Chasing the Northern lights
Nature has her way of inventing the most beautiful things. But it’s also sometimes very elusive.
Jacada Travel‘s expert travel designer, Joyce Choi, shares her insights on the magnificent Aurora Borealis.
You can spot the Northern Lights in places on high latitudes, including Nordic countries in Europe, northern Russia, some parts of Greenland, Arctic Canada and Alaska. Northern Scotland is possible too.
Many people think that auroras are only seen in the northern hemisphere. You can actually see the lights – Southern Lights, or Aurora Australis, in high latitudes in the Southern Hemisphere too. So you can even catch the lights when you are visiting Australia, New Zealand, Chile and Antarctica.
NEXT: Common misconceptions →
Due to all the beautiful photos we see online nowadays, people often assume that you just have to go there at night and you’ll get your shot. This isn’t always the case. Locals can tell you that sometimes they don’t see the lights for weeks.
I always recommend to time a trip when seeing the Northern Lights is possible (guaranteed darkness, clear skies and little light pollution are the criteria), but make sure your day itinerary is interesting enough for a memorable trip. Don’t hang around a place just waiting for the light show to happen at night.
NEXT: Myths and legends →
First of all, it’s not a myth that if you can catch the Northern Lights, you are indeed a lucky person!
Many native people have superstitions about what the lights could be and imagine all sorts of omens (often bad). Apparently, the Sami people in Northern Scandinavia would hide indoors during the light phenomenon.
One legend says the lights come from your dead enemies being cooked in a huge pot over blazing fires. My favourite story of all is the lights are created by a mystical fox whose bushy tail sprayed snow and threw sparks into the sky. I’ve seen foxes in both of the places I saw the Northern Lights.
NEXT: When to go →
To see the lights, one main criteria is absolute darkness. So while it is possible to spot the Northern Lights even during early or late summer evenings, the best time to catch the spectacle is still in the winter when the nights are long. This also means you have a chance of spotting the lights in the early evening (as early as 7-8pm) rather than in the middle of the night (2-3am).
There isn’t really a minimum duration. If the conditions are perfect, you can see the lights on your first night. But I also know people who never saw any Northern Lights over a two-week travel period.
NEXT: How to prepare →
A tripod. Whether large or small, you definitely need one for your camera or smartphone. Bring a camera that allows long exposures of a minimum of 15 seconds; your camera can capture photos of the magical green lights that sometimes cannot be seen by our naked eyes.
If you are bringing a new device, do practise using it before you leave home. In the dark, out in the cold, and in a flurry of excitement, it is certainly much more challenging to have your brains focus, your fingers to work and get your camera settings right.
Thin fleece gloves with touch-screen capabilities, and a flashlight for setting up your camera.
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By Mandy Lim Beitler, SilverKris, 7 October 2016
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