Norway’s Lofoten islands, some 200km above the Arctic Circle and famed for their cod fishing as well as their phenomenal tidal currents (among the most powerful anywhere in the world, they inspired the writings of Edgar Allen Poe and Jules Verne), are perhaps the most beautiful landscape I have ever seen. Great big spiky mountains bristle above steep-sided, silent fjords, and the coastline is studded with huge arcs of fine, pale sand, as though you’ve stumbled into some jaw-droppingly beautiful Arctic Hawaii. The Lofotens are also an astonishingly good place to see, and photograph, the Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis.
Shooting the Northern Lights tends to involve trying to find an acceptable balance between a high ISO value which won’t lose the stars in noise, and an exposure time which isn’t so long that the stars show movement. With a D700, that balance usually turned out to be around ISO 1600 and a 4 second exposure for me, or something similar (shooting the Northern Lights with a D810 would doubtless allow a higher ISO setting). It also tends to be about carrying suitably solid support. This image was shot using a stripped down (and weighted down) Gitzo Series 2 tripod with an Acratech ballhead – which most Norwegian landscape photographers I know would say is woefully insufficient (Sachtler tripods generally being their weapon of choice), and I’d tend to agree with them but for travel photography it often ends up being a compromise between weight and stability.
Despite trying shooting from several locations on the Lofotens with minimal light pollution, the best for the Northern Lights always seems to be this one – which is actually the terrace outside the rorbu (old fisherman’s cottage) where I stayed, near Reine on the island of Moskenesøya. So instead of chasing the Aurora through the night or waiting it out on a remote beach in biting subzero temperatures, all I actually had to do was look out the window and pop out the front door whenever the sky looked promising!
Technical details: Nikon D700 with Nikkor 14-24/2.8 @15mm, ISO 1600, 4 seconds @f/2.8, Gitzo tripod with Acratech head. And luck.
Merry Christmas to all EPUKers.
See more work by Rudolf Abraham