Seeing the northern lights has always been an item on my bucket list, but I never thought it was easily attainable until after chatting with a pleasant English couple down in Torres Del Paine, Chile. I had a long conversation with a man on one of our hikes about the best possible times of the year and conditions in which to see the lights. He explained to me areas that had the best chance: Alaska, Iceland, and Norway and the conditions for photographing them were best under a new moon (no moon) with obviously clear skies and hopefully radiant sun activity from a few days before. Of course there were only so many of those variables I could control, mainly the location, darkness and moon cycle.
I found out that Iceland is actually a pretty accessible trip for us from Albany. It’s a red eye flight from Boston, so a quick 3 hr drive into the city and 5.5 hour plane ride and the next morning we are there bright eyed and bushy tailed. Ok not exactly bright eyed, but we had the entire day to mull around like zombies. I also didn’t want to be too disappointed if we didn’t see the auroras because I’ve heard so many stories about people not seeing them until their 4th or 5th time, so I planned plenty of activities to fill the time (more about those in other posts but they included geysers, waterfalls, ice caves and glaciers!).
We actually hit a bit of luck in seeing the borealis as we weren’t actually scheduled to fly in a day early, but a mistake on my part and price change from Icelandair and we added an extra day into our vacation. Thank goodness because it was the only day we had to see such a spectacular display as the rest of the trip the weather turned on us. We got in at 6am and drove to stay at the Geysir site. I asked ahead for early checkin so we could rest up and they were very accommodating. We took a few hours sleep and explored and headed off to dinner.
At dinner we heard a large group discussing levels of lights displays that were supposed to happen that night. It said up to 7-8 (on a scale of 1 to 10 this was VERY GOOD) level display was ready to show, and the weather was clear. This was it! We drove back to our room to gear up and all of a sudden John spotted something dancing in the sky. “Is that it?” he pointed and I soon pointed my camera on it. Long exposure showed an intense display of red and purple lights. They were harder to see than the green, and our eyes took awhile to adjust, but it was gorgeous watching it streak through the sky, right above our heads.
We must have been in negative temperatures for over an hour without realizing because our hands and shutters became numb. We had finally seen them and had photographic evidence, perhaps we needed to thaw out and come out later in the night for an encore. Well, exhaustion and sheer chill got the best of us and we didn’t make it back out of the room, but I heard the display went on throughout the night. We tried going on the hunt every other night but all we met were clouds and snow. I’m just thankful for our travelers luck in heading out a day early so we got to witness it, but this definitely won’t be the last time I see the magnificent Aurora Borealis, I’ll promise you that!
Here were some of the amazing shots we managed to snap that night:
Managed to catch a shooting star
Ray of lights
Out of this world!