Photographing the Northern Lights in Tromsø

We had that on our bucket list for a long time: Photographing the northern lights. And the best way to do this is to visit Tromsø, the capital of northern light photography, so to speak. Because we only had one week, we took the plane. Because a week can be damn tight if the weather isn’t right. In the worst case, you don’t get to see the queen of the night – the aurora borealis – at all. That was our greatest fear. Return home empty-handed. Tromsø lives well from aurora tourism; there are numerous guides who offer guided tours. There is always talk of secret places where you can best observe natural phenomena. Just as if it were a shy deer. But the aurora borealis can be seen from afar when it appears. More on that later.

Photographing the Northern Lights in Tromsø
The Northern Lights – capital Tromsø

What do you need?

First of all, warm clothes. If you book a tour, you can usually lend a snowsuit and the right boots if you need them. This is useful when you consider how much space that would take up in your flight luggage. However, we went on our own and dragged everything along. Then you need a camera with a lens with a big aperture (small f-number such as 1.8 or 2that is) and a tripod is also essential, as exposure times of several seconds are necessary. Apps for weather and aurora forecast are helpful. As an average amateur photographer, you shouldn’t expect to come home with amazing pictures the first time. Aurora photography is one of the supreme disciplines because almost all of your camera’s automatic features are useless and the autofocus does not work as well. So you are well-advised to deal with the manual operation of the camera and lens beforehand and not with cold hands in the dark…

Aurora borealis

When you then experience this terrific spectacle, you might forget to breathe. At least that’s what happened to us. I don’t know if we were very lucky, but during that week there was something to see almost every night. We didn’t even have to go outside the hotel door, because the Lady of the Night did us the honor in front of our hotel room. Well, we went through the dining room to the porch to take pictures. Almost bored. Nah, just kidding. All the worries for nothing. We already had a plan B: if we couldn’t see the Aurora ourselves, we’d book a tour at the end of the week. Maybe the guides really know those secret places …

For the sake of completeness, it should be mentioned that we had rented a car. Such a small SUV with spiked winter tires. This enabled us to roughly explore the location during the day and look for suitable places. You can only get meaningful photos with a suitable background. So I wouldn’t expect too much the first time. But for us it was primarily about the experience. And for the fact that neither my wife nor I have ever dealt with night sky photography before, we are more than satisfied with what we came up with. You can also follow the journey on Youtube:

Tromsø was well worth the trip and our expectations were not disappointed. Even if we weren’t able to perceive every tourist delicacy because of the limited time. But the whole point of this trip was the queen of the night. And nothing else.

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