What it’s Like to Witness The Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis

The Northern Lights or the Aurora Borealis, are a spectacular sight to see, but there is a mystery behind capturing that picture perfect moment on your camera.

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All photos belong to my friend who took these for me when my camera broke.

The Aurora Borealis, in real life, isn’t actually full of such vibrant colours that you see on a camera. The Aurora Borealis is actually much softer in colour, like pastel. It looks as if it were coloured milk spread out all throughout the sky: it is so magical.

So how and why does the camera pick up a more vibrant colour?

When attempting to capture this brilliant moment on your camera, there are certain settings that can only pick up this wonder. If you try to use your iPhone (yes, even the iPhone 7) it will not pick up the Northern Lights. All you’ll be left with is a black screen. And yes, even the apps on the App Store that say they will pick it up are wrong.

When shooting on a camera, there are many different settings you can play with, depending on your camera: click here for a detailed instruction.

You can also capture the Aurora Borealis on a GoPro and here are some good starting settings:

  1. Night Lapse Mode
  2. 10-30 second shutter
  3. interval: continuous
  4. 12MP Wide
  5. ISO min: 100
  6. ISO max: 800

Obviously you might have to play around with these settings.

Now to actually see the Northern Lights are a bit more difficult. They only come out late at night, so when I went to go see them in Yellowknife, NWT, Canada; the bus picked us up around 10:30pm and dropped us off at 4am. Since we were with a tour, they brought us to their huge open fields where there was a restaurant, tripod rental, and lots of mini teepees (where we could go in for hot chocolate when it got really cold). No joke, even though it’s summer, it is FREEZING up there. I was dressed for like -15 degree whether and I was still cold.

The Tour package campus was perfect for viewing the Northern Lights because they had lots of levels: lots of mountains which required a bit of a mini hike, and flat ground to suit everyone’s photography needs.

Keep in mind, that we did a 3 day tour package deal, since there’s no designated time that the Aurora Borealis will show. It is a hit or miss deal. The first night, we saw zero Northern Lights; however, on the second night we saw a category 4 Northern Lights (which is actually like, a big deal for Yellowknife). The lights are ranked on a 0-9 scale. Here is a super cool website the check out the Aurora Borealis levels near you!

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How are the Northern Lights formed?

They are formed when tiny charged particles from the sun collide with atoms and molecules in the atmosphere, which results in bursts of lights (dum dum dum dum dummmmmmm) called photons! Wooo science!!! Different colours are formed when different collisions occur: oxygen produces red and green auroras, while nitrogen produces the pink and purple auroras!

The Aurora Borealis is a spectacular sight to see and I recommend everybody to go check it out at least once!

4 thoughts on “What it’s Like to Witness The Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis

Add yours

  1. The reality of the Northern Lights can come as a disappointment to some.

    I don’t want to know how much money I’ve spent seeing the Northern Light, which has taken me to Iceland, mainland Norway, Svalbard, Greenland, Finland and Sweden. Some places several times.

    I am fortunate to have seen a green aurora with the naked eye, but similarly I recall having to use a camera to decide whether we were looking at a cloud or the Northern Lights.

    I agree they are a spectacular sight regardless and something everybody should try and witness. It’s just a shame photography has set expectations so high that something so magical can actually be a disappointment to some.

    Liked by 1 person

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