Seeing the Aurora Borealis has been on my bucket list since I was old enough to understand that I needed a bucket list because I wasn’t going to live forever. I came to this realization at around 10 years old when my pet mouse committed murder-suicide.
The Aurora Borealis always seemed like such a mystical phenomenon that only happened in faraway lands and I knew if I was ever able to see them, I would be experiencing adventure, learning about the world and generally living life the right way.
In 2012, I spent approximately 2-3 weeks in Scandinavia with my sister and hoped we would be lucky enough to see them then. Locals talked about them as if they were as common and frequent as snow in the winter or Miley Cyrus getting naked on TV. So our hopes were high.
Unfortunately, those darned Northern Lights seemed to evade us every night we tilted our heads skyward, and only came out the moment we fell asleep.
Never mind, I thought. Just one more reason to come back to Europe.
My second chance at seeing the Aurora Borealis came when I moved to Reykjavik in August 2014. As the northern-most capital of the world, I knew my chances of seeing the lights at some stage during my five month stay was guaranteed as long as I could avoid living in cave or something.
I had been in Iceland for 4 weeks, so when a day came with clear blue skies, I knew it might be the last cloudless day we saw for a long time. It was on Thursday, even though the Aurora Borealis forecast dictated a 1 out of 9 (minimal activity), a few friends and I decided to take the chance. The Northern Lights are usually much more visible and active during the darker, colder months but regardless it was a nice night for a walk.
We walked for a long time along the water from Reykjavik harbour to Seltjarnarnes, where the absence of city lights allowed enough darkness for the Northern Lights to be visible. The moon hung low over the water and was more gold than it’s usual silver. I decided to start by taking a photo of it and began to set up my tripod with already freezing hands. As I was fumbling in the darkness, Berta and Alex saw pale green streak the sky. It was so faint at first that I didn’t believe we were actually seeing it. I had wanted to see these lights for so long that I wouldn’t believe I would suddenly see them so easily. When the green light moved again and grew more vibrant, I actually thought for a moment it was more likely a UFO. We watched for a moment in an awed silence. And that’s when the squealing started. My squealing at least.
I have little experience with night photography and none of the Aurora Borealis but I managed to finish setting up my camera and snapping away. With only 1 suitable lens and a tabletop tripod, the photos are far from perfect. But the hours we sat on the cold hard rocks, watching light dance in the sky and be mirrored in the reflective ocean below were some of the most perfect hours of my life. If these lights were only 1 out of 9, I can’t wait to witness and photograph even a 3/9. With hot chocolate and blankets next time.
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