Tag Archives: winter

Awesome Abisko Aurora

I was lucky enough to go to Sweden last year to see the Northern Lights. I confess I have seen them before so I already had a pretty good idea of how to photograph them, but I was really excited just to play around and see what I could capture.

We booked a trip where cameras and tripods were provided, and a guide is on hand to give advice and tuition during the evening. Although we had cameras of our own, it seemed like a good idea to book a guided trip, and there was a great balance between having some down time, and getting out doing other activities in the daytime.  The company is called Lights Over Lapland and for anyone who wants to experience the Aurora Borealis, I whole heartedly recommend booking with Chad and Linnea at LOL.

We were met at the airport and transferred from Kiruna up to Abisko, enjoying the snowy landscapes on our way. We had time to pick up our kit – cameras and overalls, and then had a gourmet dinner before we headed out for our first Aurora experience.

Not far from the hotel, we found some open space with a few trees for foreground interest. Our first night was out of this world. When the aurora “kick off” it’s called a Corona and the lights move so quickly that it looks like a bright green ribbon is waving across the sky.




One of my lasting memories of that night was Chad shouting out “We’ve got a Corona … woo-hoo” and it echoing around the valley.



The aurora displayed for a long time that night, and by the end of the evening we had full memory cards, cold hands and feet, and a sense of having experienced something totally amazing.

The next day we had a trip on a helicopter through the Abisko National Park. We saw fantastic landscapes, an unusual trapper’s food store, and stunning reflections in the lake.


We then had an afternoon to ourselves, and so took a walk down towards the lake by the hotel.


That evening, the weather was a little uncertain, and so we jumped into the van, and headed down to the waterfront. This was my absolute favourite landscape view. We were treated to another wonderful display, and also managed a great group shot, as well as some portraits / selfies!


Our third day saw us being driven over into Norway to the town of Narvik. It was great to see more of the landscapes and local area, and having a picnic lunch by the sea was superb! We spent time taking a few photos, and learning to skim stones.

That evening, we walked down to the lakefront to try to see the auroras again, but sadly the clouds just didn’t want to move, and so instead we made s’mores and drank my home-made sloe gin! Not a bad night after all!

Our last full day was filled with a lovely hike through the winter birch wood. It was fun to take time to enjoy the park, the trees, the snow, and just stretch our legs!


That night, our last night, we went up to the Sky Station which is located on the hill above Abisko. We had to wait till 9pm for the chair lift to open in order to get up to the station, and up to that point, the aurora were being rather shy – just showing on the horizon as a misty green glow.


As we got onto the chair lift, and started travelling up the hill (with our cameras on chairs behind us) the aurora decided to kick off in another absolutely incredible display. We had no choice but to sit back and enjoy the light show. There was such a multitude of colours, and again really fast-moving auroras that just blew us away.

Having reached the station, we were able to grab some photos and it was great getting different compositions, as well as a couple of other group shots / selfies again!


Before we knew it, sadly it was time to head home. The memory cards had been filled many times over. We’d been treated to some of the most amazing aurora displays I could have imagined, and met some fellow aurora-obsessed new friends.


I am definitely going back for another chance to see the lights in 2015. If you’ve not seen them, it seems Abisko is a really good location for them – there is a micro climate that gives you a higher than usual chance of seeing the lights. You can fly from London via Stockholm up to Kiruna, which is about 90-something kilometres from Abisko. There are a couple of guesthouses in Abisko. We stayed at the Tourist Station hotel, which serves fantastic food – including delicious gourmet dinners to keep you going as you head out into the cold to see the auroras! Highly recommended. Check out Lights of Lapland if you want a high quality organised trip however, as they took all the stress away and I would say for all first timers, it’s worth the expense. Tuition so you get the best shots out of the camera, flexible evening plans so as to ensure you have the best chance of seeing the lights, and overall great hosts too!

Hope you’ve enjoyed this update – feel free to ask any questions.


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Northern Lights in Iceland

So I promised a post about the Northern Lights, which I was lucky enough to see for about 20 mins in Iceland in November 2012. We went out in a small mini bus with about 9 others, and drove out of Reykjavik away from City lights. Not really being aware of what to expect, it was very exciting to realise there was a light green “cloud” in the sky, and that it WASN’T a CLOUD! That is how it appears – a band of colour, and then you realise that ever so slowly, it is changing, moving, expanding, contracting. Anyway, it was so exciting, and even though the temperatures were way down below zero, and the wind was blowing a hoolie, we stood outside and watched them for about 20 mins (with some hot-chocolate-on-the-bus breaks).

A few of you have asked me how to shoot the lights – so hopefully this will give you somewhere to start! If the temperature allows it, play around with ISO and exposure duration, and see what different effects you can create.

The kit I had with me was: 5DMkII, 24-105, 15mm fisheye, full sized tripod, remote control.

Most of the shots I took were using the 24-105mm lens, but I did take a couple with the fisheye just to give it a different feel. Before I went out into the bitterly cold night, I set the camera to ISO 400 and f4.0. I then tried a variety of timed shots to get the best effect. I quickly realised 400 ISO was not going to be successful without overly long exposure (which the temperatures were really making difficult), so I changed it to 800 ISO. Below is a shot at 400 ISO, exposure 30 seconds long.

Pre level check in photoshop:


Then having tweaked the levels in photoshop:


After this point, all shots are at 800 ISO.  Below is a timed shot of 10 seconds.


It wasn’t a completely wasted shot, as once the levels are sorted out in photoshop, it looks like this:


I then tried a 20 second shot which came out pretty well.


Once I dropped it into photoshop, and tweaked the levels a little, this was the result.


I finally tried a 32 second shot


Which after a quick whizz through photoshop looks as follows:


Just to show you a shot with the fish eye lens, here’s a shot taken with the same ISO as before (800) f4, and the lens is a 15mm. It is a 30 second exposure.IMG_7332edit

The “piece de resistance” was the shot below. As I was taking this shot, we saw a shooting star fall through the middle of the Northern Lights. That was a truly magical moment – and it is my favourite shot of all.


I hope this has been helpful to some of you … and for those of you who know better than me how to take these shots – I hope you could at least enjoy the photos!! It was a magical experience, and one I’d really like to repeat!

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Syon House Enchanted Woodland

On Friday I went to the opening night of Syon House’s 2010 Enchanted Woodland walk. It was my first visit, although I believe it’s their 5th year of holding this event. I had been to something similar a few years ago at Sheffield Park Garden, so had an expectation of what it would be like.

For the most part, my expectations were met. The trees and bushes were lit with a variety of coloured lights, and at points along the route, these were set to change colours. There were a couple of places where I wished I had included a torch with by bag of camera goodies … but for the most part, the paths were easily followed. The trees looked stunning, and they’d definitely picked the most impressive trees to illuminate. There didn’t however seem to be a theme, or any kind of link as you progressed through the walk, so at times you went from glitter balls, to neons, to fairy lights!

I then turned the final corner, and saw the Conservatory which was beautifully lit in a colour changing sequence that went from white, to yellow, green, blue and finally to pink. It was a breath taking sight, and one that was well worth the visit. I would return just to watch the building being lit in those colours. The final section of the walk brings you through the conservatory and the most beautiful piece of music was playing – which I found out was called “Libera” by the choirboys (sorry, I mean boy band) Libera, and it was such a moving piece of music to accompany the amazing light display, I can still hear the piece of music now, days later.

I would recommend the walk if you are in the area. At £5 it’s a 45 minute walk around some lovely illuminated trees, finishing with some angelic music in an amazing glass building. Hopefully some of my photographs have persuaded you it’s worth a look-see.

I used my tripod the whole way round, and varied my aperture to see what effects that had on my images. My favourite images are ones with an “average” aperture setting of about f11, resulting in an exposure time of around 25 seconds.


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