Hi. I’m Lars. I was born in 1975, in the most northerly city in the world – Hammerfest in Norway. Now I live in Tromsø, just 344 km south of the Arctic Circle. Tromsø is a wonderful gateway to discover Norway’s rugged nature. During the day, I work in a shop that sells outdoor clothing, and then afterwards or at the weekends I use every spare minute to take photographs, go hiking, skiing or fishing. Actually, I enjoy everything that there is to do in the untouched, harsh nature of the north. The best and most impressive thing of all though, are the Northern Lights. My passion is to “hunt” them, experience them and photograph them.
A wonderful diva
Going hunting always means excitement, palpitations and the uncertainty of whether you will be successful or not. Hunting Northern Lights has something else in store: a magical, almost supernatural feel, a childish joy, and a sort of connection to the cosmos. The Northern Lights never lose their fascination. There is a physical explanation as to how Northern Lights arise. In simple terms, they are the result of the interaction between the sun, the Earth’s magnetic field and the atmosphere. They are most often seen between September and March in our Northern hemisphere . Nevertheless, even if the weather forecast is really good and the skies are clear, you still have to be lucky and patient:
No one can guarantee that you’ll be able to see the aurora on a particular night! That’s just part of their fascination. Aurora Borealis is a diva that shows up when she wants.
The middle of March 2016 was a special day – I went back out with Kjell Skogli to search for auroras. Kjell is one of the most famous aurora hunters in Norway. He undertakes scientific research of the Northern Lights as well as being a guide for visitors and organised tours. This particular night, he had a research contract and I was to take photographs. The plan was to spend a night under the open sky, in the Norwegian outback. Even if the temperatures are the complete opposite, the Australian word “outback” – an almost deserted inland – works pretty well for what you can feel in this part of Norway: the overwhelming, unique presence of nature.
09/03/2016, 16:45, Tverrfjellet, Kvaløya, Troms, 10 km Wind, -6°C
Kvaløya and Storstolpan
The Northern Lights are mainly visible in the Arctic regions of the Northern and Southern hemispheres. In the Northern hemisphere, they are called Northern Lights, or their scientific name Aurora Borealis, and in the Southern hemisphere, Southern Lights, or Aurora Australis. The Northern Lights can mainly be seen in late autumn, early winter and in spring when the air is not too cold and the nights are dark enough. Auroras are usually neon green, but can also be red, pink, white, or multicoloured.
Wrapped up with lots of layers of clothing, we set off. We’ve got our tent, camera equipment, hot drinks and GPS. We drive the SUV from Tromsø towards Kvaløya. The weather is divine. A fresh layer of soft and powdery snow covers the ground at -6 degrees. There isn’t a cloud in the sky – the conditions are perfect. Today could be the day!
It’s a privilege to be able to go with Kjell. He doesn’t speak much, but what he does say, not only makes sense, but is also so knowledgeable that I can still benefit from it. There’s hardly anyone else who knows so much about what happens up there in the universe.
The journey doesn’t take long. Essentially, we only need to go as far away from Tromsø so that the city lights don’t light up the sky. We stop in the middle of nowhere and climb up to the two small summits that give a bigger and open view of the landscape. Whilst we pitch the tent, the show begins. I really can’t put it any other way. It was the most spectacular night that I have ever experienced!
If the aurora doesn’t come to you, then you have to go to the aurora.
Heading towards seclusion
The Northern Lights shoot, drop and flicker in all directions as if they were in a huge cinema dome. The colours oscillate at the same time – an effect that doesn’t always happen – but was something that made this night even more spectacular: there was neon green, dark green, shades of pink and a whitish light.
And amongst it all, the sun, the moon and the stars. There are no fireworks in the world that could match it.
Even Kjell is visibly excited and is constantly annoying me, asking whether I’m getting the best photographs. I’m constinuously changing lenses and perspectives. I know that I can get the best I possibly can with the camera. But there really is no photo or film on Earth that can do justice to this natural phenomenon. You HAVE to experience the aurora with your own eyes and feel how you can forget the cold and tiredness when you’re fascinated and happy. Yes – Northern Lights make you happy!
Norway is the most northerly state in Europe. It covers 385,199 km2, making Norway slightly bigger than Germany, but with just 5.2 million inhabitants, it is extremely sparsely populated. It has a length of 1,572 km and is therefore equal to the distance between the southern tip of Norway and Genoa, Italy. The Scandinavian mountain range separates the narrow strip of coastline with a relatively mild and humid climate from the continental climate in the east.
Camping here is always something special. It’s freezing, but wonderful.
The Northern Lights are at their best when you see them as far away from human settlements and roads as possible. Even the smallest reflections in the night sky can impair their beauty.
Kjell offers tours in such remote areas. There are two types of visitors: “repeat offenders” or people who just want to witness this spectacular event once in their life. Time and time again, visitors are being infected with Northern Light virus, making them return. I can completely understand why!
Through the wilderness of Norway
Whoever is looking for even more adventure, to hunt for the Northern Lights in the wilderness, or whoever loves deep and powdery snow and deserted slopes should come along. Ski tours take place at night, and so it’s worth taking a tent and basic supplies as well as wearing warm clothes.
Skiing when wearing a backpack is a lot different to hammering down the slopes for fun. In this instance, skiing is a means of transport and feels a bit like what people probably used skis for in olden days.
Fishing is a highlight of this tour: me and Kjell fish with a cord and simple bait in ice-cold water. Whoever loves raw fish will definitely get their money’s worth. But maybe it’s also the anticipation of the sky’s fireworks that appeals to us so much? Afterwards, its time to pitch the tent and to get ready for a new night. Back on the hunt for aurora!
03/04/2016, 11:28, Norway, Storstolpan, 10 km, -10°
Fresh, fresher, raw! You won’t get anything like it in a supermarket.