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A Night Under the Stars

On August 23 I went camping by myself. My plan was to check a new place out and, if I was lucky, maybe get a glimpse of the season's first northern lights.

Sandy beach with sunset sky.
I arrived after sunset. The place was awesome!

Many of my aurora photos are taken on the same places. It's easy when activity is rising fast, to just grab your equipment and jump in the car and be surrounded by darkness a few minutes later. That's why I need to explore new places where the northern lights can be shot. They need to meet the following criteria:

  1. No light pollution. It must be a dark place.

  2. Free sight to the north. Thats where the Aurora Borealis appears.

  3. Beautiful nature or interesting foreground objects. A great place to take photos.

The place I went to this time turned out to be nothing but fantastic! It met all my criteria and it was such an awesome place visually. A sandy beach with cliffs stretching out into the sea right from the beach. There were summer cottages at both ends of the beach but the beach itself had no houses so I could easily camp behind the sand dunes without disturbing anyone.

In the Nordic countries the Every Man's Right allows you to camp almost anywhere as long as you don't disturb cottage owners etc. That means a lot of places to choose from. I often choose the coastline and I use to check maps thoroughly to find the best possible spots for photography.

I left home a little too late to catch the sun setting in the sea. But, after all, I'm a night photographer, not a sunset photographer. 😄 At least that's what I said to myself, although it would have been nice to get more photos of the place with the sun hanging low and creating lots of shadows on the rocks.

Waves rolling over flat rocks
The flat rocks were repeatedly covered by violent waves.

Anyway, as I reached the beach I just threw all my stuff on the ground and rushed out to the waterline to capture the last moments of dusk before it started getting dark. It gets dark very slowly on these latitudes due to the sun setting in a very flat angle. It takes hours for the sun to go so far beneath the horizon that it actually gets dark.

The wind had been strong earlier but now it had calmed down. However, the sea was still raging furiously, creating awesome waves for me to capture. I took hundreds of photos before I headed back behind the sand dunes to hang my hammock between two pine trees.

I had forgot to bring wood and matches, but fortunately I found a matchbox in my camera bag, which seem to contain everything you need. Well ... not wood. But there was plenty of driftwood to be found on the beach so in a few minutes I had my fire burning. I carved a skewer and grilled a sausage while glazing into the fire and just enjoying the moment. You know, there is something about sitting outside by a camp fire …

Hammock set for the night
My hammock is my home (for one night) and I love it!

Sitting by the camp fire
A peaceful moment by the fire.

My meal consisted of sausage, boiled eggs and sandwiches. As always I had hot chocolate in my new termos that looks like a camera lens. (Thanks, Johan, for the gift!) It was +6° Celsius (43° Fahrenheit) but the wind could not reach me where I sat so it didn't feel cold at all.

At midnight I went back onto the cliffs continuing to take photos. The full moon appeared from behind a cloud and the night instantly became bright as a day (well… almost). The sky was still holding on to the traces of the sunset at the northern horizon. The sun would not reach its lowest point until 01:30 and it would only be dark enough for aurora spotting for a couple of hours.

Moonlight over beach and rocks
The fullmoon was like a giant lamp casting light and creating shadows on the rocks.

Standing on rocks and gazing out over the sea at night
The Northern Lights is the only thing missing in this picture. But it felt quite awesome anyway.

This night that would not happen, but that's alright. I was fully satisfied with the experience and, of course, the fact that I had now discovered this beach which was perfectly suited for aurora photography. I promised myself to come back on a night when the sky was green.

At 1 AM I crawled into my sleeping bag and eventually fell asleep to the sound of the waves, now less violently smashing against the rocks. The rest of the night under the stars would be spent sleaping in my hammock.

When I woke up the next morning at 6:40 it was very close to 0 degrees. I had felt a little cold during the night but I had had at least 5 hours of sleep, which is totally fine. I laid in the hammock a while until I realised the sun had risen behind the trees and I had to capture the morning light while it still had that magical quality to it.

Old boat by a misty lake.
An old boat waiting to be used again.

Lake in Finland.
The little lake looked awesome in the morning light.

The first thing I did was to take a short walk to a nearby swamp where the sun played with the rising morning mist. That was an awesome sight. Then another visit to the beach and those rocks before I had my breakfast sitting first in my hammock and then on the rocks where the sun could reach me.

At 8:30 I left the place with a smile on my face and a shower and a cup of coffee in my mind.


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