27 Mar 2014

Iceland 2014 - Day 4b: The Northern Lights, Finally

The forecast for both the weather and the aurora borealis was good, and I headed out with high expectations at 10pm. I had decided to return the place I'd been just before sunset - on the ridge of moraine at the southern end of Jökulsárlón lagoon. I pulled into the parking area at the same time that a coach arrived. This wasn't quite what I expected. I'd thought that there might be a few 4WD like mine, and expected it to be busy, but a coach-load of squawking Japanese tourists wasn't what I'd had in mind (they could have been South Korean, I suppose).

I made my way through the throngs of people along the ridge to a more isolated spot and took a few test shots. There was a vague glow in the sky, imperceptible to the naked eye. I then wandered down the steep slope to the beach and set myself down there. Two others had passed me on the ridge and were further along the beach - the light of their camera was captured in my shots of the lake-shore. The skies were beginning to look a little lighter - there was a vague glow just above the mountains; it could have been cloud. The long exposure shots eventually showed me that it was indeed northern lights. They were beginning.

The first lights looked almost like a rainbow, with green below and a belt of pink sky beneath it. It still wasn't very visible without the camera. The Japanese were making an absolute racket up on the hill, which wasn't conducive to the potentially exciting experience I was about to enjoy. One woman in particular kept gasping. Within about 15 minutes the real light show began, greeted with more whoops and squawks. I lay back and looked up at the sky, as strange lines of light reached down towards me. It was almost spiritual, and I was now able to laugh at the annoying chorus accompanying it. Here's some of what I saw - obviously to the naked eye it was nowhere near as spectacular as this, but still pretty impressive to witness.

After about an hour there I tore myself away, deciding that I must give the beach a try. I knew it would be a bit dangerous to get too close to the waves, so I just sat a bit further back away from the shore, so I didn't risk getting wet. As the lights weren't visible to the south (the direction of the beach) I had to face east to get shots of the beach at the river end with skies lit above, or take shots back up the beach towards the lagoon. It wasn't ideal, and I struggled to focus in the darkness, but I managed a few shots while the lights overhead entertained me.

I finally got home at 1am, utterly exhausted from the packed day's photography; the lights were still visible in Hali, in spite of the lights from the buildings. I attempted to review the photos I'd just taken but sleep got the better of me. With rain forecast from the early hours I knew a lie-in was in order to recover!

Click here for Day 4a blog
Click here for Day 5 blog

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