I just returned from the Arctic, and I loved it!
On my first night there in Norway, having just landed at Tromsø, I quickly checked two things: – the weather forecast and the Aurora forecast. As luck would have it, both were looking pretty good! I decided that rather than head west towards Senja where a nice warm, cosy hotel was waiting for me, I’d drive in the general direction of Finland. Specifically I was aiming towards Skibotndalen. It’s useful to get a loose grip of the local language wherever you go and my very slight grasp here was helping me with the following font of knowledge – ‘dalen’ means valley and ‘Skibotn’ is the name of a town – I was going into the valley of Skibotn. A valley is generally a useful thing in finding the northern lights because the surrounding hills and mountains afford you protection from the low level weather systems, trapping them in or out. I knew that the weather was coming from the west and would, between me and the sea, hit many mountains where the temperature and pressure would change and hopefully the clouds would drop their load and vanish into nothing. It turns out I made the right decision and I saw one of the best light shows I’ve ever seen!
The aurora is measured on what’s known as the KP index. The stronger the KP rating, the lower latitude at which you are able to see the lights. Where I was standing was on the spot rated at KP 1.5, but what the forecast was telling me was that it was KP 5, which is basically a geomagnetic solar storm! That, combined with the almost zero humidity and temperature of -12c made for perfect conditions as, at about 11pm, the light show kicked off in all directions.
I used my Platypod Ultra to hold the camera steady on the ground so I could quickly and easily just pick it up and move it around in order to change my angle, focus and foreground as and when it was necessary. The snow was pretty loose and the temperature meant the snow quickly froze solid as ice whenever it touched the bitterly cold aircraft-grade aluminium that the Ultra is made of, resulting in me having to chip it off periodically, but the flexibility and mobility it gave me meant I was able to move both myself and my camera often and shoot a whole range of exposures.
If you haven’t seen the northern lights, I strongly urge you to do all you can to have that bucket-list experience! I’ve seen them 3 times this winter alone – they’re so magically addictive!
The trip even resulted in my new favourite selfie!
PS, here’s a Behind The Scenes: –
The Northern Lights are unpredictable and dynamic. They often start as nothing more than a slight glimmer of what looks like a grey cloud which may or may not explode into a dazzling light show, expanding from that point or from others to fill a part of the night sky or even the entire sky. Having the flexibility to quickly move the camera and it’s angles can help to achieve a lot more shots in what is a finite amount of time. When they’re gone they’re gone! There’s no warning, they’re just there the one second and gone the next. My Platypod Ultra is my go-to piece of kit for stabilising my camera and getting the low angles which make it look epic, and there’s enough surface area that I can put it anywhere! Take a look here – my legs (much like the legs of a tripod would) have disappeared into the thick, powder snow but the 4.5kg camera rig is sitting nice and comfortably on the surface: –
By the way, it’s quite hard to get good behind the scenes photos in pitch black conditions when the mind is focussed on other shots! But I think the point is clear.
Let me see your northern lights shots too, you can find me on social media as @CaptureWithDave