Hunting the Northern Lights

My brother and I traveled to Iceland… primarily to see the Northern Lights.  We specifically traveled to Iceland during the winter because there is more darkness, and a greater chance to see the Lights.  However, unbeknownst to us, they are much harder to see than we thought, primarily because of the erratic weather and cloud cover in Iceland.  To see the Lights, you need clear skies, and people across the country constantly check maps like the one below for the most up to date information about the Lights:

chasing the northern lights!

On our first night, we paid for a tour which drove us outside the city and into the dark countryside, in an attempt to see the Lights.  After many hours of waiting in the bitter cold, we “saw” them.  On this night, the Lights appeared as a cloud-esque, white, hazy, light, in the night sky.  On this night, the Lights were definitely not green, or yellow, red, or any other color that you may have seen in a picture.  With the naked eye, it looked like a white, light polluted, cloud.  BUT!!  With a camera and a 15 second exposure, they looked like:

northern lights, night oneI would say, the picture is pretty incredible.  But, like I said, none of the green in the above picture is visible with the naked eye. My brother and I felt like the Lights were the biggest scam ever.  You can only “see” them with a camera??  Unbelievable.  We talked to a dozen people, and their opinions on the Lights ranged from, “yep, the Northern Lights are a scam,” to “you know when you’re seeing the Northern Lights, it’s incredible.”  Later in our trip, determined to see the “actual” Northern Lights, my brother and I took our rental car, checked the map above, and drove around Iceland to find the most opportune location to see the Lights.  We sat in our car for a few hours, staring at the sky, and saw nothing.  We then noticed tour buses driving by our parked car in droves.  Knowing that the leaders of the tour buses know more about the Lights than we ever will, we followed the buses in our car.  We tailed the buses for miles down the road, pulled off the road with them, and watched the night sky.  Finally, we saw the Lights in all their glory. It was incredible.  The pictures below are representative of what you can see with the naked eye:

northern lights, night two

northern lights, finale


Truly, a natural wonder of the world.


3 thoughts on “Hunting the Northern Lights

  1. Awesome, Craig – I’ve always wondered whether those photos are touched up or not. Very cool that that’s really what you see with the naked eye. Hopefully I’ll be able to see them in my lifetime too. Thanks for posting!

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