Northern Lights are a very special natural phenomenon. Amazing, breathless, beautiful and unpredictable. These are multiple collisions from sun electrically charged particles, that enter the earth’s atmosphere, making it possible to seen them above the magnetic poles of the northern and southern hemispheres (‘Aurora borealis’ in the north and ‘Aurora australis’ in the south). They can be many colors due to the type of gas particles colliding: green, pink, yellow, orange, blue, white, red, violet…
They start appearing in Tromsø around September until mid April, approximately, and the best way to spot them is by getting far away from the “light pollution” of cities. Usually the best time is at night, when is dark outside, with a clear sky, between 5 in the afternoon and 2 in the morning.
Eduard, one of our guides onboard, answers to your questions! He is a trained and experienced guide. He learned it all with other guides, self-studying and self-experience, reading a lot, experiencing it and learning on a daily basis. Accordingly to him, one of his favorite things about guiding Northern Lights tours is seeing the happiness reflected in our costumer’s faces, when they experience and feel them, making their dream come true and seeing how inspired they get.
Because the oval ring of the northern lights mostly in the evening goes around Tromsø. Basically the geomagnetic field is always changing, so it can be really strong or week, but even at its weakest point of the geomagnetic field, Tromsø is just in the perfect place, in any other places it is harder to spot them. That makes you still see the northern lights almost above you.
Good shoes, woolen socks, mittens and many layers and to move a lot! Drink also something sweet to have a better blood circulation.
It is different to photograph the northern lights from land and from a boat and also it is different to photograph them if they are still or if they are dancing. From the land, it would be better to choose the lowest ISO settings (amount of light that gets inside the camera) as possible and try to make a longer exposure time with the camera, to get the best quality. When the lights are moving and dancing, and you want to get the best shape and lights, you should try to get the lowest exposure time possible and raise the ISO settings, which would ruin the quality of the picture but the photo would not be blurry, it would still be sharp in its lines. From the boats, as it is constantly moving and can be moving, you should use a shorter exposure and raise the ISO settings. If you want to take a nice picture of people with the northern lights, it’s during the exposure time on the camera, you have to flash a little bit of light on the person. In terms of phones, for example, androids and iphones, if you are using androids it is pretty simple. For the Samsung Galaxy S6 and up, for example, they have manual settings like the regular cameras have, so you can manually control the focus and you need to set it up almost to the infinity. So basically, the close up objects are in focus and the objects far away are focused as well. And you can control the exposure, ISO and the white balance (color temperature of the picture). Regarding iphones, before the Iphone 10 XR, they don’t have these settings in the camera, so you have to download an application (for example Northern Lights photo taker – however they are not the best), but the camera doesn’t have the long exposure settings, so you can’t close and open the lenses.
The “My Aurora Forecast”, because it is pretty simple to use, there is not too much information and you can see the map of the northern lights moving towards to Tromsø. The KP doesn’t really matter in Tromsø, but you have the graphs with the speed of the solar winds, showing their density, and cloud coverage, it is very accurate.
That would depend on what you like. It is nice for both ways. If you can, you should do both experiences. You will have different type of pictures and perspectives. However if you are a cold person, and choose to do a northern lights chasing by bus, if you don’t have enough clothing and if that trip does not have a firewood or provides you thermic suits, you will feel a lot of cold. On a boat, you can just run inside again, get warm, have a tea or a coffee and wait until the guides call you, saying that there are northern lights outside. Another good thing of doing a northern lights cruise is that you don’t need to sit on a bus and wait some hours until you reach the point where you can see the northern lights, you can walk, circulate on a boat, you don’t need to be sit all the time.