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Was I the Only One to Succeed to Capture the Aurora?

Aurora photography can be a struggle. Here's the story about my struggle to capture the Northern Lights on September 1 2019.

The tricky thing about aurora photography is that you can't dictate the conditions. You can choose a location, learn how to set your camera, and master the editing process. But unless the aurora shows up where you are you have nothing to work with.

That's just part of the game, being an aurora photographer. I can easily accept going out without seeing the aurora. But it's harder when you can see it's there but partly covered by clouds.

Fireworks reflecting in the sea. The Northern Lights decorating the sky.
Fireworks under the Northern Lights.

Like it was on September 1. I went out to the nearest beach just as we turned page from August to September. Only a few minutes old, September was already busy delivering the green light on the night sky. But clouds had plans to ruin that.

I started by taking some photos at the jetty. The last Saturday in August is special here on the Finnish west coast. We celebrate the end of the summer cottage season. People often spend this weekend at their cottage, if they have one, and there are bonfires and lanterns everywhere along the coast. Fireworks are flying in the air more or less constantly. It's beautiful. Not the perfect conditions to shoot the Northern Lights, though.

Ove standing on a bridge holding an electrical lantern. Aurora Borealis on the night sky.
Me experimenting with the electrical lantern. It was so bright I had to hide it behind my arm. Next time I'll bring another one.

I decided to drive east. Away from the coast and into the darkness. But I had no exact location in mind, I just improvised. I stopped several times to take more photos, but it wasn't until my seventh stop that the aurora exploded on a relatively clear sky and in a nice setting. I had just reached an area with fields of yellow wheat grain.

Aurora on different locations. It's a challenge to find the perfect location for aurora photography.
From a few of my stops. The red back lights from my car painting the road. The aurora putting on a minor show in the middle of nowhere. An abandoned house where I practiced a little light painting. Got to do more of that sometime!

I used this wheat field as my foreground for the night's best (and last) shots. It's a common mistake to associate the Northern Lights only with winter, with ice and snow and cold weather. This time it was fairly warm, around +15° C (59° F), and the fall was just around the corner.

Aurora Borealis over the road.
Not until 3 AM did the aurora become really strong. I was patient enough to stay up that late. It turned out many aurora photographers gave up too early.

At 3:30 AM I headed back and went to sleep. The next day I realised that most aurora photographers in the region had not managed to capture anything really exciting. Maybe I was the only one to succeed to capture the aurora because I was patient enough and also willing to drive until I had clear skies. At least I got my reward! Ps. If you follow @nordlandfin on Instagram you might see me doing live broadcasts when I'm out on my nightly adventures. On the night of September 1 I did it twice.

Aurora over a wheat field.
My best shot was taken as the Aurora danced intensely and I light painted the wheat field with my torch light. I call it “Harvest”.


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