Searching for the lights

For my project ‘From taiga to pack ice’ I try to give an extensive overview of the landscape and wildlife of the northern parts of our Earth. Many of the pictures for this project are taken on my guiding trips to Spitsbergen, but for the taiga parts I take special trips for specific targets. One of these targets was the Northern Lights, or Aurora borealis. I had seen the Aurora several times already, when I lived in Umeå, Sweden for half a year, later while guiding in East Greenland or even from my hometown of Groningen. However, I never managed to get a decent picture of it. The best pictures I had were from two nights in East Greenland in 2005 where we had a dazzling display of Northern Lights. However, they were taking from a ship while slowly sailing trough Scoresby Sund. But they weren’t that good pictures as it is pretty impossible to keep a camera fixed on a moving ship… So, even though the lights were spectacular, the total image didn’t work. Last year we decided to give it a new try, we decided to go to Iceland. A place with a spectacular landscape and in a good place to see the Northern Lights. However, even though we found a really nice place and we had a great stay, we had overcast skies for the whole week, preventing us to see anything at night. So this year, we tried again, this time in Vesterålen, Norway. Another spectacular landscape and hopefully a bit better weather… After some nights with clouds or without any Aurora’s, we got our first hint of what it looked like: an evening with some photographically Northern Lights. These lights were too weak to properly see with the naked eye (just a vague cloud in the sky), but with a camera and a long shutter speed one could see it was green indeed. Nice, but not really the sights we hoped for… The second last evening promised to be really good. A large solar outburst had taken place two days before, so this solar wind was about to reach Earth. To make it even better, clear skies were predicted for most of the night. So we were all set and waited… for something that didn’t come. We had a look each time someone had to get up, but the only things we saw were stars. When, around midnight, the clouds came in, we knew it would not be… The next night, our last in Norway, the predictions were less good. Aurora levels were still good, but it was expected to be overcast for most of the night. As we had to take an early flight the next morning, we had already packed all our gear. However, during one of the short peeks outside, I suddenly saw something green directly above my head. AURORA!! There were a few gaps in the clouds, and those were big enough to see one of Natures nicest spectacles. Gear was quickly unpacked and set up, and while we waited for the pictures we taken (time lapse and a long shutter speed), there was plenty of time to just watch and enjoy. What a spectacle… It came and went for over two hours and around midnight it was over and we could go to bed for a short night, but very satisfied…

Aurora borealis in Sortland, Vesterålen, Norway from Arjen Drost on Vimeo.


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