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Episode 47: Alaska adventures, chasing lights and racing dogs

By KTVA Alaska 12:02 PM March 21, 2016

From dazzling northern lights displays to the early days of the Iditarod, our theme this week is adventure, Alaska style.

Here are some of the highlights of this week’s show:

  • Chasing the Northern Lights in Bettles with photojournalist John Thain and veteran reporter Lauren Maxwell.
  • Interview with Todd Salat, known among Alaska photographers as the “Aurora Hunter.”
  • Profile of Joe May, who won the Iditarod in 1980

Following the Iditarod Sled Dog Race — or catching a glimpse of a green curtain of shimmering lights in the sky — are a part of the shared experiences, which bring us together as Alaskans.

KTVA’s Lauren Maxwell and John Thain take us to a lodge in the Brooks Range to show us how tourists also want to share in the adventure. They bring us the splendor of a starry night in Bettles and the grand silence of the wilderness, interrupted only by the “oohs and ahs” of aurora watchers.

Our guest this week, Todd Salat, brings the sizzling energy of the aurora to our program. Todd has spent more than 20 years, photographing the northern lights professionally. In his dogged pursuit of what he calls the “hero” shot, it’s hard to draw the line between passion and obsession.

Todd defines a “hero” shot as a photo, which draws so much admiration and delight from those who see it, you feel like a hero. On Frontiers, Todd shows us his five, all-time favorite “hero” shots and gives us the back-story on how he captured these images. Todd gives more details on his strategy for aurora hunting in a web extra.

[RELATED: Tips for aurora hunting in Alaska]

As the Iditarod comes to a close, we thought it would be interesting to look back to the early days of the race, through the eyes of Joe May, now 80 years old. He was a major contributor to a new book called, “Iditarod: The First Ten Years,” a hefty volume you can find at the Anchorage Museum.

Joe tells the story of how he became an “accidental dog racer” – how he went from using his dog team to work a trap line, to entering into the Iditarod in 1976. Joe recalls a very different race than today’s Iditarod – where the dogs were bigger and slower, but says the 1,000 mile run to Nome was still a life-changing experience.

I really enjoyed sitting down at Joe’s kitchen table, where there’s a view of Denali in the distance. He’s got a great collection of old photographs of the race and of his homestead experience in Trapper Creek with his wife Sandra. There’s quite a love story there, to be saved for another day.

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