Lapland is probably one of the best places in Europe to spot auroras…and it was the main reason we went there during our xmas holiday :-)
We stayed over a week in Kiruna, did many different activities, including a visit at the ice hotel, dog sledding and of course, Northern Lights hunting ! Each time we went out, we saw them ! A 20 minutes walk from the city center brought us to Camp Ripan. If you venture a bit on the snow shoe track, you can find a dark-ish sky and a perfect environment to spot auroras… for free ! No need to book expensive aurora tour for them, if you are on a budget. Of course, there is a little light pollution coming from the ski tracks, but the lights are shut down around 10 pm and it’s completely dark at that time (don’t forget to bring a flash lamp in order to find your way back ;-)). That’s what we did, and I will share with you some of my pictures (some of them are a bit awful, but the last ones are quite decent… :D)
Auroras appear when the charged particles from the sun reach the Earth’s atmosphere and excite the molecules in it, causing them to light up. Most of the auroral features are greenish-yellow, but sometimes they can turn pink or red near the edges. The colours are apparently due to the presence of different gas in the atmosphere that will give off different colours when excited. Oxygen gives off the green color of the aurora whereas nitrogen will give the red.
The first night, the lights were so strong that they were almost pink and purple. It was like an explosion, they were everywhere.. !!! It was the first time I was taking pictures of auroras and unfortunately… they are not looking very good. I was too excited to frame my shots or look at the focus. All I wanted to do is to take a picture as quickly as possible. I was afraid they would go away. But it was amazing for the eyes, believe me :-)
The next night, we went to a spa and we were sitting in a hot tub outside when we saw them dancing above our head. No pictures this time, just memories. It was magical, again.
The third night, they were a little bit more modest and they were not moving as fast as two days before. The shape was also completely different as you can see, it looked like an arc. They were really dark green.
During our snowmobile tour, on the fourth day, we saw some of them, but it was a bit more difficult to take pictures of them due to the light pollution that came from the fire the guide lit for us. And also because I my fingers were completely frozen, I could barely move them, it was painful.. not the best night for me to take pictures of them I was completely out of focus;, they are awful. I was a bit sad when I looked at the results…. because the scenery was really looking good.
The last day, they were a bit shy at the beginning but the swirl was getting stronger and stronger and at the end, they were dancing for us. That was incredible. And I think it was my best performance at capturing them, despite being buried in the snow to the knee and being so cold. I had to give up when the tripod and the camera were completely frozen but I was satisfied of my pictures afterwards. I think I’ve progressed a bit throughough the trip, I will be ready for next time ! :-)
If you want more amazing pictures of these auroras, check seeingthrough35mm blog, the shots are fantastic :-)