Ever since I was lucky enough to witness a truly breathtaking Northern Lights display in Canada 20 years ago, I’ve been hankering for more. So it was I found myself in Iceland over New Year’s in what was supposed to have been the Northern Lights peak of the decade.
Trouble was, I think someone forgot to tell the Northern Lights.
After arriving in Iceland I eagerly stalked the very handy website that tracks Northern Lights activity and cloud cover, only to find that I had struck a week of the deadly double – full cloud cover and low activity. Added to that, my trip up to the north had to be cancelled due to shocking weather. This was not part of my plan.
So when I saw that one night promised a partly cloudy night (an improvement over the solid cover we had seen) and moderate activity, I leapt at the chance to possibly see something of what I had come one hell of a long way to see.
I even shelled out extra to go in a Superjeep, thinking that the small group size would mean we could have a say in location to find somewhere suitably fabulous. Wrong. I found myself as part of a 10 jeep convoy which drove a little way out of town, found a bald knob of a hill, and formed a circle the pilgrims would have been proud of.
Then it was a matter of setting up my tripod, trying to ignore the light pollution and people wandering aimlessly in front of my camera and setting out to capture what I had come for.
To the naked eye, there was a glimmering green in the sky, however once you set your camera for a long exposure, a violent green stripe could be seen across the sky. Although it wasn’t really what I had fantasised about, it was still pretty amazing.
So while I feel like my itch hasn’t been scratched, I can possibly last the decade until the next peak. Hopefully someone will tell the Lights next time.
Wiwi’s top tips
- take a tripod, you will need it! I took photos with 20-30 second exposures
- if there is little ambient light (city lights, full moon) you may see the lights brighter
- If a small group is what you’re after, make sure you investigate whether your ‘small group’ tour will be hooked up with 10 other ‘small group’ tours.
- check the Iceland Met Office’s website for the Aurora forecast
- Take a spare battery and dress warmly
What a shame! I’ve seen faint Northern Lights in Alberta, Canada, and I can tell you I was pretty excited by that (it was also the night I had s’mores for the first time – Go Canada!)
Even though they weren’t as bright as they could have been, your photos are great 🙂
Thanks Ali! I should really be thankful I saw them at all! Although even without them, Iceland is magnificent so it was all worth it.