I left for my Northern Lights trip on the morning of 27th March. After a stop-over in Oslo I arrived early evening in Tromsø and was delighted to be greeted by clear blue skies.
The following morning was bright and clear so I was looking forward to my trip that evening.
Our guide picked us up in the centre of town at 7pm and drove out into the fjords. As it was a clear night the guide could go anywhere and wasn’t dictated by the weather conditions, so he chose one of his favourite, scenic locations. It didn’t get dark until 20.30 so we weren’t in a rush and stopped off to admire some of the views along the way.
Arriving at our chosen spot for the evening I could tell straight away why it was his favourite! Looking down onto the fjord, the water was flanked by snowy mountains on all sides. In the evening the temperature dropped from -6C to below -10C so as well as being wrapped up in multiple layers we were provided with thermal snow suits which were a welcome addition since we would be spending the next few hours standing out in the snow.
Once we settled in we waited for the sky to darken and with the absence of any light pollution, the sky was clear, crisp and a deep blue. The moon was about 50% full so partially lit the mountains around us. As the stars began to appear I setup my camera and tripod and checked all my settings.
For photographing the aurora I changed all the camera settings to manual, especially the focus. Most camera lenses have an (∞) infinity marked on the lens but some will focus past this point so always focus on something distant like a bright star. I use the camera’s live view and magnify the view to get properly focused, once done I use a bit of sticky tape and lock it down so it doesn’t move during the night. I’ve learned from experience to do this as the focus can get knocked if you move the camera around in the dark, usually in excitement when the aurora suddenly appears and hastily move everything.
As the sky began to darken and more and more stars were visible it didn’t take long for the aurora to appear. It was difficult to make out with the eye at first, just a very faint band, but taking a ½ second exposure on the camera it was clearly visible.
From then on the aurora gradually grew brighter, slowly shifted closer and eventually appeared directly overhead.
After an hour or so I had taken plenty of photos to make a timelapse video and decided to move to a different spot. I headed towards the water’s edge but was immediately caught off guard as I sank knee deep into the snow. After slowly wading through nearly 100 meters of deep snow I made it close to the water’s edge but still had to navigate in the dark through ice and slippery rocks. The aurora was now quite bright and intense and I was overcome with excitement as I saw it reflected in the water. But I knew one false step in the dark and I could slip and damage my camera or worse, myself. Eventually I made it safely to the shore of the fjord. There was snow in my boots, my feet were damp and cold, but I had the biggest smile on my face as in front of me was the most spectacular view (see banner image).
The rest of the night was spent with fellow travellers by a camp fire, warmed with a nice hot soup that was provided by our guide, enjoying the scenery and ever changing aurora until it gradually faded.