‘That looks like the Northern Lights!’ I thought to myself as I looked out of the window. I was pleasantly surprised and excited at the sight when I jolted awake from my short nap. The warm and dark mini bus was taking us out of Reykjavik to catch the Northern Lights. This was 2 days before we were due to fly out of Iceland and probably our last and only chance to see the elusive nature wonder.
The mini bus driver spotted the same thing I saw and pulled up by the side road. Everyone got off the bus excitedly with some still uncertain what they were looking for / at. To be fair, the Northern Lights were quite pale-looking from where we were standing – they could easily be mistaken as clouds.
Those with tripods quickly set up our gears and started snapping away. We couldn’t really see the light green colour of the Northern Lights clearly with our naked eyes. It took a few attempts capturing them on the camera before anyone could figure out their exact location.
It was my first time seeing the Northern Lights and couldn’t contain my happiness. I was ecstatic after successfully taking my first proper photograph of the Aurora Borealis.
The driver felt that where we weren’t at a good location so he got us all back into the minibus and drove further down the road which seemed to be nearer to where the performance was taking place. There was also less light pollution from the nearby town and cars, definitely a better spot than before. We hung around there adoring, admiring and photographing the incredible nature for the rest of the night.
I could hear people asking our driver what settings they should use on their cameras. They were fumbling around and literally wasting precious time! Fortunately I was well prepared for the photo shoot (yes I’m gloating (>.<)). I familiarised myself with the newly bought camera from Downtown Reykjavik (don’t ask, haha) back in the hotel and remembered the camera settings for the Northern Lights. Here is a simple table that should be helpful for beginners like me.
The photo shoot went smoothly right from the start and I only needed to make some minor adjustments every now and then to see the different effects.
We were in for a treat as you can see, the aurora display was magnificent! It kept moving and changing shape allowing us to capture the beautiful lights.
There was a couple who didn’t bring their tripod and stuck with me the whole time. They checked out the photos on my camera and were exclaiming how beautiful the Northern Lights were each time the camera snapped. I offered to take a few photos for them and even used them as my models when I tested out the iPhone flash. The effects were satisfactory and I managed to get a clearer photo of my face with the Northern Lights in the background.
The trick was to point the flashlight against the white snowy ground to allow the diffused light to reflect onto the subject. Without doubt, it looked better than pointing the flash directly at the subject.
We stayed at the same location for more than an hour and watched the Northern Lights dance around in the sky. They were changing shapes and intensities every minute – what a show!
It was freezing out there and by the end of it all, I almost couldn’t feel my hands and feet. But, definitely no regrets!
When we left, the Northern Lights were still giving their grand performance for the night. It was breathtaking!
So What are Northern Lights?
Simply put, the Northern Lights, are the result of electrically charged particles from the sun colliding with the earth’s atmosphere. They are known as the Aurora Borealis when they occur in the northern hemisphere, If the same thing show up in the southern hemisphere, they are called Aurora Australis.
The auroral displays can appear in a range of colours in the shade of red, yellow, green, blue and violet but pale green and pink are the most common. The colours displayed are determined by the oxygen and/or hydrogen levels in the atmosphere. And the duration of the displays also vary from a few minutes to a few hours – it all depends on one’s luck.
We were extremely blessed that night to witness the spectacular Aurora Borealis for a good full hour (could be more if we didn’t have to leave). It was such an exhilarating experience that I couldn’t sleep even after getting my much needed hot shower back in the hotel!
*All photos in this post have not been edited in anyway.
Have you seen the Northern Lights? Here is how you can watch the Northern Lights without a guided tour.