Wednesday (13-February-2013) — Norway

Gone to See Norway 2013. Chasing the Northern Lights. Day 16: Tromsø.

I spent the day putting together a time-lapse video for one of the Northern Lights displays. Still many more to go. I catch the southbound Hurtigruten at midnight for a ride back to Bergen.

If the above is blank, use the following link for a 15 second time-lapsed video of Northern Lights

Tuesday (12-February-2013) — Norway

Gone to See Norway 2013. Chasing the Northern Lights. Day 15: Tromsø.

For my second night of chasing Aurora I went with “Northern Lights with Green Fox Guiding- When The Sky Becomes Magic”. Green Fox Guiding is a relatively new company, but Jacek Orasinski has been working in the Tromsø area as a guide for the last 11 years. Jacek is originally from Poland. The group was picked up in front of the Tromsø Tourist Information center at 17:00 (5 PM). There was low fog covering Tromsø. Jacek was pretty sure that as soon as we got away from the city we would have some clear skies. The Space Weather report was also favorable for the appearance of auroras during the night. A little after 18:30 we had our first sighting. This was one of the earliest displays that Jacek had seen this season. We stopped along the side of the road and got some initial images. Jacek drove us a little further to a better location with mountains in the background. Even though there was just barely a sliver of the moon, a couple of Norwegians were climbing the mountain. While photographing the Northern Lights we watched these two tiny lights climb up the mountain and then ski down in the dark. Once down, they started up the mountain again. Jacek knew that I was looking for something unique to use as a background. He brought us to an abandoned coal mine which I thought was great. I think the others got board after a few minutes at the site. I framed an image of the Northern Lights display with the silhouette of a coal chute in the foreground. As I was taking the 30 second exposure, a tour bus drove by and lit up the coal chute. I wasn’t planning on doing light painting – but as can be seen below I am happy with the result. We continued on to several other locations, with the Northern Light displays getting better and better. Finally, we ended up on a beach where we continued shooting. Jacek built a wood fire to heat his signature “Fish Soup”. We were provided with reindeer skins to sit on as we ate the soup. After dinner the Northern Light displays continued for another 3 hours. Although I thought last night was great, this was an order of magnitude better. Jacek even said it was the best night he had seed this season. In all, I took about 1400 images. Many, many will be used for time-lapse videos. I didn’t get back to the hotel until 02:00 and then couldn’t sleep as I wanted to start reviewing the images.

Northern Lights and Coal Mine on Kvaløy (Whale) island in Norrway. Image taken with a Nikon D800 and 16 mm f/2.8 fisheye lens (ISO 800, 16 mm, f/2.8, 30 sec).. (David J Mathre)
Northern Lights and Coal Mine on Kvaløy (Whale) island in Norway. Image taken with a Nikon D800 camera and 16 mm f/2.8 fisheye lens (ISO 800, 16 mm, f/2.8, 30 sec). (David J Mathre)

Monday (11-February-2013) — Norway

Gone to See Norway 2013. Chasing the Northern Lights. Day 14: Tromsø.

As the wormhole began to open clouds appeared, reducing the intensity of the burning green rays. This provided some cover and protection for earthlings below….

After leaving the two French Photographers at the Ferry to take them to Finnsnes, I decided to spend the next three nights outside of Tromsø to maximize my chance of viewing and photographing the Northern Lights. There are at least 20 vendors offering trips in Tromsø this year specifically to view Northern Lights. The most famous one is booked a year in advance (after being featured on a BBC TV program for finding a place to view the Northern Lights when the BBC film crew all but struck out). I eliminated the big tour bus, dinner boat, and dog sled northern light tours, and selected 3 based on recommendations at the Tromsø tourist information center. I am glad that I stopped at the tourist information center when we stopped in Tromsø on the northbound Hurtigruten voyage as the tours do get booked and fill up in advance. They all claim to find somewhere that is clear with a good chance of seeing northern lights – whether it is along the coast, up a mountain, or all the way to Sweden or Finland. One even tells you to bring your passport along in case they do cross the border.

The first trip was “Aurora Photo Tour with Professional Photographer” from Creative Vacations. The trip is led by Vidar Dons Lindrupsen. He picked a group of seven up in front of the Blu Radisson Hotel and brought us to his house. There we had a workshop on the basics for successfully capturing Aurora images with a digital camera. Vidar is fluent in several languages. Our group included folks from France, Germany, Brazil, Spain plus myself from the United States. For those that needed, he provided tripods and warm arctic outerwear as we were about to spend the next several hours outdoors photographing the Northern Lights. We stopped at several locations and I got some great images, including the one posted below. I also was able to take several sequences that I should be able to use for time-lapse videos. These were some of the best northern light displays that I had ever seen, but probably average by folks that live in this region. When the clouds started to come in and we only were getting diffuse images through the clouds, Vidar served some hot lentil soup — very welcome after standing for several hours in the cold.

Northern Lights in Tromvik, Norway. Image taken with a Nikon D800 and 16 mm f/2.8 fisheye lens (ISO 1000, 16 mm, f/2.8, 15 sec). (David J Mathre)
Northern Lights in Tromvik, Norway. Image taken with a Nikon D800 camera and 16 mm f/2.8 fisheye lens (ISO 1000, 16 mm, f/2.8, 15 sec). (David J Mathre)

Friday (08-February-2013) — Norway

Gone to See Norway 2013. Chasing the Northern Lights. Day 11: Tromsø.

On our first night in Tromsø, a local photographer and her husband took us to a couple of locations to view northern lights. The first place, Telegrafbukta is not far (maybe 45 minutes walking) from the center of Tromsø along the fjord. I got a great image of the northern lights with a reflection in the water. I am not exactly sure what the walkway going into the cold water is for, unless they have a polar bear swimming club. This is obviously a favorite place for locals to view northern lights on a Friday night. There were at least a dozen just up the hill (you can see them in this first image). We then went to Kvaløya (Whale) Island for the 2nd image. The mountain on the right is lit up with a yellow color from sodium lights at the home near the water. It was a lot easier to photography the northern lights when on solid ground with a tripod. On the ship, even with a tripod you get the motion of the ship. I now have several time-lapse sequences to put together once I get home.

Northern Lights from Telegrafgukta in Tromsø. Image taken with a Nikon D800 and 24 mm f/1.4 lens (ISO 800, 24 mm, f/2, 8 sec).. (David J Mathre)
Northern Lights from Telegrafgukta in Tromsø. Image taken with a Nikon D800 camera and 24 mm f/1.4 lens (ISO 800, 24 mm, f/2, 8 sec). (David J Mathre)
Early Morning (00:02 AM) Northern Lights on Kvaløy Island near Tromsø. Image taken with a Nikon D800 and 24 mm f/1.4 lens (ISO 800, 24 mm, f/2, 8 sec).. (David J Mathre)
Early Morning (00:02 AM) Northern Lights on Kvaløy Island near Tromsø. Image taken with a Nikon D800 camera and 24 mm f/1.4 lens (ISO 800, 24 mm, f/2, 8 sec). (David J Mathre)