Arctic Norway Part 2

If you haven’t seen part one click here, if you have please read on.

The day before departing for the second Norway trip in February there was a huge earth directed M class solar flare. Also on the day of departure there was an even bigger X class flare the first of the new solar cycle to boot! So the conditions could not have been any better with clear sky’s forecast for the duration of the trip. I have to say I was very excited indeed! One of the things I always remembered at the end of January Norway trip was don’t worry you’re coming back in 2 weeks so you can get your epic Aurora photographs then. It really looked like this was going to happen.

Active Sunspots 1158 the source of the X class solar flare (Credit: SDO/HMI)

X ray image of the X class solar flare (Credit: NASAGoddardSDO AIA Team)

You can also view an excellent video here

The night before we arrived in Tromsø there had been some truly breathtaking displays of Aurora, probably the effect of the M Class flare slamming into Earths magnetic field. We arrived in Tromsø in the early hours of the 16th February we saw some very light low power Aurora on the flight from Gatwick we all had our fingers crossed the X class wasn’t going to hit until we arrived and were in the right place to photograph it.

A very technically bad photograph taken from the Aircraft about 1 hour before landing in Tromsø

We drove straight to the cabin at Sommarøy and got some sleep and awoke early for sunrise. One thing that was very noticeable was the very high fast wind and with temperature  around -5 /-10, when the wind hit your face it really took your breath away! The clear sky produced some harsh lighting conditions but looking back on the images I wish I had made more effort because the gradients in the clear blue sky were stunning. Photography feels like very hard work when getting battered by the wind so technically and physically I found it very challenging.

Mountain Shadows 1 Taken from Sommarøy

EXIF: Canon 5d ii |  Nikon 70-200mm | ISO:100 |  1/15s @ ƒ/8ish | heliopan CP

Mountain Shadows 2 Taken from Sommarøy

EXIF: Canon 5d ii |  Nikon 70-200mm | ISO:100 |  1/20s @ ƒ/8ish | heliopan CP



A small Lighthouse being dwarfed by mountains at Sommarøy

EXIF: Canon 5d ii |  Nikon 70-200mm | ISO:100 |  0.3s @ ƒ/8ish | Lee ND 0.9 + Heliopan CP

Hillesøya Observatory

EXIF: Canon 5d ii |  Nikon 70-200mm | ISO:100 | 1/20’s @ ƒ/8ish |  Heliopan CP

After the windswept harsh sunrise we explored possible locations to photograph the Aurora with some shelter from the extreme wind! Antony AKA Captain Aurora / Mr Epic found a great location near Kattfjordvatnet and we planned to go back that evening. The charts and graphs showed little or no activity but we all knew this could change and go off the scale if the X class hit. We went out that evening with some high hopes. The news of the CME had even made it onto the BBC website and news channel, I was receiving texts and emails from back home with people speculating that it might be able to be viewed all the way from the North of England. That evening we sat in the car, waited and waited and saw very little of the Aurora Borealis. Pretty much the same thing happened the following night with the levels remaining at nearly zero. I was starting to think someone had made up this whole story about the X flare or it has missed us completely.

Tromsø Graph showing little or minimal activity on the 17/02/11  click on the image for a better view Credit: Tromsø Geophysical Observatory

A small & very weak band of Aurora over Kattfjordvatnet Sean is looking in the right direction but I think Andy is slightly lost.

Finally on the 18/02/11, our last day, the Flare hit Earths  magnetic field and sparked a G1-class geomagnetic storm, not as strong as all the hype suggested but at least it was something. As the flare hit so did the thick cloud and our view was covered up once more. There were small breaks in the cloud that prompted some short bursts of photography but nothing like we imagined it would be.

A gap in the sky

EXIF: Canon 5d ii | Zeiss 50mm | ISO:1600 |  4s @ ƒ/2

After the short display we had to get to the airport and catch our flight back to the UK. The trip had been a real emotional roller coster with such high expectations, it almost felt like it was going to be a sure thing, but the fact of the matter is when chasing the Northern Lights it never is. I found that when you stop looking for something it comes and finds you. My Irish Aurora experience goes to prove that. I will leave the best until last with an image made near a little place called Bakkejord.

Bakkejord View

EXIF: Canon 5d ii | Zeiss 35mm | ISO:50 |  1s @ ƒ/11 | ND 0.6ND + Heliopan CP

Thanks for taking the time to look at my Blog. If you missed Arctic Norway Part one you can see it here. Please feel free to leave a comment or forward this link to a friend.

If you would like to find out more about my work or are interested in prints or licensing please see my website or get in contact. You can also follow me on twitter @reedingram

Thanks again,

Reed Ingram Weir



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