Northern lights photograph in the north of Norway (Tromsø / Troms)

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January in the winter of 2014: We make our way to the north of Norway to discover northern lights for the first time and, of course, to take photos. The days are very short at this time and in some regions, the sun is no longer visible: The dark time north of the Arctic Circle continues - definitely the best time to take impressive pictures. Not in vain is the dark time also called color time - and indeed there is almost every day a new spell, which feeds on the ingredients of the twilight, the low sun and the various weather phenomena here in the north. A dream for nature lovers and photographers. How many times have I been asked if these unique shades are not attributable to Photoshop ... NO !! This is the magical setting at that time, north of the Arctic Circle, often far from our imagination.

A hike in the afternoon sun - an indescribable experience in this light and the dry cold air

We are looking for the Northern Lights

And when it gets very dark in the late afternoon .... Well, then one meets here on many nights the mystical and indescribable natural spectacle of the aurora - for us one of the miracles in this world and in its breathtaking beauty with nothing to compare. Often at the beginning only a slight glow on the horizon, hardly perceptible, it grows into a gigantic light show in the sky, dances in the most different colors, projects unbelievable forms of light to the firmament - pure goosebumps feeling. But how do you capture this experience, how do you know when and where to see the Aurora Borealis?

Quick Overview

  • Best Region: Near Tromsø, as the city is located in the so-called Northern Lights Corridor - ideally located some distance from the city to avoid light pollution
  • Best time: season of September - end of March / 17.00 clock - 24.00 clock in clear weather
  • Camera settings: Focus manually to infinity / Self-timer or Shutter-release / Shutter speed approx. 5 sec. - Max. 15 sec. / Aperture <or = 2.8 / ISO Approx. 800 - 1600 / Save in RAW format / Auto white balance
  • Equipment: tripod, camera with manual settings, fast lens, headlamp, warm clothes
  • Recommended photo points: see map below, at the end of this blog
  • Aurora Forecast: Geophysical Institute of the University of Fairbanks / Alaska
Northern Lights Forecast - with this view you can load all batteries and clean the lenses ....

The best time

The best time is difficult to narrow down. The Aurora Borealis is actually more or less active in some ways throughout the year. The only question is: when can and is it best seen? According to some Norwegians in the region, the probability increases again significantly from about the end of January to March, when it is not so often snowing and the sky is therefore less cloudy. In general, from the end of August, sometimes even in conjunction with the sunset and until Easter, as soon as it gets dark, northern lights can be observed, assuming it is not cloudy. On a November afternoon, we were able to marvel at the northern lights already after 4:00 pm, which could then be seen until late at night. In this respect, from our point of view: auroral prediction and weather forecast study and after dark always a "control view" to the horizon.

The best region / location

If you would like to experience the northern lights in Norway with a high probability, the region around Tromsø offers itself, because it lies in the so-called Aurora ring of the northern hemisphere, as you can see in the image of the Northern Lights forecast (picture above) can. It is a screenshot of the Aurora Borealis Forecast of the Geophysical Institute of the University of Fairbanks Alaska , where it provides daily reliable and accurate information about the Northern Lights activities of the next few days. In our example you can already see a much stronger activity with level 5 announced for 13.09.2017. This constellation does not occur that often and promises northern lights, which can then be seen all the way to the south of the country. In this case it is worthwhile, if the weather conditions also fit (clear sky), to prepare a photo session.

From level 3 onwards, we can almost certainly assume that the northern lights are clearly visible, although it is worth taking a look at the sky even in lower activities (levels 1 and 2) in very cold and clear winter nights. One should consider already in daylight, where one or with which scenery one would like to photograph the entire scenery. A reflection in the water, a typical Norwegian hut, a campfire or even the snow-capped mountains are definitely part of the perfect motif. In any case, likelihood increases to great pictures, if you move away from larger towns and cities with their typical "light pollution" in the sky. Surely you can arrange great shots there and especially in the interplay with these lights of the city, but often there are special and not always easy to master challenges. We love watching and photographing the northern lights on the terrace of one of the huts of "Lauklines Kysferie" , as the scenery is simply wonderful and the path to the warm stove is not far ...

A natural spectacle which one must necessarily experience

What do I need for equipment?

In addition to the corresponding photo equipment - more about it - it should be self-evident that you wear appropriate winter-proof clothing to be able to spend a few hours outdoors even in extreme cold. Gloves (I have learned to love my photo gloves as a photographer, as they protect both from the cold and at any time allow the handling of the equipment without taking them off), a suitable cap and winter boots are a matter of course.

(The illustrated products and the following * links are affiliate links that take you to Bol.com, you do not pay a penny on an order, but we'll help with this project as we get a small commission)

In addition, after a near-crash I always packed a torch and a torch, which are also helpful for the manual settings before taking pictures. If you want to spend more time in the wintry nature, a thermos with a hot drink makes the Northern Lights experience perfect. The photo equipment does not have to be highly professional, but should already meet certain requirements. How many tourists have we observed in their desperate attempts to photograph the northern lights with a smartphone ....

The basis of success is a good tripod and a camera with a large sensor, the ability to record in RAW format, manual settings (for shutter speed, aperture and ISO value) and interchangeable lens. I swear it currently on my combination of the Canon SLR EOS 5 D MK III (* SONY Alpha 7 S , which is characterized by a perfect noise behavior. Thus, recordings up to more than 6000 ISO are possible without any problems - perfect for northern lights. , welches erst auf der SONY Kamera seine Qualitäten richtig entfalten kann. A perfect combination is the *

We have never seen anything more beautiful than the magic of the Northern Lights

The best camera settings

The settings themselves are certainly a matter of taste, experience and the ambient brightness (eg full moon) dependent. Here you have to try something and everyone has their own experience. In general, one should avoid exposure times over 15 (maximum 20) seconds, since the light dancing in the sky is then no longer in its forms, but often seen only as a green area. Likewise, if the exposure times are too long, the stars will no longer be depicted as dots, but will be seen as stripes of light in their orbits due to the movement of the earth.

Depending on the noise behavior of the camera, you can and should work with an ISO value of 800 - 1600, choose the exposure time between 5 and a maximum of 15 seconds, set the aperture as large as possible (2.8 or larger - means smaller f-number, such as 2.0), the images necessarily synonymous or only in RAW format store. In particular, this is advisable in order to be able to make corrections in the lightroom when developing something in the Lightroom, such as the white balance or the image noise.

The focus of the lens I set to infinity and thus achieve the best results in this situation mostly. To protect the camera from shock by pressing the shutter release button, use either the camera's built-in self-timer function or an appropriate remote control (wireless or wired / often optional). For a longer recording session outdoors, we recommend a replacement battery and, if necessary, replacement batteries for the rest of the equipment, as they quickly wilt in the cold of northern Norway.

Simply magical - dancing northern lights

From my own experience, I can only recommend, the most important settings and the procedure, re-German the "workflow", play through in advance, then, when it is time to set up everything a bit more confident and experienced. When it's dark, cold, or overpowering the emotions of seeing this spectacle for the first time, it's often harder to find the right settings for you. Furthermore, we have become accustomed to when we are traveling in the dark in northern Norway, the camera with certain basic settings "ready to shoot" and of course also have the complete equipment at hand.

The region around Troms and the best places

So far we have had the luck, if we were in the Fylke / region Troms on the way, in the week about 2 - 3 times to experience this fantastic scenery and wish you of course in the same way. An overview with good photo-points and beautiful motives in the area should give you our map. These hotspots we have "discovered" on our tours with the rental car:

What else there is to discover in and around Tromsø, we have summarized for you very clearly in the article " 14 hotspots and tips for your stay in Tromsø ".

What is important to note in order to discover Northern Lights with high probability and how and where you can inform yourself about the activities, has Sebastian from hometravelz.de in his article "How could you enjoy seeing Northern Lights?" very clearly presented.

Conny and Sirko

"Yes, we love this country ..." - that's the beginning of the Norwegian national anthem, and yes, we too - Conny Sirko - love this country, its inhabitants, the magnificent scenery, the peace and tranquility that we enjoy there and throughout Scandinavia Find. We've been touring the North more than 20 times - at different times, in many regions and in all variations. The idea for this homepage came to us last year, because then we have the opportunity to write the permanent wanderlust to the north of the soul and hopefully inspire you for it. So: heading north!

5 comments

  • Many thanks,

    for the quick answer 🙂

    I have the following questions and hope you can help me

    To rent a car:

    - Does it make sense at the end of February in Tromso to rent a four-wheeled vehicle in any case, or is there also a normal one with spikes?

    - Do you know which car rental is the best (not necessarily the cheapest)?

    To hunt for NL:

    - Can you still recommend websites or apps in terms of weather forecasts or actual NL sightings. The goal is to make the search more targeted. Starting point is always Tromso

    Thanks in advance

    Jörg

  • Hello, great blog, I have saved.
    We want next year in September / October with the motorhome up there, it is winterized. Can you get it everywhere? What should you pay particular attention to.
    Thank you for your valuable suggestions

    • Hello Thomas,
      Thank you for your nice comment and the great feedback. If you want to go to Norway in September / October, this is usually not a problem. We are currently in the north, on the Lofoten, on the road and have only on the mountain peaks snow. This is mostly the case in the area of ​​the coast by the Gulf Stream, even if there is no guarantee for the weather ... 🙂 However, the first mountain passes are currently closed because of snow and ice and there is already snow in eastern Norway, as well as in the interior of the north. Since this is not eliminated as in Germany, at least snow chains (in the extreme case) are advised. Winter tires are mandatory at this time anyway and of course. From our point of view, you should go as far as possible along the coast, because here, as already written, there are the mildest temperatures and it is breathtakingly beautiful anyway at the time. We also have a few road trips on our side here: In September we drove along the Helgelandskysten (with the northern lights) and we were on the winter winter tour on our WINTERWONDERLAND tour. By reading these two posts, you can easily see the full range of weather conditions in autumn and winter in Norway. Greetings from the Lofoten, Conny and Sirko

  • Great pictures. The area around Tromsø is also just too ingenious for hunting for the Northern Lights.

    LG - Sebastian

    • Thank you for your feedback Sebastian. In fact, the region - especially in winter - is an absolute dream. Not only the northern lights, but the lighting conditions generally conjure up fascinating motifs every day. We hope to be back up shortly.

      Best regards,
      Conny and Sirko

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