As you probably know from our Instagram and Snapchat, one of my favorite activities here in the north has been hunting and photographing the northern lights. I’ve now been photographing them around Umeå since last year when I moved here and wanted to collect my best photos into one post. The first time I saw them was actually pretty much exactly a year ago. Although they’re sometimes visible in the southern Sweden too, it’s always better when you’re up in the north. Umeå is a decent good place for spotting the northern lights so I’ve tried to make the most of it while I’m still here. The northern lights actually occur throughout the year, but are visible only when it is dark, so from approximately April until August they’re not visible here. However, the good thing is that the season is on now!
Though the season is now on, it’s a still little bit a matter of luck, whether you’ll see the magic or not. It’s not just about solar winds and how the weather in the sun looks like. The sky has to be clear in order the northern lights, or auroras to be visible. So if you want to see more than just clouds, check the weather forecast before you go. Forecasting the northern lights is a bit more tricky and most forecasts are not super accurate until the last minute. I’ve been using this website and some mobile apps for checking the situation. There are also Facebook groups where people share useful information and tips. I actually checked the forecast while writing this post and the Kp index was 7, which is extremely high! Sadly, it’s cloudy tonight so I’ll have to wait for a better day. 🙁
In Umeå the most common place to go to is Nydala lake as it’s far enough from the city lights, but it’s still easy to get there. In addition to darkness, another thing to consider when choosing the location is, that in an open space you’ll be able to see more. As the aurora circles around the north pole, you should be able to see towards north from your location. Though, if it’s really strong you’ll be able to see it right above you.
If you’re into photography, the most important thing to bring is a tripod. For good pictures, you want a long exposure time and you won’t be able to hold the camera still for long enough. Another piece of equipment to bring along is a remote control, as pushing the camera trigger with your finger will shake the camera and your pictures. Test your camera and equipment before you go, as it’s rather annoying to start figuring things out on spot (and possibly freezing your fingers). Wide angle lens is also good to have. Mine is not super wide, so I often shoot a few pictures and use the Photoshop panorama function to combine them. Each of the three pictures below is actually a combination of about 5 pictures merged into one.
If the northern lights are really strong you can see them even with city lights, which can be a cool combination at night!