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)

Thursday (07-February-2013) — Norway

Gone to See Norway 2013. Chasing the Northern Lights. Day 10: Southbound Hurtigruten Coastal Voyage.

On the second day of the southbound Hurtigruten voyage, the MS Nordkapp stops in eight ports: Mehamn (01:00-01:15); Kjøllefjord (03:15-03:30); Honningsvåg (06:00-06:15); Havøsund (08:15-08:30); Hammerfest (11:15-12:45); Øksfjord (15:30-15:45); Skjervøy (19:00-19:45); and Tromsø (23:45-01:30).

After going in and warming up, I went out again early AM (just after midnight). One band of the green lights went all the way from horizon to horizon over the top of the ship. I switched to a fisheye lens and went to deck 7 where I could get this image. I had all of my cold weather gear on, and it was still cold, especially since the ship was moving at 15 knots. At this point you could tell who the hard-core photographers were, as we were the only ones still out on deck.

Early Morning (00:24 AM) Northern Lights While Sailing North on the Hurtigruten MV Nordkapp. Image taken with a Nikon D800 and 16 mm f/2.8 fisheye lens (ISO 6400, 16 mm, f/2.8, 4 sec). (David J Mathre)
Early Morning (00:24 AM) Northern Lights While Sailing North on the Hurtigruten MV Nordkapp. Image taken with a Nikon D800 and 16 mm f/2.8 fisheye lens (ISO 6400, 16 mm, f/2.8, 4 sec). (David J Mathre)

At the end of the day, I disembarked from the MS Nordkapp in Tromsø. I met up with some photographer friends from France, and will spend the next week in and around Tromsø “Chasing the Northern Lights”.

Wednesday (06-February-2013) — Norway

Gone to See Norway 2013. Chasing the Northern Lights. Day 9: North then Southbound Hurtigruten Coastal Voyage.

On the seventh and final day of the northbound Hurtigruten coastal voyage, the MS Nordkapp stops in four ports: Båtsfjord (00:30-01:00); Vardø (04:00-04:15); Vadsø (07:30-08:00); and Kirkenes (09:45-12:45). After spending 3 hours in Kirkenes, the ship turns around and begins the southbound voyage stopping at three ports: Vardø (16:00-17:00); Båtsfjord (20:00-20:30); and Berlevåg (22:15-22:30).

Just before midnight there were some faint northern lights. I had to increase the ISO to 6400 to get this image. You can clearly see some red in addition to the green color.

Northern Lights While Sailing North on the Hurtigruten MV Nordkapp. Image taken with a Nikon D800 and 24 mm f/1.4G lens (ISO 6400, 24 mm, f/2.8, 4 sec). (David J Mathre)
Northern Lights While Sailing North on the Hurtigruten MS Nordkapp. Image taken with a Nikon D800 camera and 24 mm f/1.4G lens (ISO 6400, 24 mm, f/2.8, 4 sec). (David J Mathre)