Northern lights – Aurora Borealis
Witnessing a powerful Aurora display will give you a deep sensation in your stomach, like being on a gentle roller-coaster or your first time in love. It is easy to fall under the Aurora spell and an amazing Northern Lights experience is something you will never forget. Photographing the Northern lights with your camera will take your relationship with the Northern lights to a deeper level.
The colours of the Aurora Borealis are a geomagnetic phenomenon that occurs as a result of solar energy from the sun entering earth’s outer atmosphere. Electrons collide with different gases in the atmosphere to give a range of different colours. Oxygen emits a green/yellow colour during this violent energy event. Reds, Blues and violets are caused by Nitrogen (the most abundant gas) although the colour depends if it is atomic or particle nitrogen.
The vikings believed that the dancing lights were the souls of the war-dead on their journey to Valhalla. Many other cultures have seen them as omens of war. In medieval Iceland, a pregnant woman was not allowed to whistle for fear of being whisked away by the lights. In nearby Greenland, the aurora was thought to be a giant walrus in the sky.
When to see them
In Iceland, Northern lights can be seen from the end of August to the beginning of April. It is impossible to see them in the Summer because the sky is too bright.
The perfect weather is zero clouds although a few clouds can help to add depth to the photo. The trouble is that clouds love Iceland. It rains every other here. If it is raining, the chances of seeing Northern lights are very slim because rain clouds are very deep and this also means very big. If you go out in the rain, you could get a window in the clouds which could let you see the aurora, but going out expecting this is close to madness.
Wind is fine, but you have to be careful with your camera tripod because it is not fun when that blows over. A steady camera is crucial for a successful long exposure.The trouble with Arctic winds is that it feels 10 degrees colder. The other problem with severe weather is that it makes travel very difficult. Those clear skies can bring black ice conditions. Even a careful driver can get into a mess very quickly and especially an in-experienced driver with a large 4X4 who is not used to Winter Driving.
Multi-day tours and workshops
The best Northern lights photography experience is on our multi-day tours and workshops. Having many nights in great locations is the only way to maximise your chances of success. Our Scheduled photo tours run during new moon phases for enhanced aurora viewing. These are the best value. The workshops are for people who want to learn.
Evening photo tours from Reykjavik
Join one of these Northern Lights photo tours in South West Iceland, but only when there is a strong possibility of catching the Northern Lights. The following tours are run by our regular photo guides, Pall Jokull and Bragi Kort. Tripod rental is possible – see the extra info for more details about this.
Please note:These small group tours only go out with good aurora possibilities, so bear in mind they may cancel when the bus tours will still go out. If the conditions are not good for the evening you booked, they will try to offer a tour the following evening, but this depends on availability. If the weather is not good and your tour is cancelled, we will send you a full refund.
There are times when the weather and aurora forecast are really good, but the aurora doesn’t appear when you are out on a tour. Nobody wants this and your guide could offer a another tour, but there is no policy on this and again depends on availability. There is not normally a refund for a bad luck tour, but if you feel that your guide didn’t do everything in their power, you can write to request one. We have a 95% success rate.
A northern light hunt in the winter nights in Iceland with our photo guide Pall.
These photo tours are run by our local, pro photographer, Pall. He will take you to beautiful photo spots in South West Iceland. These locations are chosen carefully with cloud cover photography in mind. Sometimes weather forecasts are wrong and the tour has to keep flexible to help the chances of photographing the Northern lights. Sometimes, Pall will offer a tour the next evening if the evening you booked is not very good. You get the experience like a private tour because it is a small group n a large SUV.
- 4 pax max
- Assistance with your photography
- Photos of you with the Northern Lights
Please note: Tours need minimum 2 people to run. EXTRA INFO
Photo infused Northern Lights
These photo tours are managed by our photo guide Bragi. Bragi runs these tours with pro photographers and small groups to ensure a great photographic experience with the Northern lights. These tours will take you to expertly chosen South Iceland photo locations. The guides are happy to take photos of you with the Aurora Borealis. If you want to photograph the Northern lights, they will give you help with your photography so you can capture fantastic aurora photos. The pro photographer guides could even help you with Milky way photography, steel wool and light painting.
- 10 pax max
- Assistance with your photography
- Photos of you with the Aurora.
Is it possible to hear the Northern Lights?
Yes, but it is incredibly rare. The sound is like someone gently folding tinfoil, but the experience is everywhere overhead. Maybe more like an electronic round of applause in a heavenly auditorium. It was thought that the sound was coming from pine needles popping in the highly charged air, but Finnish scientists have recently found that the sound is coming from 70 miles above the pine trees. Charged particles that are trapped in an atmospheric layer are released with a pop when the are hit by strong surges of electron from the sun’s surface.
On a still, clear night with no clouds and big icebergs, Jokusarlon Glacier lagoon is not only the best place in Iceland to experience the heavenly light show, but the bet place in the World. Only the view from the space station could top the experience. Generally the lagoon works better than the ice beach because the electric action is in the Northern part of the sky. East and Westfjords can both give an uninterrupted view to the Northern Sky, if you manage to find a good coastal feature at the ends of the fjords. The Southern waterfalls could be good, it is possible to experience Northern lights at Skogafoss and Seljalandsfoss except that there are 2 bright spotlights at Seljalandsfoss waterfall. This not to everyone’s taste and can ruin a long exposure. The Goðafoss waterfall in North Iceland is a rare, but worthwhile experience. Travelling to North Iceland in the Winter can be a challenge with chances of getting stranded. If you do get there on a clear night, be on the East side and hope that the light show extends to the West. The world famous Kirkjufell Mountain is a superb location in West Iceland. Including the Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall can create a very dynamic night landscape photo.
I had just bought my Canon 5D mark III, so this was a chance to put the full frame camera to the test.
One of the keys to success when you are photographing the Northern Lights is the surrounding landscape or ‘Earthly’ features such as lighthouses or abandoned farm buildings. There is a little bit of luck involved, because the Northern lights have to be active in the right part of the sky.