What to expect on your Northern Lights hunt?

11 Aug 2020

Chiara

Chiara

The photographs on the internet always look amazing, but what can you really expect to see on your Northern Lights Tour?

Seeing the Northern Lights is a dream for many people and it is always an unforgettable experience. Even for me, having been a Northern Lights guide for almost 4 years, I can tell you they never get boring and always surprise me night after night! 

 

However, they may not look exactly the way you might expect them to look. On photos they always look much greener than in real life and, of course, great photographers and photoshop help these photographs look even more impressive. 
 
Look at these two photos, comparing what our human eye would see (left) and how the same sky will look like later on your camera (right): 
 
 

The KP index, which is often referenced when measuring the level of the Northern Lights activity can be problematic. Even if it does not give us a reliable forecast it is a great way to talk about the Northern Lights after we have seen them, and judge how good of a show it was. In Iceland our KP index is normally somewhere between two and three. 

 

Here are some examples of how the different KP levels can look:

This is a KP 0 or 1. You can probably see the lower greenish line right over the mountain, but did you also see the second, even weaker line pretty much in the middle of the picture?

KP 1-2

Again, this looks much more vibrant through the camera then it would look in real life.

 

In my four years of guiding and witnessing the Northern Lights many times, I’ve only experienced a KP 7 three times, so this is extremely rare. But even a KP 1 is beautiful and absolutely worth seeing! The pictures above were all taken by myself on our Northern Lights Tours. 

 

You might be disappointed to hear that they will never look as green with your own eyes as they do in the photos. This is simply due to the fact that the photo has a long exposure - even up to 30 seconds - compared to the human eye which basically does a kind of ‘live view’. But something that no camera can capture for you is how they change and develop throughout a night. They are not a steady thing, they can change and grow and move throughout the evening, it almost feels like they are alive and you are watching an animal behave or something like that. And this is the real beauty of seeing the Northern Lights! 

 

They might start off on a KP 0 and develop to a KP 4, they might disappear in between, they might even give us a dance! I never get bored of them and you never know what to expect, and what will happen next. This makes the Northern Lights hunt an unforgettable experience that you just have to witness with your own eyes! For those who wish to capture that awe-inspiring photo then we recommend taking a Northern Lights Photography tour where you will receive professional guidance in capturing this truly phenonemnal natural wonder.


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