It had long been an ambition of mine to see and photograph the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights as they’re more commonly known. Recently, I decided to fulfil this ambition and take a long weekend away to chase them.
While there are no guarantees of seeing them, there are certain factors you can do to improve your chances. Firstly, deciding where to go is a main factor. As the name, Northern Lights suggests, the further north you go, the better chance you have. Lots of people choose places like Iceland, though I decided to go further north and headed for Tromso in northern Norway, well inside the Arctic Circle. There are now direct flights to Tromso 3 times a week from London Gatwick, so getting there has never been easier.
Tromso is a lovely city, though bear in mind, in winter, they have polar nights. The sun never raises above the horizon; you do get some light from around 10 in the morning but by half one in the afternoon it’s complete darkness again. While in Tromso, be sure to take a trip up the cable car to get unrivalled views of the city.
On the Saturday night I was there, I decided to book myself on a tour that chases the Northern Lights to give myself the best chance of seeing them. They drive you well outside of the city to reduce the light pollution and they also look at the weather forecast to determine where the clearest skies are.
I had taken with me a Canon 5D Mark IV and a Canon fit Sigma 20mm 1.4 lens, which I had hired from Calumet Rental. We were fortunate enough to see the lights five times during the evening. One thing I was glad I had done was to prepare my camera settings in advance. The best settings to use are an aperture of at least 2.8, though the lens I was using was 1.4, so I had it open as wide as it would allow. You need a shutter speed of between 6 and 10 seconds and of course, for a long exposure, a tripod is a necessity.
While the Northern Lights are the main attraction in northern Norway, the surrounding areas of Tromso are also lovely, and are worth exploring.
While I’m delighted to have ticked off the Northern Lights from my bucket list, I would now love to go back there in the summer months and experience “The Land of the Midnight Sun.”
About the author: Laurence Male, a keen cyclist, photography enthusiast and traveler. Part of Team Calument working with the Purchasing Department.