Fleur Lucille


Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Why I love the Northern Lights | December 2018

What are the Northern Lights?

The Northern Lights are also known as the Aurora Borealis and are a natural light display in the sky, predominantly seen in the Arctic Circle regions.

Iceland - November 2016

Back in 2016 we booked a 4 day holiday to Iceland which would include a Northern Lights hunt. We were so excited about the potential to see this amazing natural phenomenon in person and were looking forward to capturing them using our Canon DSLR camera.

Our trip included the Golden Circle Tour and Northern Lights Hunt. We decided to add a few additional excursions which included a city tour, locations around Reykjavik and the South Shore Tour. This formed the following itinerary.

Day 1 - Arrived and City Tour
Day 2 - Golden Circle Tour
Day 3 - Sun Voyager, Hallgrimskirkja, Harpa, Blue Lagoon, Northern Lights Trip
Day 4 - South Shore Tour

Our Northern Lights hunt was initially scheduled for our first night, however the weather conditions were not ideal, so it eventually was moved to the third night.

We were so excited when we got back to our hotel from spending the afternoon at the Blue Lagoon to see the sign saying that our Northern Lights hunt was on. We gathered together all our camera equipment, put on multiple layers of clothing and went to get something to eat in preparation for the long night ahead of us.

The hunt took us on a coach journey out into the countryside so that we were away from any light pollution of the city centre. Travelling into the pitch black Icelandic landscape we suddenly pulled over into a large lay-by, overlooking what looked like a large lake with a mountain range in the background. We weren't alone, with at least another six coaches packed with intrepid Northern Lights hunters.

We quickly departed the coach into the pitch black darkness and all started to try and set up our cameras on the side of the road, with varying success! This was when we realised how unprepared we were to try and take pictures of the Northern Lights if they decided to show.

Although we had a Canon DSLR camera, we hadn't ever used it within the manual settings, let alone manual focus. Luckily some friends that we had met on the trip helped us out with the settings for our camera (thanks Barry and Sinead!) The next hurdle was the fact we only had a very small tripod and not the more standard sized ones that everyone else were using. This meant that there was a lot of sitting on the ground honing settings incase we were lucky.

It had been a long and cold couple of hours spent at the side of the road in the middle of nowhere and still there was no indication that the Northern Lights were going to come out to play. Eventually there was only a small group of us left still persisting with the search. The majority had returned to the warmth of the coaches and were wanting to call it a night, so we were asked to pack up all our equipment and join them. Disappointment filled the air, but not for long...

The coach had hardly started moving when all of a sudden the Northern Lights came out to dance, to euphoric shouts of everyone on board. We all quickly got off the coach and hurriedly started to set up our cameras again to try and catch them. Even though we had hardly any experience in shooting in manual mode with our camera and didn't have an appropriate tripod, we were ecstatic with images we started to capture, not being able to believe what we were experiencing.

We remained by the side of the road in the pitch black for about another hour just witnessing in amazement the Northern Lights dancing above us. Its difficult to describe the feeling when you finally get to see them, the tiredness and cold just disappear with the adrenaline rush fuelling your entire body. Excitement takes over as you view the amazing phanominom and how you need to capture it on camera.

As the Lights started to fade, we all reluctantly got back onto the coach. Everyone still hoped that they would come out again, our faces glued to the windows and straining our eyes in expectation. The coach journey back to the hotel was full of excitement and amazement that we had witnessed what we came for, mixed with tiredness that started to set in as the adrenaline subsided.

Instead of thinking that we must get to sleep when we arrived back at our hotel, we were still so excited that we started looking through the pictures we had captured, unable to believe that we had been so lucky.

We finally decided at about 2am in the morning that it was time for us to get some sleep as we had an early start and another full day of sightseeing ahead of us. We quickly fell asleep knowing that we had witnessed something amazing and were so grateful that we had got to experience them as we had heard so many stories about how people having not been able to see them on a number of different trips.

This Northern Lights experience was definitely the start of the bug for me and my husband. We couldn't wait to try and experience them again.

Included below is the link to the video of our trip to Iceland on my YouTube channel if you are interested in seeing some of the sights of stunning Iceland.

Norway - March 2017

We knew from the moment that we got home from our holiday to Iceland that we wanted to go on another Northern Lights hunt and had caught the bug bad! After a bit of research we decided that our next trip would be to Tromso in Norway.

Tromso is in northern Norway and is the third largest urban area north of the Arctic Circle. Northern Norway is located in the auroral zone and would be the perfect destination to try and get our next Northern Lights fix.

We booked a 5 day holiday to Tromso with Nordic Experience from Colchester Travel which also included a Northern Lights hunt as part of the package. Our trip included two nights in the centre of Tromso and two nights at the Malangen Resort in Mestervik. We had plenty of time for sightseeing as well as adding on some amazing excursions.

Day 1 - Travel and arrive in Tromso
Day 2 - Sightseeing round Tromso
Day 3 - Tromso Bridge, travel to and exploring round Malangen Resort
Day 4 - Fat biking and Northern Lights tour
Day 5 - Husky ride and travelling back to London

Following our trip to Iceland, we were determined that for this holiday we would be more prepared in relation to equipment for photographing the lights. We had purchased a new DSLR camera, tripod and a wide angle lens. We wanted to makes sure that if we were lucky enough to experience them again that we would have everything that we needed!

We knew that our main Northern Lights hunt wasn't planned until we had moved to the Malangen Resort for the second part of the holiday and the weather had been pretty cloudy all day for our sightseeing round Tromso, so we weren't expecting any viewings of the lights.

We had just finished a lovely dinner at a restaurant in the centre of Tromso and were walking back to our hotel alongside Tromso harbour. The hotel had incredible views across the harbour and with it being such a clear night, we decided that it would be a good opportunity for some camera practice.

We set up right next to the harbour and started to take some shots, changing the manual settings as we went. Suddenly we realised that, although there was a lot of light pollution from all the boats and buildings, there was definitely a faint green glow in the air! Just knowing that they were slightly visible was so exciting and we hoped that they would continue to put on a show.

Gradually as time went on the strength of the Northern Lights increased and more and more people started arriving at the harbour doing exactly the same thing as us. We continued to take photos and were so surprised that we had been able to witness the lights without even planning it! By this time it was starting to really get cold, luckily with our hotel being right next to the harbour we could pop in and grab some tasty hot chocolates to keep us warm.

Eventually the Lights started to fade and everyone that had joined us by the harbour started to disappear. We went back to our hotel room, still amazed that we had captured the Northern Lights on only our second night and excitedly started looking through our pictures. At this point in our holiday we knew that even if we didn't get to see them on our planned hunt, we had already had such an amazing experience.

The next day we travelled to the Malengan Resort which was in the wilderness and away from any light pollution. We were expecting our Northern Lights hunt to be on our first night at the new resort, however on arrival we were advised that due to a snow storm that was coming in our hunt would be postponed. we had to remember that the Aurora Borealis is never a scheduled event.

The next day we found out that the hunt was on and kept our fingers crossed that the weather would clear up throughout the day. Whilst having dinner in the hotel restaurant that evening, we noticed that we could see the stars clearly, a great sign that conditions were right. We had been told when in Iceland that if you can see the stars then you should be able to see the lights.

We gathered our things together and headed to the hotel lobby with excitement reminiscent of a child on Christmas Eve. When the nine couples that would make up our group had all gathered together, we headed to a conference room where our hunt leader provided details about how the night would work and background information to the Northern Lights.

As soon as we stepped outside the hotel front doors, the Northern Lights were already dancing across the sky which took us all by surprise. So much so that we didn't manage to capture them on camera, instead taking it all in as we started to make our way to the main area where we would spend the nights hunt. It was about a 20 minute walk in the snow and pitch black and on a number of occasions we would stop as the lights danced above us, which was such an amazing experience and a huge adrenaline rush.

We made it to the camp which was on the bank of a completely frozen lake with a number of different cabins that we used for our camp fire. Immediately the lights started to dance across the horizon and everyone rushed to set up their cameras once again. Although they were dancing, there was an amount of cloud cover rolling in and we knew that we needed to focus on capturing the moment as no one knew how long they would be visible for. As the excitement took over, I didn't even realise how cold the night was, the adrenaline had once again taken over.

A few hours went by and the lights started to fade into the distance with the cloud cover increasing. We then went to have hot chocolates and pancakes cooked on the camp fire in the hope that they would re-appear. Sadly for us the cloud cover continued to develop and it was decided that we should all head back to the hotel.

We all made the long walk back to the hotel again in the pitch black guided only by our head torches for light. It was a pretty scary walk back as you had to make your way on feel alone!

When we got back to the hotel we were given a 'Northern Lights Alarm Box' which was a wooden container that included a mobile phone. This was incase the lights decided to show again and our leader would raise the alarm and we would be able to determine whether we would go out again. For us the lights didn't reemerge but we were so happy with our experience that night that it didn't matter.

Included below is the link to the video of our trip to Norway on my YouTube channel if you are interested in seeing some of the sights of stunning Tromso as well as some of our Northern Lights footage.

Why I love the Northern Lights

I think for my husband and I that it is the adrenaline rush that you get from the Northern Lights and the hunt for them, as you never know whether they are going to appear or not. When they do it is just such an amazing experience as you know that you are witnessing a true wonder of nature.

If you ever get the chance to go on a holiday to areas such as Iceland and Norway, I would highly recommend going on a Northern Lights hunt, even if you don't get to see them, the experience of the hunt is one that you'll always remember.

fleur xo

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