Autumn Aurora Borealis in Rovaniemi

Let the Aurora chase begin!

It is this time of the year again. I pack my gear, cameras, tripods and head outside. The Autumn is almost here and the nights are finally dark enough so we can again see the light of Aurora Borealis.

My name is Alexander Kuznetsov and I am an Aurora Chaser. I have been living here in Rovaniemi, Lapland for almost 20 years. I do all kinds of landscape photography and videography, but out of all subjects it is the Northern Lights that gain my closest attention. When people ask me for reasons behind interest or hobby, which makes me spend many hours on dozens of nights out, often in freezing conditions, I don’t really know where to start and how to explain this passion in plain words.

I guess the main reason for my Aurora obsession is the fact that every time Northern Lights are dancing in the skies, they look different, unique, even if seen from the same place. Their appearance is not guaranteed, so the word “chasing” suits the process very well. There’s a feeling of rush and adrenaline when I manage to get a successful picture!

I can only suggest that you experience the magic of Auroras with your own eyes and become seduced by their spell! That’s me in the picture, looking at Auroras, the Moon and the start of the sunrise :)

Alexander Kuznetsov – The Aurora Hunter

Aurora Chaser in Rovaniemi, Lapland, Finland. Photo by and of Alexander Kuznetsov / Hello Lapland.

To put it simply, Auroras appear when the solar wind is strong enough to disturb Earth’s magnetic field, or when the latter experiences some cosmic turbulance and shifts a little bit, letting some of those cosmic rays in. They, in turn, “energize” the oxygen and nitrogen atoms in the upper levels of Earth’s atmosphere, which we see as Northern Lights.

There is a belief that you can only see Auroras in winter time. This is not true. Technically there are Aurora Borealis all year round. Summer in Lapland, however, is a season of Midnight Sun – the nights remain white from the end of April until the start of August and for 1–2 months, and, depending on location, there is sunlight around the clock! It is a truly beautiful sight, however, that means that there’s too much light to see Northern Lights.

Being an already somewhat experienced Aurora photographer (I’ve been taking pictures of Northern Lights actively for the last 3 years), I know when to expect them again. Here, at the Arctic Circle, it is the middle of August when seeing them becomes possible. My first attempt of the season to chase Auroras, however, taken on August the 14th, does not produce a result. Late summer night is nevertheless beautiful on its own. At this point of the year it is still not totally dark at night yet. The cast of the sunset, slowly merging into sunrise, can be still seen above the horizon for the whole 4 or 5 hours of a relatively short night. It is also a time when you can see beautiful Noctilucent Clouds – a formation of water ice very high in the atmosphere, not seen during daytime.

Autumn Night in Rovaniemi

Night in Autumn is beautiful in Rovaniemi – Noctilucent Clouds. Photo by Alexander Kuznetsov / Hello Lapland.

However, the very next night the magic happens! Aurora catch me by surprise, while I am still home. I quickly take my camera out and see this:

First Auroras of August 2015 in Rovaniemi

First Northern Lights of the season taken on August the 15h 2015. Photo by Alexander Kuznetsov / Hello Lapland.

Equipped with my gear, I rush into the night, but Aurora is gone already. After a couple of hours of waiting I am granted with another sight of the Lights, but it is far from what I saw from the porch of my home. Still, it is my earliest start of Aurora Season yet, August the 15th 2015.

Next night produces another sighting. The light of Aurora is strong enough to overpower the city lights and I manage to capture this image almost in the center of Rovaniemi, not far from the Arktikum museum.

Aurora Borealis over Rovaniemi

Amazing Aurora Borealis, taken over Arktikum museum in Rovaniemi Lapland Finland. Picture by Alexander Kuznetsov / Hello Lapland.

I spend several more nights out and after many hours of wait I nevertheless manage to have a small peek of Auroras. They are not very powerful, but it makes up a good pattern – five consecutive nights and five Aurora sightings!

Aurora Borealis over Kemijoki river in Rovaniemi

Northern lights during an Autumn Night in Rovaniemi Lapland Finland. Photo by Alexander Kuznetsov / Hello Lapland.

Then come several days of rain and thick clouds – the possibility to see Northern Lights through them is slim. On one cloudy night in the end of August 2015 I find out that there is a Magnetic Storm going on and decide to take my chances. I climb up to one of the highest and picturesque points of Rovaniemi – the Ounasvaara fell – and get my equipment in place. Surprisingly, I am not alone. Most of the times when I am out taking photos there’s no one in sight. On this particular night there are several Aurora watchers besides me. I note that I might have made this place familiar through my work :)

Aurora Borealis in Rovaniemi, Ounasvaara

The strongest Auroras of Autumn, taken over Ounasvaara Fell in Rovaniemi, Lapland. Photo by Alexander Kuznetsov / Hello Lapland.

In just 10 minutes after I get here the lights are out and I capture the above picture! There are still lots of clouds, but we are lucky enough to see them through a small gap! Then, the clouds roll in again and tonight’s Auroras ends here.

Aurora Storm in Rovaniemi Lapland

Aurora Borealis over Rovaniemi Lapland Finland in Autumn 2015. Photo by Alexander Kuznetsov / Hello Lapland.

The chase, however, has been successful and the season has started!

Stay tuned for more Aurora Chaser posts on this blog!

Author: Alexander Kuznetsov

I am an Editor-in-Chief of "All About Lapland" travel magazine, passionate Aurora Chaser, and an adventurous photographer. Based in Rovaniemi, Lapland, Finland but travel all around the region.

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8 Comments

  1. Hi Alex

    So happy to have found your site! I’m in Rovaniemi now and have caught the Aurora on 22nd Dec. It is a dream come true for me! However, on that occasion, I didn’t get my camera settings right and took very poor pictures of the aurora. Since that day, I’ve been looking at various sites to enhance my chances if seeing the aurora again (like weather, cloudiness, the kp level etc.) It seems like tonight (26 Dec) might be another chance as it’s clear 11pm onwards.

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  2. I am from Hong Kong, My family and I will have a vacation in Finland in coming August. Struggling if I should have a visit to Rovaniemi, my only reason to go there is to grasp a chance to see the northern lights, but I have to leave by 18th August; I think to myself, no total darkness in mid-August, my chance to see northern would be very low. Thank you for your sharing to let me know viewing northern lights in mid-August is possible. : )

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    • Hello! The 18th of August is a bit too early. It is not impossible, but a bit too early to have good chances. Sometimes we can see first auroras in Mid-August, but not nearly always.

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      • Hi, we had come back to Hong Kong from Finland for 2 weeks already. So Glad to tell you that we witnessed Aurora on 18/8, at about 1:20 am, lasted for 20 minutes, location at Lapland Hotels Ounasvaara Chalets. Feel so amazing, we are so blessed to see Aurora!!

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  3. Hi Alex

    We have just got back from Iceland on a trip to see the northern lights but sadly to no avail. We are now planning another trip to try again to see the lights next year and have been looking at Rovaniemi. I know you can’t guarantee a sighting but in your experience which would be the best month to come and how many days would you recommend?
    Thanks
    Carolyn UK

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    • Hello Carolyn! That would be September, a few weeks before Autumn equinox and after. Also the Spring equinox in March. Hope you get lucky :)

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      • Thanks so much will bare this in mind when planning our next holiday.

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