Chasing the Northern Lights

20:42 Alyson Tart 0 Comments

I knew I wanted to see the Northern Lights sometime in my lifetime. Paul and I had talked about heading up to Sweden or Norway, but a deal popped into my inbox for a Northern Lights Tour in Iceland, and there it was. Our trip to chase the Northern Lights.

Let me preface this by saying that I had way too high of expectations. I did not really think much about NOT seeing the lights. I just made the assumption that we would, and went ready to go, with my camera, tripod and camera settings prepared for capturing the lights.

When we arrived into Iceland, we went the first night to try and spy the infamous lights.  Our driver warned us that they hadn't been seen much over the last couple of weeks.

What?! I may not see Aurora Borealis? 

Well, I started to get anxious.

We drove about 30 minutes outside of the city, in the cold, cold of Iceland (although they would tell you it was warm for winter!) and stood there for 30 minutes.

No lights. Now I'm really starting to get anxious.

Other people say they see the lights. I say they are crazy. Or are they. My eyes start to play tricks on me and I think I see things dancing around.

Then I finally see them. They had been there the whole time, not as vivid to the naked eye as pictures, but hiding behind the stars. You can start to pick up the movements, subtle, but there, flickering, appearing, disappearing.

Finally, after 1.5 hours, my toes are freezing and the lights seem to be subsiding. Its midnight, which means the tour is up. I head back to the bus, only to turn right back around because the lights are putting on a show!

This was truly what you expect to see of the lights. Jumping, dancing, moving about in swirling lines. It was mesmerising and all across the sky. I felt awed and so lucky that despite all the odds, we saw the Northern Lights on our first night.

Apparently, March is a good month for the lights - who knows exactly why besides the scientists. We went to the beach on our last night in town, just hoping for a peek behind all the city lights.

And there they were again, waving us goodbye.

Wanting to capture the lights yourself? Here's what you'll need:

1. A camera where you can adjust the ISO, aperture and shutter speed. A DSLR would be great, but some point and shoots have this now
2. A tripod - you REALLY need a tripod. If it has longer legs, great, then you don't have to squat to deal with the camera

You can find tons online about the best settings to use on a camera. I personally used a 3.5 F-Stop, 800 ISO and 30 second shutter speed. If you have a lower F-Stop OR higher ISO, you can reduce the shutter speed. Make sure you get it all ready before you leave because you'll never know when the lights will appear!

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