Photo Credit: Donna Johnson - Waiting for the Aurora on Mendenhall Lake

Donna Johnson: Cold Starry Night


“The stars were exceptionally bright as we were standing on the frozen Mendenhall Lake,” Donna says. “While we were waiting for the aurora, which never came out, we practiced skills learned in a recent night photography workshop.”

A retired school teacher, Donna moved from southern California to Alaska in 1983, and fell in love with both Juneau and the Mendenhall Glacier.

“No matter the time of year, the glacier and surrounding area offers scenic landscapes, wildlife viewing, and hiking,” she says. “The glacier is only about three miles from my house, and I go there often.”

The couple took up photography as a serious hobby in 2012, after her retirement. She savors it because it gets her out outside exploring, spending time in special places, paying close attention to the surroundings.

While waiting for the aurora to commence, Donna decided to try shooting the stars. She zoomed in and manually focused on a single one, then worked the aperture, shutter speed and camera ISO. Meanwhile, her husband had set up his tripod right in front of her, in a pool of light cast by the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center.

Suddenly, she knew she had her shot—her husband on the lake, the quality of the light, the mountains, the glacier, the stars overhead.

“At first I was disappointed there was no aurora,” she says, but “this was actually a perfect scene!”

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