Last Call For The Northern Lights

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You might have noticed the last year or so we have been hearing a lot about the northern lights. You might be wondering what’s the big deal, aren’t the always on, somewhere way up north where it’s cold? Well, yes and no. The Northern lights are on somewhat of a schedule. Last year and this year were the peaks of an 11-year cycle.

According to scientists, we are already in a downward trend of the Aurora cycle. This doesn’t mean the Northern lights completely go away, but they will be much harder to spot. Solar activity causes the colors to paint the skies with intense swirls of greens and other colors.

Iceland Northern Lights - Last call for Northern Lights-3
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Don’t get discouraged just yet, this winter and spring are still considered prime times to view the northern lights before they fade out. This is why Iceland is on the top of our 2016 bucket list. However, if you miss it this year, you might have to wait until about 2024-2026. This is the time scientists have calculated another peak period in Northern Lights generating solar activity to occur.

I may have to kill two birds with one stone and go see the Northern Lights before they dim for a decade and pay a visit to Iceland. The cold crisp air of Iceland can make for amazing Nothern lights viewing. The island is situated on the fringe of the arctic circle where the air is dry and cold which helps the colors of the Northern lights shine through.

Aside for the environment being right, the landscape of Iceland looks nothing short of amazing. As beautiful as the Northern lights are, pictures of them are much more impactful with an equally stunning landscape around them. It’s good to have a local guide to help you find the Northern Lights in Iceland because they know where the best-hidden spots are. To capture that perfect Northern lights shot, it will take some knowledge, a little luck, and a lot of patience.

Iceland Northern Lights - Last call for Northern Lights-2
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If you are planning to photograph the Northern lights while traveling there are a few things you are going to need. First a tripod and secondly a camera that allows you to have some or full control of the settings like aperture, ISO, and shutter speeds. The process used to take photos of the Northern lights is similar to how to take night star photos. Set your camera on a tripod using long exposures to capture the relatively dim lights from the Aurora.

With your camera start with your aperture wide open (the lowest setting, F-number) and the longest shutter your camera will allow (most this will be 30 seconds), Then set your ISO to about 800. This will give you a good starting point. If the Aurora has moved a lot and isn’t defined, try a faster shutter speed and increase the ISO to compensate. If your photo comes out too dark increase ISO, if it’s too bright decrease ISO.

Just remember when traveling to see the Northern lights, even in a peak period, the aurora can still be very elusive. Cloud cover can completely block the view of the Aurora, and other conditions can have you chasing a green ghost that never comes. With a few months left in the prime Aurora spotting period, you should probably get planning before the last call of the Northern lights. Good luck and happy spotting!

Have you ever seen the Northern lights? When and where did you spot them?