Wednesday, March 21, 2018


As a pilot, I've had quite a few opportunities to admire the Northern Lights over the years. When traveling up North to Iceland or Northern Scandinavia to see the Aurora Borealis, one always has to be lucky with the weather as cloud cover will of course hide this amazing spectacle from the viewer on Mother Earth. Being up above the clouds, is of course an advantage! A huge disadvantage and challenge is that one can not use a tripod in the air.

I'm occasionally asked if the Northern Light can be observed during summer. Well, there are of course always rare exceptions, but since up North it pretty much remains daylight all night long, your chances will be close to zero. Obviously it depends on how you define summer; the further you are away from June 21st (longest day in the Northern Hemisphere), the more chances you'll get. So briefly... it is mainly a winter thing! Or alternatively go to Antartica  or New Zealand where the seasons are obviously reversed and one can see the Southern Light (Aurora Australis). 

The other question I always get from people who are seeing the Aurora for the first time, is "What makes it happen?". Without becoming too technical, it is a natural effect that forms due to collisions of particles in the Earth's atmosphere with charged particles from the Sun's atmosphere. The most common color is yellow/green which forms at about 60 miles altitude (airliner typically flies at about 6 miles altitude). Much more rare or complete red auroras which develop at altitudes of 200 miles and higher. A good read-up on the phenomenon can be found here

People or sometimes a bit disappointed on how the Northern Light shows up to the naked eye. It is one of the exceptions were the camera is able to register much more than what a human eye can see at night. The same is valid when observing/photographing the Milky Way

The image below was shot some time ago, over Northern Greenland. Taking well over one hour, the show was exceptionally long. Using the In Body Image Stabilized (IBIS) of the new Fujiifilm X-H1 camera (review here), I was able to get a relatively steady 1.3 sec exposure. 

Image details:
  • Fujifilm X-H1 with the XF23mm f2 lens
  • ISO 12800, f2.0, 1.2 sec
  • RAW file development in Lightroom CC
  • Nik Dfine for some noise reduction
Check out my Aerial photography gallery for some more Northern Light images as well as other views from above.

Remember: "Nature is cheaper than therapy" - M.P.Zarrella


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