Northern Lights by itravel clients Tony and Cheryl Dormer
itravel client Tony Dormer has travelled to see the Northern Lights many times and often sends us some of his AMAZING photographs! We asked Tony about his experiences viewing the Northern Lights:
How many times have you seen the Northern Lights and what keeps taking you back?
My wife Cheryl and I have both seen the Northern Lights on numerous occasions and marvelled at their beauty on our travels we have done through itravel The Junction.
I believe my current “Northern Lights” count is 24 x nights / evenings (i.e. nights where I have actually been able to see them with the naked eye and able to photograph them).
There are several important factors that must be aligned to see this incredible show at its best,
- Weather, you must have clear skies
- The location must be clear of any light pollution (i.e. away from cities, bright lights etc.)
- The best locations are directly under the “Auroral Oval” and the northern hemisphere is certainly preferred due to the large amounts of land mass directly under this auroral oval.
- Winter months only (best months are October / November & February / March)
- Solar activity must be strong, check the Aurora Forecasts (although I have seen strong aurora when the forecast has been weak)
- Moonless evening / no full moon (if possible)
- Good camera equipment and warm clothes
- Allow several nights to give yourself the best chance of seeing the Northern Lights (4 – 7 nights minimum), you don’t want to be disappointed.
The “Northern Lights” are just simply “magical”, that is what keeps me coming back. They are just so unpredictable, you can be standing there, camera ready with nothing happening and within minutes the whole sky can erupt into this magical light show. I have stood directly under several “Northern Lights Corona” events where you seem to be just showered in light (a “corona” is very special and occurs when the solar activity is extremely high, the light collides and explodes directly overhead, an amazing light show, they are very rare)
Where have you viewed them from, and which was your favourite place?
I have viewed the Northern Lights in the following locations,
- Harriniva & Torassieppi, Northern Finland
- Rovaniemi, Finland (although this location is a little too far south)
- Tromso, Northern Norway
- Camp Tamok, Northern Norway (approximately 100kms out of Tromso)
- Kirkness. Northern Norway
- Longyearbyen, Svalbard, Far Northern Norway
- Fairbanks, Alaska
- Wiseman / Brooks Ranges, Northern Alaska
I am not sure which would be my favourite location, they are all very special and beautiful. However finding a great location to ensure your photos contain good composition / foreground can sometime be challenging. This is why I would strongly recommend to ask your travel agent for a “Northern Lights tour” that would have some photography content to it, these local guys know where to go to find the right location.
I haven’t been to Iceland (as yet), however I do believe the Northern Lights are incredible in Iceland with some very beautiful locations to enjoy the show (maybe my next trip, I’ll need to speak to Sam & Andy at itravel The Junction again ??)
So just how cold is it??? And how do you keep warm while waiting, and then watching them?
It does get very cold, due to the clear skies, etc and it is winter time. Minus 10C to minus 30C degrees would be the normal range. I have stood out on frozen lakes and rivers in minus 35C watching this amazing light show, you just don’t feel the cold when the show is on!!! However, most tour companies normally supply extreme cold weather clothing so you can keep warm. There is always the van close by to go back to and warm up while waiting for the Northern Lights to appear.
Do you need special camera equipment to capture the phenomenon?
It is certainly best to use a good quality digital camera with a good tripod that is capable of taking a long exposure image, 10 to 30 x second exposure is normal when taking the Northern Lights (depending on how strong they appear), the photos are usually brighter than you will visual see with your eyes (unless they are very strong), so do not be disappointed, as the camera is absorbing a lot of light the process the image. I have taken photos at 1.3 x seconds’ exposure when the Northern Lights have been extremely strong, what a show……For your interest I use a Nikon D750 digital camera fitted with a wide angle 14-24mm, 2.8f Nikon lens and a good quality tripod.
I certainly hope you enjoy the “Northern Lights” as much as I do, they are just MAGICAL!!!
GOOD LUCK with your “Aurora Hunting” and please remember it is also very important just to look up enjoy the show……