Like many people, seeing the Northern Lights had long been number 1 on my bucket list. I was very lucky at the beginning of this year to see the Aurora Borealis not once, but twice! The first time was on the 1st of January this year, just outside Reykjavík in Iceland. Not content with ticking off just one item, I combined two. I had always wanted to visit Iceland and on the 26th of December 2013, I set off with my husband and a few of our friends for a week long trip. It was a fantastic holiday. We laughed, explored and created memories that will stay with me forever. We rode Icelandic horses, nearly got blown into Kerið, sat in a hot tub in the snow, saw breathtaking sights like Gulfoss and Skógafoss and took in the New Year in Reykjavík. The Icelanders sure know how to party! One thing eluded us all week, though- the Northern Lights. We were prepared. We did our research and downloaded all the apps we could find. Our accommodation choices were made to maximise our chances of seeing them but it just wasn’t meant to be.
Then on New Year’s Eve, my friend Becy got talking to a lady from England. She said that the next night there was a good chance of seeing them. That’s when we made the best drunken decision we are ever likely to make. When we got back to our hostel at whatever o’clock we booked a Northern Light’s excursion. The next evening, I kept checking the aforementioned apps and it was looking promising! When we boarded the bus I tried my hardest to contain my excitement. Our tour guide ‘Hussy’ was a legend. He entertained us with his comical stories about how the Milky Way was created from a Goddess’ giant breasts and amid his jokes and humour was a lot of informative tales about the Aurora. It was not long before he started pointing out that he could see them. All I could see was a dark, greyish looking thing in the sky. I kept asking everyone if I was just missing the obvious but they couldn’t see ‘anything’ either. Hussy was in a hurry to get the bus off the road though and that man clearly knew his stuff. Literally, as soon as we stepped off the bus, green began to streak across the sky. I don’t think I have ever repeated the noises that escaped my mouth in the excitement of that moment.
Skip forward a month, and thanks to my preparation for seeing the Northern Lights in Iceland (read obsession) I had the chance to see them again on home turf. I just so happened to look at my phone before I got into bed on the night of the 27th February and I am so glad that I did. I saw that the forecast was so good that they might possibly be seen from Scotland. My gut feeling was that I should get in the car and head off to see if I could spot them. I think my husband thought I was a bit mental but bless him, he tends to go along with my craziness. Good job too. I told him to drive in random directions, trying to get a good view of this big grey thing I saw in the sky that I thought might be them (thanks, Hussy) . We ended up on a single-track road, somewhere near to Peat Inn, and pulled over. At this point, I don’t think Ross was too convinced. So I took out my camera, snapped a 30-sec exposure from the car. Sure enough, it showed up green. Cue excitement and a silly rush to set up our tripods in the dark. After much swearing and some help from Ross, I was ready. Green and red lit up the sky only for a few minutes but it was beautiful.
I hope to see them again and that next time I will be more prepared! I think that’s probably the number one tip people give when it comes to photographing the Northern Lights. I can see why if you want a well composed and interesting image. But I also think this way was an exciting and fun way to experience them too! Another item ticked off my bucket list.