As the night’s draw in, our eyes are drawn once again to the sky at night. But, what is it we are looking for, where should we look and when. Here is a short quide to aurora hunting…
When to see it…
The season is mid august to late april, but darker = more possible hours. The Nordic light appears just as frequently all year around, also in summer, but then it is totally impossible to see.
October-december can be cloudy season, but that time of the year can also be good if the clouds stay away. January-March is usually more clear sky = good. Some fluffy snow is also a great component to add to scenery.
But the Nordic light doesn’t appear every night. How to know when to go out?
Rough guidelines and alerts can be provided by various apps, e.g. SpaceWeatherLive. Another great resource is the big and very active facebook group Umeå Aurora Hunters where alerts and observation reports are posted.
Where to go hunting for the Nordic light?
The Tavelsjö region has some great spots for enjoying green skies. Good spots have a clear view to the north, and preferably not too many disturbing lights. However, total darkness is not required, especially if you are lucky to find yourself out in strong Nordic light.
Overlooking a lake or a field is usually a good starting point. Or find a mountain top with a decent view to the north. If you search for real dark places, the plateau above Vallberget-Tavelsjöberget is great, but a bit more difficult to reach. A number of recommended spots with photos and short descriptions can be found in the map.
How to take photos of the Nordic light?
- Use manual settings. Most cameras, even the one on your cell phone (if it is fairly new) can use manual settings. You will need to play around a bit and familiarize yourself with the equipment and settings, but as a starting point:
- Aperture needs to be wide open. Useful settings are f/1.4, 2.8 or 4 (lower = better). This in order to maximize the amount going to the sensor.
- Exposure time needs to be long. Typically 1-10 seconds depending on light conditions and equipment used. To collect enough light on the sensor.
- ISO may need to be increased. Very equipment-specific, but do not be afraid to try as high as 3200-6400 and see how it turns out. ISO sets the amplification of the light hitting the sensor.
- Keep the camera still!
- You need to keep the camera/phone still during the extended exposure time needed to collect the light needed for an awesome photo. Use a tripod or something else to keep the camera still.
- Use a timer or a remote control not to touch the camera and cause vibrations during the exposure.
- Try and see how it looks. And try again.
Can I use the camera in my cell phone?
Possibly/probably. Explore the settings according to the short guide above and see what it can do. Awesome photos have been made with modern phone cameras.
Can I use a full automatic tourist camera?
Possibly/probably, if it can be but in manual mode. Just as the cell phone cameras the optics are not the best for the purpose, but modern cameras with flexible settings can do great, especially when the Nordic light is strong.
If I have a DLSR/SLR camera, can I use the kit lens?
Yes. A faster lens (big aperture, lower f/-numbers) with a wide angle will do even better, but the kit lens is a really good start.
If I am totally stuck on this and want to seriously upgrade my equipment, what to buy?
- A full frame DLSR or SLR camera with high quality sensor.
- A fast wide angle or fisheye lens
- A solid tripod
- Collect recent information on the internet/youtube
Here are some photos taken around the village by local resident, Markus Broström. Follow his instagram here to see all his excellent photos.