There have been thousands of posts/articles written on the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) – and even more photographs published. Science has always fascinated me, and the fact that there are humans out there who have figured out how stuff works – it just blows my mind. Really. So if you want to read about exactly what the Northern Lights are, go for it. It’s cool stuff. But let me tell you – when you actually see them with your own two eyes – you couldn’t give less of a crap about all that scientific stuff. All you want to do is gaze at the sky in wonder and enjoy the show.
As I mentioned in a previous post, Ross and I decided to try our luck at seeing the Lights in Tromsø, Norway. For our adventure, I chose a company called Creative Vacations. My goal was (fingers crossed) to get a few photographs I can be proud of – or at least to get an image or two that any random person on the street could look at and say, “Hey! Looks like you got yourself a photo of the Northern Lights!”
My expectations of capturing this phenomenon were pretty low. But as long as I got to see them, I would be happy!
Let me say this: I was happy.
Creative Vacations is run by a wonderful and artistic couple, Vidar and Silvia. Silvia is originally from Argentina but moved to Canada at an early age, and Vidar is a native of Tromsø. Vidar is a professional photographer and was in charge of our tour group, which only consisted of 7 people (that’s all that can fit in his minivan). What I loved about this experience was that Vidar took all the guesswork out of photographing the Lights – before we even left his house! He gave us a quick lecture in his studio on the proper way to set up our cameras, then helped us adjust our camera settings before we got out in the dark. We even focused our camera properly and then he taped our lens down, as in he literally placed pieces of tape on the side of our lens, so we couldn’t accidentally change the focal length later on. He also had sturdy tripods for us to borrow – as well as snow suits and boots.
We were ready – let’s do this!
The technical logistics were taken care of and the weather was in our favor. The skies were clear and the Lights were active. According to Vidar, the activity was not the most intense he has seen – but it was non-stop for more than four hours! For the entire time we were out there, until 1 am, there was color.
Mostly greens, sometimes pale pinks and violets, shifting across the star-filled and moonless sky. Slowly morphing from a distinct arc to a translucent sheet of color, zigzagging in all directions, fading away then appearing elsewhere.
Sometimes the arc of light would appear to slowly drip downward, like watercolor paint brushed across a wet canvas. Other times there were two arcs across the sky and I so badly wanted to shout, “Double rainbow, all the way!” (if you don’t get this reference, watch this).
Vidar took us to two different locations – one by the water and one in a field filled with black, gnarled and leafless trees – with a bathroom break in between at his Grandma’s house (thanks Grandma!). We also had a picnic under the stars – hot Argentinian soup with crackers to warm us up, tea/coffee to wake us up, and Oreo cookies to – well, because Oreos are awesome 🙂
Not only did I get to see the Northern Lights, I also walked away with some pretty decent photos. And I fulfilled a long-time wish – a wish I hope to get to do over again and again.
Barnum and Bailey, sit down. This is the Greatest Show on Earth.