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
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.
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:
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.
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!
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
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.
The chase, however, has been successful and the season has started!
Stay tuned for more Aurora Chaser posts on this blog!