow Basin

Driving through Red Rock Canyon is a slow kind of exciting. I barely reach 10 miles per hour as alders scrape both sides of the car on the single lane,...

Blue stream on the Black Rapids Glacier in the Eastern Alaska Range
02 07 2014
Black Rapids Glacier: Summer 2014

The theme of this season was certainly "precipitation". I kept thinking about the Forrest Gump quote, "One day, it started raining, and it didn't quit for 4 months". Luckily we...

Silhouettes of Granite Tors in the Chena River State Recreation Area at sunset.
13 05 2014
Finally, Granite Tors

Every year that I've been in Alaska I have wanted to hike out to the Granite Tors. Every year I haven't gone. My friend Jason has done the same. Until...

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