Filming Under the Midnight Sun
Golden hour in Alaska during the summer is anything but normal. Light for filming is best between 10PM and 2AM. On the way to film the Arrigetch Peaks at 8K resolution, we refuel in Bettles, AK and wait for the sun to dip so shadows can stretch across the Brooks Range mountains. Pilot Daron Larson and I, watch cumulus clouds– which built during the afternoon heat–dissipate slowly. From here in Bettles, the sky looks overcast, but the Arrigetch Peaks are 80 miles away (80 miles from the nearest fuel too), so whatever weather we see from here doesn't really matter, except to help pass the time by worrying. At 11:30PM, we start the R66 turbine and race to the west. We'll have 60 minutes of fuel for filming so everything has to be perfect. The R66 can fly for more than three hours without refueling so it is the perfect helicopter for the job.
Along the way, I keep the camera snoot pointed back most of the time. It's painful as many scenes are stunning, but a forward-pointed lens is the same as a mosquito-spotted lens this time of year, and with no helicopter landings permitted in the Gates of the Arctic National Park, a bug strike could be the end of the shoot.
With 20 miles to go, we see the stunning Arrigetch Peaks (fingers of a hand extended), and I begin filming. Sunlight is breaking through a thin cloud layer, and everything is perfect. The light now guides us across the landscape to create the first 8K images of the Arrigetch Peaks.