About the Northern Lights
About the Northern Lights
Mystery and wonder shroud the northern lights, otherwise known as the aurora borealis. Mesmerizing, stunning, other-worldly are just a few words used to describe the experience of watching this spectacular phenomenon. When conditions are favourable this fantastical display lights up the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions, leaving all who catch a glimpse of this magical wonder, memories that will last forever.
What are the northern lights?
The aurora borealis, or northern lights, appears when solar wind particles collide with air molecules in the earth’s atmosphere, transferring their energy into light. Displays can vary in intensity – from a glowing curtain of greenish yellow lights, dancing in the distance to a spectacular, multi-coloured fusion stretching across the sky – but whatever one you’re lucky enough to have, will no doubt make you want to see more.
However, it must be remembered that sightings of the northern lights can never be guaranteed, even when the conditions seem just right - a clear cloudless night is essential and for the most intense sightings, it is important to be away from any sources of artificial light, such as street lighting. Sightings not only vary in intensity but in duration too, from just minutes to sometimes hours.
When is the best time to see the northern lights?
Usually during the darkest period which is between November and February, although they can be seen as early as late August and as late as mid April. However, the phases of the moon also have an affect. If you have a full moon then it can greatly detract from the spectacle, whereas around the time of the new moon, if sightings are possible then they should be at their best.
Northern Lights Photography Tips
1) A sturdy and preferably heavy tripod is essential since exposure time exceeds 10 - 20 seconds. you cannot achieve the best results hand-holding your camera.
2) Bring the fastest wide angle lens you own, f2.8 is good enough, f2.4 is better and f1.4 is best
3) Use a good digital camera or film camera with at least 400 asa film.
4) Wear warm clothes and boots as you can spend several hours standing still in cold weather. It is better to be overdressed.
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Get some illuminating advice from award-winning Icelandic photographer Ragnar TH Sigurdsson on how to capture the aurora borealis on camera.
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We were all totally engrossed in this magical experience and when the lights finally came to an abrupt end, we just stood there completely speechless.Ms Turner, Abisko Sky Station