A Night Chasing the Northern Lights
The silence was almost deafening, only the occasional whispers of the people around me and the crunching of heavy snow under our feet. The clear cold muffled pretty much anything else.
The evening had a somewhat inauspicious beginning, with a long, chilly drive and a couple of fruitless stops where we all fiddled with our camera equipment without much to capture.
It surprised us by ending with this.
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Marianne and her helper (who, I do not believe, was George on this evening) picked us up for our Northern Lights tour in downtown Tromsø in two large vans and we were shortly on our way.
The weather wasn’t really cooperating, so we drove around for probably a couple hours and then finally stopped for a bit so they could hand out snowsuits and (for those of us that needed them) tripods. We stayed here way longer than I thought was necessary, but there may have been a reason.
Note: At the end I share some tips for doing a Northern Lights tour and what to bring, so keep scrolling!
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After another little while in the vans, we stopped at a small lake and piled out and trudged through the heavy snow down to the water. The moon was insanely bright, which made it easy to get clear pictures, though harder to keep from overexposing the photos.
While we kept our eyes peeled, the Lights weren’t making an appearance yet, so we built a fire and cooked hot dogs and cheese sandwiches and drank hot cider and whiskey.
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We’d been playing around with our camera settings and taking star shots (at least it was a clear night!), and then someone saw just a glimmer of green! I couldn’t see it with my eyes, but my camera sure picked it up.
We sat there for probably another 45 minutes taking pictures as the green shifted around. It wasn’t crazy strong, but we were excited just to have seen something!
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Once our little green flicker left, we decided to move on as well. It was around 12:30am by that point. It was freezing in the van and my feet were blocks of ice, and we were happy when we finally stopped again at another lake (or maybe fjord?). The conditions were favorable so we decided to wait around and see if the Lights would show for us again.
In the meantime, I hung out with my good buddy Orion. I’m obsessed with this view.
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And then all of a sudden, that green made a faint appearance again…
And then a tiny bit more.
And finally, she danced!
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I mean, can you even believe that?! Again, my eyes don’t pick them up very well, which is super sad. But my camera lens does, and it was truly a breathtaking experience.
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The lights streaked and danced and wiggled around, and we couldn’t believe our luck. We stayed there until the last bit of green died away, looking at each other with glee as we waited for our long exposure shots to finish.
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Finally it was time to head back to Tromsø, feeling pretty happy with ourselves. While it was after 4:00am when we got back to the hotel, it was totally worth it!
About our Northern Lights tour in Tromsø
- We booked with Marianne and George’s Heaven on Earth Aurora Chaser Tours
- It cost about $157 USD per person. Pickup (in January at least) was around 5:30p and stated time back was around 3:00a but we were out til 4:30a.
- I definitely recommend reading through TripAdvisor reviews for any tour you’re looking at, because every one is different and you want to find one that fits your needs and personality best.
- I did three Northern Lights tours while in Tromsø, and this definitely was the most thorough in terms of good locations and finding the lights (and staying out as long as it took). There wasn’t really any conversation or explanation (not the warmest guiding), so if you’re looking for something along those lines something like Guide Gunnar might be a better bet. But for finding the lights and also a very photography-focused tour, Marianne’s tour is very good and she keeps the group pretty small and intimate.
- If nighttime Northern Lights photography is your goal (it was for me), make sure you bring TONS of extra batteries for your camera. I had 5 and there as one night I went through 4. Between the intense cold and long exposures, your batteries will drain insanely fast. Marianne offers the ability to rent DSLR cameras on their tour as well, if you don’t have one or don’t want to bring yours.
- As a warm weather person, I did a TON of research on clothing and gear for our Arctic trip, and was incredibly happy with most of the things I brought. Here’s the perfect packing list for an Arctic trip in the winter!
- While they do provide some hot beverages at different points of the tour, I recommend filling up your thermos with hot tea or cocoa before you leave, so you can have it whenever. And bringing your own snacks as well.
- We stayed at the Comfort Xpress Hotel Tromsø and were super happy with it. The room was clean and comfy, the front desk staff super helpful, and there was always hot water for us to put in our thermos. It was very central and easy to get everywhere on foot, and only a few steps to the airport shuttle bus.
Have you seen the Northern Lights on your own? Or through a tour? I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments, and any tips you have for getting the perfect photos!
If you’re into nighttime photography amazingness:
- Mesmerized by Petra at Night
- Watching The Northern Lights Dance From A Mobile Cabin On A Frozen Finnish Lake
- Hiking Yant Flat Near St. George, Utah (scroll to the end!)
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