Waiting for the Northern Lights

The Northern Lights
The Northern Lights

December unexpectedly gave me a treat, a chance to spend 4 days in Tromsø, Norway.

Tromsø is at the northern end of Norway and an ideal base to venture out ‘Light chasing’. Which is pretty much what we did. Every night for 3 nights driving out of the city in the freezing dark. Fortified by the promise of hot chocolate, chocolate cake, spots of clear skies and glorious sightings.

Night 1: Freezing in a field somewhere near Finland
Night 1: Freezing in a field somewhere near Finland

The first night we were eight of us in a bus. Driving endlessly towards Finland. Parking in empty fields. Gazing up mutely at the cloud covered skies. No lights.

Night 2:Thawing out in the lavvu
Night 2: Thawing out in the lavvu

The second night and the second lights spotting company.
This time we had hot chocolate, chocolate cake and a deliciously hot ‘lavvu’ (A large tent with a wood fire inside). Standing on a small beach, looking North. Hoping, hoping, hoping ….
seeing some planes coming in to land. Bas!!!

The third day dawned bright and clear. A beautiful blue sky touched with pinks and yellows low on the southern horizon. As the sun rose in the rest of the world. Tromsø got some clear light.

A bright winter day
At last a bright clear day.

Tonight would be ‘The night’. Third time lucky and also our last night. Surely our combined luck would ensure a good spotting.
Back we went to last nights location. (the warm lavvu had much to do with this decision 😀 ). Like pros now. Belongings set in the tent. Tripods and cameras out and set within a few minutes of reaching.

The skies were getting patchy with clouds. The weather forecast predicted a snow storm. Still the cold wind would blow them away, we hoped.

That’s when magic happened.
Through a clear patch of sky,
Surrounded by clouds,
A green light flickered.
Dim at first. Gaining strength
Dancing to some unheard tune
It mesmerised.

Photography tip: LOTS of tips which might make your trip more productive
1. Dress warm (would have said dress hot if it didn’t have the double meaning 😀 ) However many layers you wear. You’ll be frozen in about 5 minutes.

2. Steady tripod is a must

3. Use your widest lens. The lights move all over the sky. And frozen hands don’t make for fast adjustments.

4. Open the aperture as wide as possible. I was at 4 (the max my lens allowed)

5. Shutter speed 30 secs

6. A remote shutter trigger can save fingers from frost bite.

7. Don’t give up. Try your luck every night as long as possible.

Music suggestion:

Shopping tips: Don’t. Or at least minimise as much as you can. Norway must be one of the most expensive places to visit. My lovely Norwegian sweater is soft and warm but at INR 17,000 price it’s still pricking!! 😀

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