Light. It's a dominating factor of the Alaska existence. As a person born and raised in Alaska, I've endured a million questions about light over the last 42 years. "How do you sleep in the summer?" "How do you wake up in the winter?" "Is it dark all the time?" "Is it light all the time?" "How do you stand it?"
Despite the temptation to tell a few creative fibs about pet polar bears and igloos, all of these are legitimate questions. The most important thing to understand is that Alaska is huge. Gigantic. Massive. So, these aren't easy questions to answer. Alaska is nearly two thirds of the landmass of the continental United States. It is the most northern, western and eastern state (thanks to the Aleutian Chain). From south to north, Alaska encompasses 97 percent of latitudinal stretch of the rest of the United States, combined.
What this means to the cartographically challenged is that the variance is huge. But, let's shoot for the middle. Boring science aside, many of the questions about light in Alaska miss the point. Like much of life, it's not about the quantity; it's about the quality. The quantity questions are easy. In the summer there is a ton. There is a whole day of play available after your whole day of work. Sleep in October. Your energy is high and you don't need it until then anyway.
In the winter, there isn't a lot. At the darkest point of the year (Dec. 21), there is about 5.5 hours of daylight in Southcentral Alaska. After solstice, we start gaining light rapidly. As of now, we are gaining nearly five minutes per day. By the time we start heli-skiing in mid-February, there is nearly 11 hours of daylight. By April, the days seem endless, which from a snow sports perspective is perfect.
Here's what nobody talks about: the quality of the light. Alaska light is mesmerizing, instilling a hypnotic love for the "Last Frontier." The quality of light in Alaska is sublime. At this time of year, Alaska offers a horizontal golden, pink light that makes filmmakers shudder with glee and helps residents remember why they moved here in the first place. Even if it's a short day, basking in the glow here makes you feel like you are in on a secret that few can possibly comprehend.
Summer or winter, it's the quality of light here that permeates life and makes Alaskans understand the surreal environment to which they've chosen to commit themselves. In a place where the vistas regularly make you suck in an appreciative breath, it's the dynamic light that punctuates the experience. The light here is always changing and often makes even jaded locals feel as if they are seeing Alaska for the first time.
Let's hear it for the light in Alaska. These photos illustrate some of the stunning moments that are often appreciated by Alaskans as they work and live here.