Lapland, home of Santa and reindeer and the northern lights. And after three years of living in Finland, we finally made it!
We left home on March 17 and took the overnight train to Rovaniemi. Incidentally, the 17th was the night the northern lights went crazy! My neighbors took photos from our backyard, they were even seen as far south as Helsinki! And I was stuck on a train. *eye roll*
The train ride was nice, the beds were actually pretty comfy. The cabin was tiny, of course, but what do you expect? We had a private bathroom with a shower, but there wasn’t any hot water, at least on our trip north. The train had a car carrier, so we were able to take our car with us. Load it up, sleep the night away, then drive the car off the train in the morning. It’s a pretty nice setup!
We arrived in Rovaniemi around 11am the next day, too early to check into our hotel. So we went for lunch, then checked out the Arktikum museum. The museum was…boring. Or I was tired. One of the two. Actually, the museum had some neat exhibits, and it would be a lot of fun with a kid around 7 years old. Note to self – take Baby J back when he’s older!
I braved the cold that first night and went out to a spot I had read about online, on the river by the museum. I set up the camera on the tripod and spent some time fiddling with the camera settings. Once I had the camera focused, I stood back and waited.
It was a mostly clear night, just some thin high clouds every once in a while. I was still close enough to the city to have quite a bit of light pollution, but I could still see the stars. I watched the thin clouds come and go for about an hour, then I saw one cloud that looked a bit…odd. And was that a hint of green? I took a picture, waited for the 30 second exposure, then checked the screen. I’ll be damned – that was it.
And this is where I want to address the issue. The Northern Lights, at least what I saw, despite the photo above, were not what I would call amazing. To the naked eye, they looked like exactly what I described earlier – light bouncing off high thin clouds. Yes, some of them had the minutist green tint to them, but for the most part, they just looked like clouds. The camera, with a longer exposure, is able to bring out the colors, and they are beautiful. But standing out there in the cold at midnight, I was quite disappointed. They didn’t dance across the sky like I had heard. I found a post by another blogger that talks about the color of the auroras, and the author does a good job at explaining the difference between what your eyes see and what the camera sees. I just wish I had read it prior to seeing it for myself – maybe then I wouldn’t have been disappointed!!
Regardless, I am glad I got the chance to see them and photograph them. I feel like I did fairly well with focusing in the dark, and with exposure, although they may be a bit overexposed. The pictures turned out amazing, even if the real time experience wasn’t as spectacular as I had hoped. 🙂
Stay tuned for Part II of our trip!