NORDIC SWEATERS UNDER A LIGHT SHOW
It was hard to smile.
Not because I didn’t want to – but because I couldn’t. My jaw was gaping open like a giant fly trap and my eyes as wide as saucers.
I sort-of smiled and did that little chuckle people do when they’re both in awe and in disbelief. Then my jaw dropped to the floor again and my cheeks could no longer hold the smile.
I was over 16,000 kilometres away from my home in New Zealand.
Standing above the Arctic Circle.
Dressed in three thermal tops, a borrowed fluffy Nordic woollen knitted jersey and my ski jacket, feeling like an oversized marshmallow.
And I was underneath one of the world’s most spectacular light shows imaginable – the northern lights.
I was aurora chasing in Lapland.
IS THIS EVEN REAL?
I can honestly say one of the best weeks of my life was a week spent in Utsjoki in Finnish Lapland with Aurora Holidays.
“Is it really like that?” my workmates asked as they ooohhed and aaahhhed over my aurora photos on my return.
Can something this magical actually be real?
Here’s the truth about aurora chasing in Lapland.
THE NORTHERN LIGHTS CAN BE BRIGHT LIKE A FULL MOON
I’ve seen a few blog posts from people who’ve gone aurora chasing, somewhat disappointed they weren’t as bright as the pictures they’d seen. In part, that is true, because the camera picks up more light than the naked eye.
But I was lucky.
During my week in Utsjoki, Lady Aurora put on one hell of a light show. Sometimes the lights would start very pale and faint in the sky, slowly getting brighter and more vibrant until it was lighting up the entire scene before my eyes.
Sometimes you have to squint, other times the lights simply dazzle in the sky.
THEY REALLY DO DANCE
Imagine a candle flame flickering in the wind.
That’s what the aurora does.
It flickers, it dances, it moves across the sky. Until I saw it for myself, I didn’t realise that when people spoke about the northern lights ‘dancing’, they actually meant it.
There are some incredible real-time videos out there which show the lights moving. This ain’t no time lapse:
THEY WILL TOUCH YOUR SOUL
Sometimes the swirls of gasses in the sky would form the most incredible shapes.
No two nights aurora chasing were the same; every pattern was unique and mystical.
I’m pretty this capture looks like an angel:
THE CAN MOVE SUPER QUICKLY
When chasing the northern lights, there’s no time to muck about.
Your photography gear is on standby, your coat, jacket and gloves are ready at the door and you must be prepared to jump in a vehicle at a moment’s notice – and potentially not be back for hours.
Sometimes the aurora simply shimmer, other times they move from one direction in the sky to the total opposite, in a matter of minutes.
Sometimes cloud cover and poor weather conditions arrive in a flash.
And sometimes the lights simply peter out. Aurora chasing is a continual lesson in patience, moving quickly and always being prepared!
YOU MIGHT NEED TO DRIVE FOR HOURS AND HOURS IN A NIGHT
Because of the ever changing conditions above the Arctic Circle, there’s a good chance you’ll have to drive around to find the perfect sky for the northern lights.
One night, I crossed the Finnish-Norwegian border half a dozen times, peering out the car window at all times, in search of a green flash in the sky.
I finally understand why they call it ‘aurora chasing’.
For the truly committed aurora photographers, it’s not unusual to travel hundreds and hundreds of kilometres in one night in search of the lights.
You’ll learn to set up your camera and tripod very quickly.
YOUR ENTIRE GRASP OF YOUR EXISTENCE WILL CHANGE FOREVER
It’s hard to put the experience into words.
Aurora chasing in Lapland made me realise how completely insignificant I am in this universe.
But it taught me to appreciate the beauty of not only the world I live in, but the worlds out there that I know nothing about.
Some folklore suggests only those with a grateful heart can witness the northern lights in their true glory.
You can be the judge on that one, but one thing I know for certain is that I will never, EVER take my experience for granted. Not even for a second.
Is chasing the aurora on your bucket list too? Where do you plan to do it?
LIKE IT? SAVE IT FOR LATER!
Huge thanks to Tiina at Aurora Holidays for making this trip happen.
I will always have a grateful heart.