There’s nothing like the Northern Lights to make you aware of your insignificance. To have you marvel at the world around you and realise you’re just this tiny spec in this magnificent universe. Floating endlessly on a rock in space with no control and no specified destination. Sitting beneath the Northern Lights forces you to stop a minute, look up and pay respects to our night sky. And as you do, you’ll marvel at the strength and beauty of our universe.
So why wouldn’t this transcendent experience be on the bucket list of every human being on the planet? I think it almost is. I was just lucky enough to tick this one off in 2014 after meeting a Tromso local called Tanja while studying in America. Tromso sits 70 degrees north of the Arctic Circle and is the ideal location to witness the light show. As such, I jumped at the opportunity to get my Arctic fix and headed north, suitable excited and almost certainly under-dressed. Read a very old blog here.
Once there, we filled our days – or moreso the endless polar night – with cross-country skiing, copious amounts of fish and a few alpine adventures while waiting for clear skies. The first few evenings were cloudy and snowy with no chance of a light show – but my hopes remained high since I was visiting in prime season which is between November and January. During these months the sun doesn’t reach the horizon and the blackest hours between 20:00 and 02:00 are prime conditions.
Eventually the night sky lit up and the mission was on. Packed with reindeer skins to sit on, thermoses of hot chocolate, and about 50 extra layers of clothing we set off up the mountain behind her house to settle in for the night and enjoy the show. It’s needless to say that I looked like a big red marshmallow in this amount of clothing.
Green streaks lit up the sky. Dancing and moving with the symphony in my head. I’d always seen clips of them dancing like this but for some reason didn’t imagine that they’d move in the same way – thinking it was movie magic or the joys of time-lapse videography. Did you know, the different colours appearing in the light show are based on altitude? I only experienced green which means they were less than 150 miles high. Fact of the day 🙂
Here’s a few tips for photographing the Northern Lights in Tromso
- If you want to take photos, then be sure to keep your camera batteries warm. In the cold the batteries freeze up, which means they’ll run out of juice very quickly, so I’d recommend keeping them in a deep pocket close to your skin.
- Focussing is hard when it’s pitch black – so use Live View mode on the back of your camera to see more accurately, and set your focus to infinity.
- Use a tripod so you can use a longer exposure. 15 – 30 seconds is ideal
- Also… take hot chocolate and way more clothes than you think you’ll need. You’ll want to stay out all night.
And for those that don’t have these rad friends in high places, jump on a Northern Norway tour to take the fuss out of planning the trip.