Fall colours, cemeteries, and the aurora borealis

This is always a crazy-busy time of year for me. That’s partially because there are a few projects that need to be done before it gets cold, and partially because I get a bit manic trying to fit in all the fun stuff as well. I haven’t posted in a couple of weeks because there just hasn’t been time! But yesterday was fun and interesting enough (to me at least) to tell you about it.

The day began with a drive to Skagway. The justification was to pick up the new 10-18mm lens that I’d ordered, primarily for shooting the aurora. The weather forecast called for clearing in the late morning. A couple of minutes after I shot the next photo just north of the White Pass summit, visibility dropped to a hundred meters/yards or so.

Driving the White Pass on the South Klondike Highway
A few days ago, I started work on adding the 3 Skagway cemeteries to my cemeteries project. After I picked the lens up at the post office, I decided to get some more photos for that project. I got kind of carried away, and ended up with 275 photos from the Pioneer Cemetery, and 185 of the current Skagway Cemetery! Two of the graves at the Skagway Cemetery have airplane propellers on them – this is the grave of Francis Steven Lewis (1914-1981).

The grave of Francis Steven Lewis (1914-1981) in the Skagway Cemetery
There are a few unmarked graves in the Skagway Cemetery, and many in the Pioneer Cemetery. On the left in the next photo is the grave of one-day-old Daniel Jacob Whitehead (1998), but the large one beside it is unmarked, though I assume that it is his mother. While many of the graves tell stories that are normal life-and-death, some are extremely sad.

Skagway Cemetery
I spent 45 minutes shooting there, then went back down the Dyea Road to the Pioneer Cemetery. It took me a while to figure out what the name of this cemetery is, as that name is sometimes used for what is actually the Gold Rush Cemetery. The Pioneer Cemetery is the middle one both in time and location – it was used from 1908 until 1974. Findagrave currently lists 253 interments, of which I’ve added a few over the past few days. The burial database quits in the middle of the letter “M”, though, and I expect that there are actually over 400 gravesites. Many of Skagway’s most influential pioneers are buried here.

The grave of Henry A. Dedman in Skagway
Two original White Pass & Yukon Route steam locomotive nameplates are mounted on graves at the Pioneer Cemetery. The nameplate for #59 is on the grave of Roy E. Gault (1879-1949). The locomotive, a 4-6-0, was purchased new in May 1900, and was retired and scrapped in 1941.

The nameplate for Baldwin locomotive #59 is on the grave of Roy E. Gault (1879-1949).

I spent almost an hour and a half at the Pioneer Cemetery, which wiped out my idea to have lunch before heading home. My car was in the shop and I had Cathy’s Jeep, so I had to get back to pick her up from work.

There must have been a lot of rain in Skagway in the past day or so, because all the waterfalls were in full flow. That, of course, stopped me a time or two – I love the combination of water and granite 🙂

Waterfall along the South Klondike Highway near Skagway

Waterfall along the South Klondike Highway near Skagway
The new William Moore Bridge project is really taking shape now – the blasting and grading has it now looking pretty much the way it will when it’s finished.

The new William Moore Bridge project
Once back into the rain shadow, the drive home was beautiful. The next photo was shot along Tutshi Lake.

Tutshi Lake, South Klondike Highway
The Fall colours are well past peak but there are still some really bright spots along the highway.

Fall colours along the South Klondike Highway
The aurora forecast for last night was exceptionally good, and I was really excited to get out with the new lens. However, it didn’t turn out that way. I started at a small, remote subdivision high above Lake Laberge. It would have been a great shooting location except for the damn street lights. Street lights literally in the middle of nowhere. Yukoners need to get rid of this idea that having street lights everywhere makes us look modern. Think “dark skies” people, and embrace it.

Aurora borealis over Lake Laberge, Yukon
I quickly realized that my new lens was defective. It wouldn’t focus either in auto or manual mode – the focusing ring just spins freely.

Aurora borealis over Lake Laberge, Yukon
The aurora was so wonderful that I shot about 40 photos, hoping that the focus would be acceptable. It wasn’t, and I’ve deleted them all except for a couple as samples of the problem. It’s going back, but the reviews on the lens are so positive that I ordered another one first thing this morning.

Northern Lights over Lake Laberge, Yukon

Back to work now. I probably won’t talk to you again until next week, when I’ll be in Calgary visiting my kids and their families. Then the week after, Cathy and I will be in Ontario visiting her family.


Fall colours, cemeteries, and the aurora borealis — 1 Comment

  1. Better luck with the next lense. I have never used anything wider than 28mm but you are trying to capture a field of view that I seldom see in the NE USA. I do however look forward to seeing what happens when you get one that works properly. I hope you both have good trips into the other provinces.

    I recently saw the new Moore bridge on some show (name )? so got a kick out of seeing your pic and info just a few days later.