Grand Jury Winner “Eruption of the light” by petersvoboda
Have you ever headed north to gaze at one of nature’s greatest spectacles? If you’re any kind of nature-lover, a session with the Northern Lights—also called the aurora borealis—is probably already on your bucket list.
Where to see the Northern Lights
Although these polar lights are occasionally visible further south, they can be reliably seen on the edges of the Arctic Circle at around 65° N. To see auroras on any clear night all you need are long, dark nights (October-March) and clear skies (less predictable) in the likes of Iceland, the Faroe Islands, northern Norway, northern Sweden, northern Finland, northern Russia, northern Canada and Alaska.
Get to 65° N and you’re probably going to want to have you camera ready, which is exactly what’s on the mind of the members of photo-sharing community ViewBug, which just ran a big Aurora Borealis photo contest. “Many of the three million members on Viewbug love shooting landscapes, and visiting a location to capture auroras is becoming more popular for many enthusiast nature and travel photographers,” says Ori Guttin, co-founder at ViewBug. “We see community members traveling to Canada, Alaska, Norway, and Iceland to experience the amazing spectacle of the auroras.”
Here are the top finalists from its latest photo contest. Scroll down for some advice on how to take your own images of this ethereal wonder.
Grand Jury Winner: ‘Eruption of the light’ by Peter Svoboda
Grand Jury Winner “Eruption of the light” by Peter Svoboda
The winning image is of the aurora around Kirkjufell, an iconic 463 m high mountain on the north coast of Iceland’s Snæfellsnes peninsula, near the town of Grundarfjörður. “This photo is a great example of how to capture a gorgeous aurora image,” said the editors at Viewbug. “The location is very special and the way the photographer captured the aurora positioned perfectly behind the peak of the mountain resulted in a beautiful composition, allowing the reflection of the aurora to fill the lower part of the frame.”
Runner up: ‘Moon meets Aurora’ by Pedro Kin
This photo was taken from Norway using a Sony ILCE-7M2 camera.
“Moon meets Aurora” by Pedro Kin
Runner up: ‘The green storm’ by Lorenzo Ragazzi
Here’s a great shot from near Tromso in Norway.
‘The green storm’ by Lorenzo Ragazzi
Runner up: ‘Watcher’ by Nicolai Bruegger
The aurora dancing over the Lofoten Islands, Norway.
Nicolai Bruegger’s image from the Lofoten Islands, Norway.
Runner up: ‘The Northern Lights’ by Angie Aird
Shot with an Olympus E-M10 Mk. III, this photo was taken from Iceland.
Angie Aird’s photo from Iceland.
Do modern cameras make photographing Northern Lights easy?
It’s definitely getting simpler. “Modern DSLR cameras and even mobile devices make it easy to shoot the northern lights,” says Guttin. “Cameras make it easy to set up the right settings and adjust your aperture, exposure, and ISO. The trick is having a good tripod, using an external shutter trigger and finding the right location with low light pollution.”
Here are a few tips to capture a great aurora:
- Forecast and location
Check the aurora and weather forecasts, find a good spot away from city light and scout for the locations during the daylight.
- Steady Shots
Use BULB mode, a shutter release trigger, and a strong tripod to prevent any type of movement.
Focus your lens to infinity and play with the ISO starting at 400 and bringing it up to 1600 depending on the Aurora’s brightness
It is best to adjust your exposure rather than your aperture. Try playing with exposures of 5 to 20 seconds.
Runner up: ‘Green Strings’ by Georgios Kossieris
Another shot of the aurora borealis from Iceland, this time using a Nikon D3500.
Georgios Kossieris’ shot from Iceland.
Runner up: Sabrina Joseph
The northern lights in Canada, by Sabrina Joseph.
Runner up: ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ by Garret Suhrie
A remote town in northern Alaska is the setting for this striking photo of the aurora borealis. Shot with a Nikon D800.
Garret Suhrie’s photo from Alaska.
Runner up: ‘Aurora In Kontiolahti’ by Jason Tiilikainen
A ‘lonely tree’ and the aurora from eastern Finland.
Jason Tilikainen’s photo of the northern lights was taken in Kontiolahti, Finland.
Runner up: ‘Tungneset’ by Paal Lund
A Canon EOS 5DS was used to capture this Northern Lights show on Senja, Norway.
Paal Lund’s image from Senja, Norway.
Runner up: ‘Lakeside Auroras’ by Timo Oksanen
A great composition using a Canon EOS 5D Mk. IV camera.
Timo Oksanen’s entry.
Runner up: ‘Jökulsárlón Iceland’ by Giles Rocholl
The northern lights over the incredible Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon in southeastern Iceland.
Giles Rocholl’s unusual image is from Jokulsarlon, Iceland.
Runner up: ‘The Gateway’ by James Rushforth
The aurora from Heimskautsgerðið, or Arctic Henge, near Raufarhöfn in northern Iceland where. It’s one of four archways orientated to face the compass points.
A image from Raufarhofn in Iceland, by James Rushforth.
Runner up: ‘Auroras reflection’ by Nakul Sharma
Nakul Sharma’s photo of the northern lights.
Runner up: ‘Northern lights’ by Thor Sigurgeirsson
The aurora from Vestmannaeyjar, an archipelago off the south coast of Iceland.
Thor Sigurgeirsson’s image from Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland.
What causes the Northern Lights?
They are the result of charged particles from the sun colliding with nitrogen and oxygen atoms in the Earth’s atmosphere. After the collision, those electrons release energy as a photon of light. However, it’s where this happens—along the filed lines of Earth’s magnetic field—that creates the beautiful and ever-changing shapes.
Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes.