‘I am leaving for Iceland tomorrow’, I announced proudly to all my hotel mates seated at the TV room, while waiting for my guide cum driver to arrive. I was going on the chasing of the Northern lights tour in Tromso (Norway). The guide was preparing hot chocolate for our tour and the night.
Immediately the owner of the hostel said, ‘Then you will soon realize why people come to Tromsø’. I thought he was rude and being sarcastic. So I ignored his comment.
To be fair I had already seen the Northern lights on my first tour, which was just two days prior, here in Tromsø. This was my second tour for chasing the Northern lights. I had planned my entire trip to Norway and Iceland around the Northern lights.
PIN for later reference
What are Northern lights?
The Northern lights are the natural phenomenon that happens in the sky when there are collisions between the gaseous particles in Earth’s atmosphere and the charged particles released from the Sun’s atmosphere. It is an interactions of the solar wind with the Earth’s magnetic field.
My Tour experience
After my guide loaded her car with a flask containing hot chocolate, marshmallows and some cookies, we were ready to start our adventure. I sat next to the driver in the navigation seat (of course!). She had some friends who stayed about one or two hours from the city center who constantly messaged her about the Northern lights status – whether they were visible from their houses. Based on those inputs she decided which places to drive to chase the lights.
I was so glad to have taken this tour as my guide this time was really passionate about what she was doing and was very knowledgeable. On the way, I bombarded her with many questions – like a lot and she patiently answered every single question of mine. She was also a professional photographer and I thought I could use that and get some tips on clicking the pictures.
First stop: No Man’s Land
Our first stop was at no man’s land. The lights were not that strong but we still managed to take some beautiful pictures. The snow-capped mountains were in the background and the northern lights were in the foreground. What-a-spectacular-view that was!
I desperately (also) wanted to see and take pictures of the Northern lights that were not green in color. I had witnessed the green Northern lights during my first tour and this time I wanted to see something different. And yes, I was greedy.
Second Stop : River
We then drove to our next stop, which was by the river. This was the last stop as the Northern lights were really very strong. My favourite moment was when I saw these lights move like keys on a piano, very fast and displaying a mind-boggling show. They were so fast that I could not take any pictures of the show and is only registered in my mind (yup, agreed! Sometimes you have to let go of the camera). I can never forget the scene of the astounding lights and the creation of God. I was overwhelmed. And till then I had not believed that Northern lights can be seen through naked eyes. However, I did take some pictures, later on, the lights were not as strong but were not that bad as well. While my camera was taking the long exposure shots, we had the hot chocolate and the marshmallows toasted in the campfire (Yes, we had set up the campfire).
The best experience:
It was one of the very cold nights in Tromsø, Norway. The tour group and I were seated around a bonfire, next to a bay. The sound of the waves hitting the shore gently were so soothing and pleasant. We were sipping hot chocolate while roasting the pink marshmallows on the bonfire. And the northern lights danced above us in the sky. ✨
No, this is not a scene out of a fairy tale or a romantic novel. It was also not from a movie. It was something that I lived when I visited Tromsø.
Some experiences can only be witnessed and any words to describe them is unfair to those experiences. This experience was one of them.
Tromsø gave me what I wanted. It was cold, wet and dark, in spite of all these odds, I witnessed the marvelous side of the nature and it will always be close to my heart.
I had always thought one can never see Northern or Southern lights through naked eyes. I thought it was always the camera that captures these vibrant colours. I was so wrong. However, the colours look more bright and advanced when captured on a camera.
First of all, capturing the northern lights require a sturdy tripod and the camera needs to be on Manual mode. The following settings can be tried and tested:
- ISO: 1600
- F stop: The lower the better
- Shutter speed: 20 seconds
Always zoom out and focus on a light, that way the camera is focused and then without moving the lens point it towards the sky where the northern lights are. This way the camera is focussed most times.
It is always better to use a remote for the click or have 2 seconds of delayed click. This way one can ensure that there is no disturbance of the click and the camera does not shake when capturing the lights.
For a detailed guide on how to photograph the Northern lights, refer the Aurora photography guide.
The hostel that I stayed in ran the chasing of Northern lights tour. The tour can be booked while checking in and the details of the hostel are:
Name: Citycamp Guesthouse
- Email: email@example.com
- Address: Storgata 107, Tromso, Norway
Going back to the comment that the hostel owner made regarding Tromsø, I agree with him. I spent 10 days in Iceland with the hope of seeing the Northern lights. Unfortunately every single day the tour was canceled due to bad weather. If I had not seen the Northern lights in Tromsø, I would have been very disappointed with the entire trip.