In the first 2 months of 2011 I headed out to Tromsø Arctic Norway each time with great expectations visions and dreams of viewing and photographing the Northern Lights / Aurora Borealis in all their glory and using the short amount of day light to photograph the beautiful landscapes in this stunning area of the world. However sometimes / most of the time the elements don’t come together as you would hope. It is a frustrating thing when you are handed all the ingredients for the vision you have for a photograph in a landscape that is so beautiful but it requires that final garnish of light to make it work. For me I would rather not take a photograph than take something I know I will not be happy with later on at the viewing stage. Of course most of the time I end up taking the photograph anyway but I do try and hold back most of the time.
The View Towards Trømvik
EXIF: Canon 5d ii | Zeiss 18mm | ISO:100 | 1/6s @ ƒ/8 | 0.75s
EXIF: Canon 5d ii | Zeiss 35mm | ISO:100 | 3.2s @ ƒ/8 | 0.75h
The first couple of days on the first trip the light was excellent but I was still getting settled looking for possible compositions and just generally adjusting the the climate and sleeping patterns so not many photographs were taken, The Aurora levels were also low / non existent with a quiet sun or solar wind that had not arrived yet, When the Aurora’s did finally arrive they were covered up by the blanket of snow cloud that had followed us to Norway. Nearly 1 meter of snow must have fallen in 24 hours making photography almost impossible so a lot of sleep was had and Irish whisky was drunk. When the snow finally did decide to clear it left flat grey sky behind and then more snow came at the cycle repeated itself for a day or so.
We all decided it was time to get the hell out of Norway and travel south to Finland to try and beat the cloud.
It sounded like a good idea when it was suggested but it was a hell of a drive and with temperatures ranging from + 1° at the coast to – 17° inland it sure was an interesting one.
The drive really was beautiful and eventful we drove past frozen Fjord’s and were followed by sea eagle’s and I even managed to get the car stuck in a ditch! When we did finally cross the Finnish border I was ready for bed and it was only 4pm, soon after the border we pulled into a large service station, the first thing I noticed was that there were only a couple of cars parked up everyone else had snowmobiles so I was instantly jealous / concerned. The great thing about Finland is that it is much cheaper than Norway so when I ordered a cup of tea and a jam doughnut I didn’t have to sell my camera equipment to pay for it.
Frozen Fjord Kattfjordvatnet
EXIF: Canon 5d ii | Zeiss 18mm | ISO:100 | 1/250s @ ƒ/11
After the tea and doughnut it was time to go and find a decent location to photograph the lights. We ended up on top of this very open dark hill with a 360° view. The Aurora started to glow but I wasn’t happy with the location so I decided to go further down the road and try and find a better vantage point. I think the best action of the action actually happened when I was driving and when I did find a place to shoot it was slightly disappointing and with only a couple of average photographs taken it was time to start the long drive back to the cabin at Ersfjordbotn Norway.
Aurora Borealis over the snow covered hills of Finland
EXIF: Canon 5d ii | Zeiss 35mm | ISO:1600 | 15s @ ƒ/2
The next day (back in Norway) the grey cloud was still the trend and time was now ticking with our flight back to England fast approaching! I think I had only made a couple of photographs I was happy with so I was feeling pretty frustrated at this stage. I was putting lots of pressure on myself to make some decent images and I think this probably made things worse. Now when I look back over the RAW files I feel I could have done things so much better with stupid compositions and sometimes bad technique but I suppose you only learn by making your own mistakes.
On the last day we had some good light and drove around the Island and made some images at different locations but always missing the best of the light. I did however get a nice shot of the hire car near Rekvik.
VW Golf Blue Motion with studded snow tires
Sommarøy ? Seascape
EXIF: Canon 5d ii | Zeiss 18mm | ISO:100 |4s @ ƒ/8 | 0.75h
On the final evening we finally had broken cloud, not clear sky but at least we could see the stars sometimes which is a real treat after solid snow cloud for 5 days! We decided to stay local and visit a great location only 5 minites drive from the cabin called Kattfjordvatnet, We had a pretty epic display of Aurora but it was slightly ruined with the constant attack of cloud from all directions. It was still fantastic to watch the Aurora dance for us, The display lasted about 1 hour before the cloud beat us.
Aurora over Kattfjordvatnet
EXIF: Canon 5d ii | Canon 24mm | ISO:1600 | 15s @ ƒ/2.8
Even with all the frustration and cloud dodging, this trip to Norway was still a great experience. I learnt a lot about how to cope with disappointment and how you need to use the small moments of perfection as best you can. Stay tuned for Arctic Norway part 2 where I will describe my experiences of the February Trip. Until then please feel free to leave a comment. Thanks for taking the time to read my blog for further information about my work please see my website.