Where and How to Spot and Photograph the Northern Lights?

Winter is on its way and it means the best time to chase the Northern Lights is coming. Less than 10 years ago, a mere possibility to go to the extreme north would sound crazy, but over the last years it became one of the most attractive destinations for real adventurers. No wonder that seeing Northern Lights is on the first position of the things to experience, so let us share some tips on how and where to spot them and how to photograph this majestic phenomenon.

Northern Lights/ Aurores Boréales

Norway, February

When to see the Northern Lights?

We’ll skip the part with “Northern Lights – what is this?”, as Wikipedia can explain better, let’s get down directly to the practical info. The best period is starting from November till March. It doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to see them in any other time. For example – we had a luck to see the most gorgeous Northern Lights in August, but better not to count too much on it. Specialists claim that the best hour is 22.00-03.00.

Northern Lights/ Aurores Boréales

Iceland, August

Where to see the Northern Lights?

On the contrary to what is believed, you don’t HAVE to go till the very Polar circle. But it can be really helpful. Everything depends on the solar activity level, and if it is high, you can spot the Northern Lights even in Estonia or in the UK. However, going beyond the Polar Circle can guarantee 85% of chances to see the lights. Finland, Norway, Sweden and Iceland, as well as oblast of Murmansk in Russia (all the rest will be very hard to get to), Alaska and Canada. Nothing trivial. By the way, even if Iceland is not the most extreme north, somehow they have much more solar activity than anywhere else in Europe. So book your plane tickets :)

Northern Lights/ Aurores Boréales

Finland, February

How to see the Northern Lights?

DON’T use the “Northern Lights Safari”

…or whatever it’s called. These are the companies that propose to take you to special spots from which you can see the Lights. It costs quite a lot, for the result that you can get on your own if you follow these simple tips.

Get away from the city lights

The rule #1. Take a car and leave the town with the bright illumination, which can prevent you from seeing the lights even if they are actually happening. Unless it’s very strong, obviously.

Northern Lights/ Aurores Boréales Northern Lights/ Aurores Boréales

Finland, February

Check the solar activity

The same way we check the rain or snow, we can find out more or less precisely when and where the Lights will happen. We were using Aurora Forecast and it didn’t let us down. In Finland they offer an alert-service, which we tried as well and found absolutely useless. You see it in the sky and you need no message to tell you that.

Wait for a clear sky

The less clouds – the better.

Northern Lights/ Aurores Boréales

Sweden, February

Be patient and well dressed

Gloves, hats, thermic costumes, heaters for the feet and hands – be ready for some real cold. That is why it’s really better to have your own vehicle in case if the Lights won’t be in a hurry.

Northern Lights/ Aurores Boréales

Finland, February

How to photograph the Northern Lights?

Much easier than you think, provided you have necessary equipment. A decent camera, a wide-angle lens, a tripod and a remote control. It’s very important to use the RAW format for the further processing. Concerning the technical parameters:

ISO: you know, that ISO is sensitivity of the captor to the light. The higher is the ISO number, the clearer will be the picture, but of the worse quality. We decided on the regular ISO 200, 350 – maximum.

Focus and Aperture: manual mode and if possible – “infinity” setting. All our photos are taken with f2.8.

Shutter Speed: At least 15 seconds. All our pictures were made with 20.0sec.

Attention to your batteries! They don’t really appreciate the cold and get out of energy quite fast. Make sure to keep them warm as long as possible and just in case – to take a recharge battery. We had two cameras, so when one was out of battery, we could use another one.

Check out: 10 winter musts of Finland

Northern Lights/ Aurores Boréales

Finland, February

How to process the photos of the Northern Lights?

That is up to you and your objectives, but we can recommend an excellent tutorial for the realistic editing.

Northern Lights/ Aurores Boréales

Did you know that…?

What we see on the processed pictures is not necessarily corresponding to the reality. Reality is much less expressive and bright than on the pictures, but the Lights are fast and literally majestic. Two kinds of beauty.

Sometimes the camera sees the Lights when you don’t. We realised that when we took this picture during our trip in Iceland. To the photo of the tent joined a naughty Northern Light, which we couldn’t see at all! So if you start getting desperate, why not trying just to photograph the sky and to see what the camera might reveal?

Northern Lights/ Aurores Boréales

Iceland, August

The locals don’t seem to care about this all. When you ask them trying to supress the frantic glee in your eyes about Aurora Borealis, they would answer “ah, that. Nah, I went to bed.” :D

Check out: Surprises of Iceland

Northern Lights/ Aurores Boréales

Finland, February

Where were our “best” Northern Lights?

Again, surprisingly – in Iceland in the end of August in the Akureyri area! Extremely powerful, fast, but didn’t last long unfortunately.

Northern Lights/ Aurores Boréales

Iceland, August

The second place goes to Norway, not far from Tromsø. Particularly gorgeous thanks to the reflection in the fjords.

Northern Lights/ Aurores Boréales

Norway, February

Your turn! Have you seen the Northern Lights? When? Where? Tell us!

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How to spot and photograph the Northern Lights

2017-05-13T13:03:31+00:00 December 2nd, 2016|

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