Aurora borealis the chase is on...!!

February 20, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

So I am sitting here in Ersfjordbotn with family and friends waiting for the cloudy weather to pass us by at the moment.

We have been incredibly lucky with the weather this year and so have been treated to some amazing displays from the aurora borealis so far. We have been left in awe and wonderment at their beauty.

If our secret hideaway is now more out in the open than it was before, then it is a shame. Although, Henry the owner of the cabins here won't be too upset. We even had to book a year in advance for the dates we wanted, which just shows how popular it is here already.

We have been blessed with the auroras and far more importantly clear skies at points during the past few days. This has only served to capture the images I so hoped for.

In my previous blog post I mentioned Lens Locker who I had hired a Canon 16-35mm F2.8L lens from specifically for this trip and I have to be honest and say it is possibly the best short term investment I have made with regards camera gear. Most of the images posted in this blog post are taken with that lens and it certainly has been the lens of choice without a shadow of a doubt. I also have a Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 EX DC HSM and a Canon 24-70mm F2.8L with me. The majority of the time these have stayed in my bag though as the 16-35mm has just been what I needed and certainly the lens of choice. 

As you shoot on manual focus the speed of autofocus isn't an issue. The ability to shot wider or closer in depending on the aurora itself, plus the quality of the images captured is what you need in my opinion. The aurora is forever changing in size and position and so a fixed focal length lens will always be a challenge so I feel you need some flexibility offered by a zoom lens.

I have been shooting anywhere between 400-3200 ISO and this is really dependent on the strength of the aurora. The stronger the aurora then you can drop the ISO and adjust your exposure time accordingly. The exposure time I use is usually around 4 to 10 seconds long whilst trying to factor in the strength of the aurora itself and also ISO settings I am using. This is very much a trial and error learning curve that you very quickly pick up as you go so I can't give any exact advice on this. If you are lucky enough to see the aurora for long enough you have the chance to perfect these settings yourself though and you soon pick these up.

Unfortunately whilst we have been here I managed to fall down the stairs in our cabin (I still wonder why they insist on calling them cabins when they are really like a house). I ended up tearing a hamstring muscle that I felt rip across my leg as it went. It wasn't very nice and has limited my ability to walk long distances up scramble up the sides of the fjords. At the moment that hasn't been a major inconvenience to me though.

We have managed to have a quick walk around Tromsø and visited a really lovely glass blowing shop called Blåst which is the most northernly glass blowing shop in the world. Tromsø is full of the 'World's most northernly' shops and businesses I believe. I do though want to thank Silja the owner of the shop for allowing us to photograph her and her staff/partners at work there yesterday afternoon and they have some wonderful pieces there that you can purchase.

Norway and Tromsø in general isn't just appealing due to the auroras. Yes, they are one of the main reasons for the tourists, certainly in winter time. From a photographers perspective it is a a paradise though. If you have an off day from hunting the auroras then wake up the next morning and if the weather is good you may be rewarded by a sunrise as I was over the Lyngen Alps 

Alternatively if the skies are clear then look out for a brilliant sunset at a suitable location and you may be rewarded as well. The image below was captured on a Canon 24-70mm F2.8L lens using a Heliopan ND 3.0 filter (This filter is what some people refer to as a big stopper)

So it isn't just auroras that Norway or Tromsø has to offer, there is plenty of things to do if or see if you look around. All I would say is simply........... if you hire a car make sure it is a 4x4, even if it is a Skoda Yeti like ours.

There is a lot of solar acitivity at the moment and the outside possibility of an X class flare in the next 24 hours. Whilst there weather isn't looking great for Saturday if one is released from the sun then I will certainly be travelling as far as is needed to reach clear skies as that will be worth the effort and also a lack of sleep.

Tomorrow is also forecast to be fairly good weather and possibly clear skies as well, as I said at the start of my blog we have been blessed with good weather for the majority of this week here and I am so pleased that it has been on our side. As anyone who has been here or lives in Norway knows, when it gets bad it gets very bad.

Hopefully I will get another post of before the end of the week and include some more images of the auroras, if the weather holds.


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