Aurora in Iceland
The aurora borealis has always been a phenomenon of interest, but never an exciting photographic pursuit for me. It is visible mostly in the fall and the winter months in the higher latitudes of planet Earth (Arctic and Antarctic) and is also know as the Northern Lights in the northern latitudes.
When the solar wind carries a stream of highly charged electrons from the sun that collide with the oxygen and nitrogen atoms in the upper atmosphere of earth, the emissions are the colors of the aurora. The aurora can be seen in green, red, yellow, pink and blue colors, but is mostly visible in green.
My attitude towards the aurora changed in a recent visit to Iceland, a place where auroras are a frequent nighttime light show. I became hooked on aurora hunting.
While my photography pal Bob Karcz and I traveled the roads of Iceland in search of the next photo opportunity, we were constantly mindful of the perfect location of an aurora sighting for that night. To capture the aurora on camera required clear skies (a rare event in Iceland), dark skies (no lights from nearby towns), mountains in the foreground (makes for a good composition), water for a reflection, (if possible) and, of course, a solar wind collision event. No small task. Then, there are the 10 or so camera settings that must be just right to capture the image on camera.
After a multitude of failed attempts, including hiking to overlooks in the dark, freezing our butts off while standing in the snow waiting for clouds to clear, ducking under an above ground pipeline to get a clear view, and retreating to the car during heavy rain and winds only to see our tripods get blown over (fortunately our cameras were with us in the car), we finally saw an aurora that is forever seared in my mind’s eye:
And one reflected in the waters in Dalvik, Iceland: