View Full Version here: : Looking at doing a trip to view the northern lights.
29-07-2012, 08:15 PM
Hi all, got bitten by the bug and now looking at a trip to northern Finland in February 2013 for 2 weeks. Doing a 2 night guided tour first and then my own thing with hire car, out of Inari Finland.
Link to Aurora Hunters= http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/aurorahunters.limited
Have not got the quote on trip cost yet, will let you know its progress.
Anyone here with knowledge of the area around Inari, would be appreciated. :thumbsup: The Sun only rises to max of 5 degrees in February and sets near 1:30 p.m., so could be interesting.
29-07-2012, 08:37 PM
We did a trip last Jan/Feb starting in Alta, Norway and had a fantastic time. Can't help with any knowledge of that area of Finland, I'm afraid, but I'd be happy to answer any more general questions.
The days are short but there is a long twilight period. It still takes quite a long time to become properly dark.
It's very interesting watching the movement of objects in the sky at those latitudes. They don't so much rise and set as skim around the horizon.
29-07-2012, 08:59 PM
Wow, sounds like a fantastic trip :)
Here's a great example (albeit taken in summer) of the "skimming around the horizon" effect that Rick mentioned:
29-07-2012, 09:12 PM
29-07-2012, 09:17 PM
The Jan/Feb tour I did this year was one of Fred's. Definitely a great way to do it if you're interested in things astronomical.
29-07-2012, 09:22 PM
Thanks for your replies, Rick, Dave and Brendan. Yes I have heard of the midnight Sun, that applies for May/June, would be an experience also. I did look at Iceland, but chose northern Finland as it is further north and where many top images have been taken. Also just found out that things are cheaper in Finland than Norway, which will help me.
29-07-2012, 09:25 PM
Those volcanoes of Iceland would add to the trip also.
29-07-2012, 10:46 PM
I think weather in Iceland is pretty ropey.. well inland in Scandinavia a better chance i would say. two weeks a good minimum starting point for such a long trip to get there.. can easily get a week of cloudy weather in any of these places.
29-07-2012, 11:41 PM
Those trips look great, especially with the company of Fred Watson - you'd certainly be entertained! Been thinking of getting somewhere myself, whether Scandinavia or Alaska/Canada.
Let us know how things go with it Lester.
30-07-2012, 04:31 PM
Thanks Phil and Wayne for your comments. As I have not had any experience with motor vehicles in extreme sub-zero temperatures, what does one do when parked on the side of the road taking pictures and it can be -30 C? Do you have to keep the vehicle idling to prevent the fluid in the radiator and engine from freezing? I presume they would have heaters of some kind where the vehicles are parked over night at the resorts?
30-07-2012, 09:41 PM
One option you may wish to consider is Tromso in Norway.
Fly to London, then you can find cheapish flights to Norway on one of the budget carriers.
Think it's possibly one of the best places in the world for aurora.Of course , not a heck of a lot to do after or before..a sleigh ride or two ?
30-07-2012, 10:43 PM
Hi Narayan, actually I first looked at Tromso, Norway it is the most northerly city on the planet. The further inland, there is more chance of clear skies. The Fiords would be majestic to view, but with the Sun only rising a maximum of 5 degrees I don't think the lighting will be real good as much of them would remain in shadow. Just heard from Andy Keen that runs the tours out of Inari Finland and last February he saw the aurora on 21 nights. It is his most busy month. I need to book soon, as he only takes 6 people at a time. All the best.
All sounds fabulous Lester, veery jealous!! :D
31-07-2012, 11:37 AM
Hi Liz, a lot of homework/internet surfing going on here. Checking the road rules and driving in extreme winter temperatures.
I went to Iceland in March this year, for the very same reason. I picked Iceland (over Nothern Skandinavia) because of all the other attractions already mentioned. Very much recommended!
02-08-2012, 12:18 AM
Wow Gunther those photos are amazing, and not just the aurora shots. Makes me want to go there even more now!
Thanks Wayne! Yes, that place is a landscape photographer's dream come through. I'm in love with Iceland! Been there 3 times now, and a 4th trip is in planning. (sorry to OP for side-track)
02-08-2012, 07:23 AM
Wow, Gunther that has put a spanner in the works, amazing views. How was the weather for you regarding cloud?
Like you, I planned what I believed were a conservative 2 weeks, hoping to see at least one good display. The first few days were very disheartening ... according to aurora forecasts there were some great displays to be seen (5 and 6 on the 0-9 scale), but alas Iceland was under cloud cover. Long-term weather forecasts looked awful (and proved to be totally inaccurate). Short-term forecasts (ie. for 24 hours) by the Icelandic BOM proved to be very accurate however, and in the end flexibilty on our part (ie. rental car) and a lot of chasing clear skies were the key. Western Iceland (incl. Reykjavik) was under clouds throughout the 2 weeks, whereas the east and north were clear at times. Ended up seeing the aurora on 9 of the 15 nights, and had one truly fantastic display (entire sky active) plus 2 more pretty good ones. About 6 of the 9 would have totally satisfied my initial hopes!
Advantages of Iceland over northern Scandinavia (or Alaska) IMO are:
- not nearly as cold, funny as that sounds, but Iceland is warmed by the Gulfstream year round
- island climates are more variable, so while chances of "bad" weather are higher, it tends to clear quicker. Scandinavia is much more continental and stable, which means if you're lucky you might have 2 weeks of fantastic weather, but then again you might be socked in for 2 weeks
- more scenic (even in Winter), but that maybe subjective :P
- easier to get around (if you have your own car), with plenty of "cheap" off-season accomodation (on current exchange rates anyway), though I've never been to Finland, so maybe that's not so much of an issue
02-08-2012, 05:20 PM
Hi Gunther, I appreciate your indepth description of your trip and aurora hunt. I have searched many areas on the net looking for the best opportunity to see the most aurora. I have found a small tour in northern Finland and it seems to be the only one that actually hunts out the clear skies and prepared to drive for many hours to view the aurora. I have contacted them and waiting a reply as to how difficult it will be for me to drive in the Finland winter, without any snow/ice experience. I believe if I drive slow in those freezing conditions all should be okay.
Thought I was on a winner a few days ago came across Lake Abisko in Sweden that is supposed to always have clear skies above it and a very reliable spot to see the aurora. I have viewed the live sky camera there a number of times and it has always been cloudy at night and limited blue sky during one day.
Link to live sky camera at Lake Abisko Sweden.
Lester, obviously there's no such thing as a guarantee when it comes to seeing auroras in a given period. Two weeks is a good timeframe to give yourself a decent chance. As far as locations, anywhere along that famous oval (which I'm sure you've come across already)
Which makes Northern Alaska, Northern Norway/Finland, Iceland and Southern Greenland the spots to go to. Everything else is really a personal preference I guess. Fairbanks and Tromsų tout themsleves as "norther light capitals". Fairbanks would be easier and cheaper to get to from Australia I suppose, but personally I'd go to Tromsų (much warmer, again, coastal climate and Gulfstream etc). Iceland is a pain (and expensive) to get to (only Greenland or Northern Russia would be worse in that regard).
2013 is supposedly the solar max, so there won't be too many days without activity, so it all comes down to a bit of luck with the weather.
Any particular reason you want to go in February? Not sure what the scientific answers are behind it, but the weeks around an equinox appear to have the highest activity (at least most of the photos/reports i found on the net are during that period ... but maybe that just means in mid-winter it's too cold for most people to go out :D which I can understand!). Anyway, there can be a big difference between the weather in February and the end of March. Also, I planned my trip around a new moon, since in those latitudes even quarter moons will be up pretty much all night).
As for driving in winter, a lot of it is just common sense. Don't go out if a blizzard is on/forecast and stay away from mountain roads to start with (most will be closed if there's snow anyway). Cars will be equipped with winter tires to make it easier. If you can affort to, rent a small 4WD/SUV. I didn't feel the need to join a tour in Iceland (as a matter of fact, most tours in Iceland stay around Reykjavik, and would have seen nothing during my 2 weeks!). Having said that, I know the country quite well now (and learned to drive on Austrian mountain roads :P).
A typical day for us would be to get up late, check the latest forecast (which for Iceland are broken down into 3-hourly intervals, and are quite accurate within 24-36 hours) and road conditions. IMO/road authority have pages in English too:
We only booked hotels for 1-2 days at a time to be flexible, which was easy to do in Iceland, since it's off season. So depending on the weather forecast we either stayed or drove on. Come evening, again checked the weather forecast as well as the current space weather reports. By about 10pm I'd go outside and take a few handheld shots of the sky with my DSLR (5 sec/ISO3600 or higher). If there was any green stuff amongst the cloud we'd get in the car and head out of whatever town/village we were in. Often I would have picked an area/spot during the day that would give good visibility and some interesting foreground for my photos. Then a bit of patience ... as activity would start quite suddenly. In our case it often peaked around midnight. And I tell you, it still sends shivers down my spine just thinking about it!!!!!
02-08-2012, 06:32 PM
Hi Gunther, and thanks again for your information. My reason for going in February is, it is after our busy season on the farm and also it is the busy season in Finland for the aurora tour I am looking at. I don't know how much conditions would change from February to March, as March would also be a possibility for me. All the best.
02-08-2012, 08:58 PM
Statistical difference between Feb/Mar is pretty slight I think.. maybe Dec/Jan is worse? Certainly my Feb in the Yukon was at least as good as March. Nights get shorter in March compared to Feb which reduces the number of dark hours and so your window for finding/having clear sky and aurora activity kicking up is shorter etc.
02-08-2012, 11:44 PM
Thanks for your input Phil, yes more dark hours makes sense. So long as I can manage the cold. Just had a fantastic offer from Andy Keen who runs the tours out of Ivola. As his tours usually only go for 2 days and I want to spend at least a week or more hunting aurora. He is putting a tour together for me where I can travel with his team over an extended period of 10 days. He will get back to me in a few days.
Also I have just read yesterday that aurora can repeat in 27-28 days as the Sun rotates and brings the activity back around to face us again. So there is a chance that the aurora that was seen here on the 15th and 16th of July could repeat on the 11,12 and 13th August.
All the best.
16-08-2012, 04:20 PM
Hi all, I am booked on the tour, it only takes 7 and now there are 3 places left. Small groups appeal to me more than larger ones. Been internet shopping today. Tripod, 3 extra batteries for the 5D MK II and the 20Da, extreme Sandisk 16GB memory cards. Lithium Ion 12v battery to power Kendrick heat straps for the two cameras; this is what Andy Keen uses. Couldn't find the 8AH battery in Australia, so its comming from the UK. Andy offered to purchase it for me as he is in the UK, but I wanted it home first to test it out. How many would make offers like that to a stranger?
Still contemplating if I purchase a fish-eye lens. Any thoughts from those with aurora experience would be appreciated. How often does the aurora extend more than 100 degrees in the sky? My 14mm lens will cover just over 100 degrees.
Also purchased a large Lowepro backpack with weather cover.
16-08-2012, 05:00 PM
I've seen the Aurora covering most of the sky, so if you want shots that wide a fisheye lens would probably get some use.
16-08-2012, 05:14 PM
Thanks Rick for your information. Would be a pity to go all that way and not fit it in the FOV. The Samyang 8mm fish-eye on my 20Da could be an asset. May have to put that down for a Christmas gift from my wife.
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