Northern lights Norway

The northern lights can be seen at many places in the world, but Tromsø is one of the best in the world! During my five day stay in Tromsø I saw the lights for three days. The aurora borealis is a truly unique and breath taking experience that you can't miss out on.

Noorderlicht in Noorwegen

When?

The northern lights can not be seen the whole year round. From October to March the lights are most visible and often quite good to see. That’s because these months are dark and make the lights very visible.
March is high season in Tromsø, so book well in advance!

 

Where?

The Northern Lights are very unpredictable. It’s impossible to know In advance where the Aurora Borealis will show up exactly. You might be lucky enough to see it above the city, but mostly it is a few kilometers further away.

 

Conditions?

If or when the northern lights will show up is really unpredictable. Still you have a very good chance if the weather is good.
If none or very few clouds are in the air, it is a very good sign. The light show takes place above the clouds. When there are too many clouds, they block the view of this majestic natural phenomenon.
Of course, it must also be sufficiently dark. In the winter months this is no problem. Then there is only one to three hours of sunlight per day. In the summer months, however, it’s the other way around and the chance to see the Aurora is very small.

Preferably there needs to be no light pollution. Light pollution is a phenomenon in cities. Because all the buildings and streets are lit up at night, you can still see the beautiful starry sky and the dancing aurora but only limited. Navigating a few kilometers outside the city makes you get a much better view.

Anything that compromises visibility is out of the question. Snow, rain, fog, … All this could spoil your magical night.

aurora-borealis-noorwegen

Aurora Borealis in Tromsø, Norway.

Photo settings

Of course you want to make a few beautiful shots to make your friends and family jealous. Easier said than done!
I’ve met a lot of people who told me they were sorry that they didn’t do any research on how to take a descent picture of the aurora borealis.

Because of the darkness your camera will want to fire its flash. For the Aurora this has has no point and it will in fact ruin your photograph. To make really beautiful pictures, you need to have a little understanding of the manual settings on your camera.

Shutter speed – It is imperative that you use a slow shutter speed. For my photos (see above), I used a shutter speed between twenty and thirty seconds per picture!

Tripod and remote control – Another important factor is that you use a tripod for balancing your camera. Preferably in combination with a self-timer or remote control to take your photos. The more you shake your camera, the blurrier the shot will become.

ISO – Crank up your ISO as high as possible. With my camera, I put it on 1600. But the best value is different for every device. Note: the higher the ISO, the grainier your pictures will be…

White balance – The white balance is also very important. Try to set it manually between 8,000 and 10,000 Kelvin. The default settings such as “Dark”, “Night”, “Clouds” are usually good too.

F-Stop – You shouldn’t think too much about the F-stop or aperture. Keep this between 3 and 4.5.

Another tip: If you plan to edit the pictures afterwards in a program like lightroom, then shoot the pics in RAW or .NEF format. JPEG pictures are very difficult to edit afterwards.

 

 

Noorwegen tromsø noorderlicht

The Aurora behind the mountains.

What lens?

Not every lens is equally suited to photograph the Aurora Borealis. If you make pictures regularly, it might be a good idea to invest in a wide-angle lens.
This allows you to get a lot more into the picture frame and you will immediately get a lot better pictures. These lenses are not cheap… One will easily cost between 500 and 1000 dollars.

Always shoot manually. And put the focus ring to infinity. (The ∞ symbol.)

 

Book a tour

The best way to see the polar lights is to book a Northern Lights tour in Tromso. Norway is an expensive country, so be prepared to spend quite some money for these tours. Luckily you also get a beautiful spectacle in its place.
The cheapest price for a northern tour which I found was 750 NOK, or +/- 90 dollars. However, only guests of the City Camp Tromso could book these tours.
On average, a tour costs between 1400 and 2300 NOK. 150 and 250 dollars respectively.

I was very satisfied with my second tour where I learned how to use the proper settings to take photos of the northern lights. I paid just under 140 euros. You can book this tour here.

Also consider this tour (150 Euros) and the guided tour (100 Euros).

 

 

noorderlicht tromso noorwegen

The best view I had with my tour in Tromso, Norway.

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