The Northern Lights

I guess everyone knows what they are; not everybody seen them live. The ones who have, know that they look nothing like they’d imagine…

Hunting for them in the summer is like going rock climbing in the spring  – technically possible, sometimes you’ll get conditions and couple of climbs in, but most of the time it will be just a wet and cold disappointment.

The aurora season really starts in October so my expectations weren’t high. We still managed to see ‘something’ and capture something more though and I’m happy with it.

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It took until after midnight for the first smudges to show up, they were really, really faint. Nothing like what you’d see on all posters advertising Aurora Tours.

 

To capture anything I had to set exposure to 10 seconds on F1.8 lens and 600 ISO (anything longer and stars would start trailing). I knew some post processing will also be required to bring out some colors.

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The lights were mostly green, with some purples and reds. They showed up from different directions. We were mostly looking north, but being so much already, they often showed on the east and west horizons as well.

 

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I guess to full experience this phenomenon we’ll have to come back in the winter during the season. Or maybe track the forecast and go to Donegal when conditions are super favorable.

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During 2h we’ve spent waiting and looking up, I’ve taken maybe 30 photos, but without a tripod, remote shutter and limited choice of lenses, four photos are worth displaying. Still not bad for August. Some tips for hunting Aurora in Iceland:

  1. Don’t have high hopes if you are hunting in August. Chances are you won’t see anything. Go in the winter if Northern Lights is one of the goals of your trip
  2. Check http://en.vedur.is/weather/forecasts/aurora/ for forecast often. White regions are good (no clouds), green are bad (clouds). Also solar activity number is important (we had 5-high the night we went out).
  3. Check moon cycles – you really don’t want full moon (unless you know how to use it to your advantage) – it most likely will ruin the sky for you.
  4. Bring that photo gear if you want to take photos. Tripod, fast lens (I used 50mm f1.8) and remote shutter are minimum. Leave that smartphone camera in the jacket.
  5. Bring head-torch with red-light – don’t ruin your night vision – it takes 15-20mins for your eyes to adapt to darkness, and flashing bright LED of headlamp resets it every time.

Happy Hunting!

 

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