The Northern Lights, also known as the Aurora Borealis, are the most enchanting natural phenomenon one can experience in the Arctic Region. Witnessing this otherworldly display of colour and light is on many people's bucket list and it’s easy to see why. The breathtaking appearance of the Aurora Borealis in the night sky makes for a truly magical and cherished moment.
Experiencing the Northern Lights in Lapland can leave you lost for words, as it invites you to pause and embrace the natural spectacle with all your senses. For those equipped with the right camera gear and skills, there's a fantastic chance to capture the sought-after photographs that lure travelers from across the globe.
Experiencing the Northern lights for the very first time could be your bucket list moment. However, even after you've ticked that box on your list each night during your trip to Lapland could have something new and exciting to offer. By understanding local factors and space weather, you can increase your chances of encountering a mesmerizing Northern Lights show at the right place and time.
Journeying into the far North to witness the Northern Lights can be a once-in-a-lifetime trip and Lapland provides the perfect setting to capture the beauty of this celestial wonder. The Northern lights are typically visible between 60 and 75 degrees of latitude, so destinations like Rovaniemi and Levi offer you an ideal vantage point, as they place you above 66 degrees of latitude. These latitudes also offer you another bucket-list-worthy experience: travelling Beyond the Arctic Circle, which happens to align with the city of Rovaniemi.
While some travellers travel great distances to view the Northern Lights, the origin of this mystical phenomenon lies even farther away. It all begins with the Sun, where various processes release charged particles into space. These particles hurtle towards the Earth and begin to interact with its magnetic field and atmosphere. As the particles collide with specific atmospheric atoms and molecules, the captivating Northern Lights emerge. Each photograph taken captures the culmination of these particles' long journey from the Sun.
The Northern Lights season spans from late August to the first half of April, providing approximately two hundred nights of opportunity to experience this awe-inspiring phenomenon in Finnish Lapland. There is a persistent claim that mid-winter is the best time to witness the Northern Lights, but the most active seasons are in fact autumn and spring. During these time periods, the Earth's orientation towards the Sun makes it easier for the particles from the Sun to enter our atmosphere.
Regardless of when you plan your visit during the Aurora season, there are excellent chances to see the Northern Lights. The primary factor influencing this natural display is the activity of the Sun, which follows an eleven-year cycle known as the solar cycle. The higher the activity in the Sun, the more changes to see the Northern Lights. Currently, we are transitioning from the solar minimum years of 2018-2020 to the solar maximum, predicted to peak in the next one to three years. The season of 2022-2023 saw numerous strong Northern Lights shows, which some might even describe as "crazy." As we approach the solar maximum, there are hopeful expectations that we will witness even more of these fantastic geomagnetic storms.
The Northern Lights and their origins have been the root of many fascinating myths and stories that continue to hold cultural significance to this date. In modern times, scientific research has led to a global increase in knowledge about this captivating natural wonder. As our Sun is the only source of solar wind, which hurls into space and can pass Earth, keeping an eye on it's surface is very important. Scientists continuously observe the Sun's surface, collecting various types of data through images and other methods.
There are several interesting sources that can potentially increase solar wind speed and particle density:
Sunspots are cooler and darker areas on the surface of the Sun. They are caused by complex internal magnetic fields that interrupt the flow of plasma to the surface, allowing it to cool down. These complex magentic fields can stretch outside of the surface and collapse explosively resulting in Solar Flares.
Solar flares are sudden and intense bursts of energy, radiation and plasma that are released from the surface of the Sun. When part of a Solar Flare breaks free from the sun and starts travelling through space it's called a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME). When a CME is directed towards Earth it is time to pay attention as the solar wind will get a boost. When a CME arrives there is an increased opportunity to see Northern Lights, even at lower latitudes.
Coronal holes are cooler and less dense regions in the Sun's corona. Within these holes, magnetic field lines are open, allowing a high-speed stream of solar wind to be released.
For those seeking to predict and witness the perfect moment to view the Northern Lights, valuable tools are at your disposal. One such tool is the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) satellite, launched into space in February 2015 and operated to this day by NASA. DSCOVR continuously monitors real-time solar wind, providing alerts and warnings of strong particle storms.
Positioned strategically in space, the satellite can issue warnings typically 15-60 minutes before the particles reach Earth. These alerts not only benefit Northern Lights enthusiasts, but also play a vital role in ensuring the security of critical infrastructure, including aviation, power grids, and GPS services.
If you're eager to forecast the Northern Lights based on the DSCOVR solar wind information, there are a few key values worth studying and understanding.
Solar wind refers to charged particles emitted by the sun, traveling through space towards Earth. Higher solar wind speed often correlates with increased Northern Lights activity, making the lights more likely to appear in the sky and adding to the vibrancy of the show.
Solar wind density indicates the number of particles traveling in the solar wind. More particles heading towards Earth can enhance both the likelihood and brightness of the Aurora.
Tracking the orientation of the Interplanetary Magnetic Field (IMF) is crucial. The Bz value reveals the solar wind's magnetic orientation in relation to Earths own North-South axis (direction of Earth's magnetic field). When Bz is oriented southward (a minus value), solar wind particles efficiently enter Earth's atmosphere, setting the stage for impressive Northern Lights displays. Conversely, a northward orientation (a plus value) acts as a protective shield, reducing the likelihood of the Aurora's appearance.
Many times you will hear about the Kp-index. This index is gives you a multi-day estimate of the expected global magnetic disturbance caused by the solar wind. It is by no means an accurate indicator on what to expect when you are looking for the Northern Lights, especially when you are within the Arctic Circle.
Studying and understanding the science behind the Northern lights is very exciting, but it can also be a lot to digest. There is such a multitude of variants and factors to consider and applying them into real-life scenarios can be both very rewarding and challenging. When joining the adventure with team Beyond Arctic you can be certain that you will be surrounded by professionals in this area. Not only are we very invested in the science and forecasting of Northern Lights, but we are also very passionate about sharing our knowledge in an approachable way with our guests. It is our genuine curiosity and dedication to learn more about this wonderful natural phenomenon of the Arctic that pushes us to continually deepen our understanding, hence we guarantee that our knowledge is always at the forefront of the field.
At Team Beyond Arctic, we actively follow news and updates from various sources making sure we are always well-informed of the current and future space weather events. This means that every time something significant is about to happen, we’ve already planned and prepared for it in advance. We take pride in giving our very best to make sure our guests will witness the most majestic moments Mother Nature has to offer. The season 2022-2023 already witnessed many significant space weather events resulting into truly awe-inspiring Northern lights displays. However, we are expecting even more for the next seasons to come as the predicted solar maximum is getting closer bringing along more chances for intense appearances of the wondrous Aurora Borealis.
NORTHERN LIGHTS HUNTING - YOUR LOCAL AURORA HUNTER
Once you've arrived at your chosen location in Lapland, there are still some essential considerations to make in order to maximise your chances of witnessing the Northern Lights. For example, light pollution from towns could prevent you from seeing the Northern Lights even if you're at the correct latitudes for viewing them. Another crucial factor is the local weather, particularly the presence of clouds.
To experience the Northern Lights, it's vital to venture away from light-polluted areas into darker locations. The rule of thumb is the more remote you go, the better the viewing. You also want to make sure the location has an unobstructed view to the Northern sky where the Aurora Borealis usually appear. It is also essential to understand local conditions and weather forecasts, especially if you’re hit by cloudy weather. Knowing the most favourable direction to head for the clearest skies is of paramount importance.
When joining the Northern Lights hunting tours with Beyond Arctic you are guaranteed to have expertise on your side. Beyond Arctic is the original pioneer in the field of Northern Lights hunting in Finnish Lapland. We have been exploring Lapland with people all around the world and remain the go-to operator for many returning travellers. By choosing Beyond Arctic, you're joining the team with the most experience in the area.
Our local expert team at Beyond Arctic has decades of combined experience exploring the region. To ensure the success of our Northern Lights tours, we plan and prepare our exclusive tours meticulously. This dedication is evident in the quality of our tours. We always go the extra mile - or drive dozens of extra miles - if that is what it takes to find the perfect spot to view the Northern Lights.
Throughout the day, we do research and plan the most optimal locations for the tours of the night. Our tours start in the city center of Rovaniemi, where we prepare all the necessary equipment before heading out. Our tours are scheduled so that we are out on the field when the timing for the Aurora is optimal, and the sky is dark enough.
The Aurora hunt usually takes us to 2-3 different locations. The first stop may be close to the city, yet away from light pollution, and we often witness the Northern Lights right away! The first stop is also an excellent opportunity to set up cameras correctly to capture perfect pictures. For the camera setup we will help you with all the knowledge we have. We are professional photographers and will also take pictures of you and for you with professional camera gear.
We travel in a comfortable and safe minivan, accommodating a maximum of 8 persons. The van is equipped with all necessary safety gear and some firewood. Depending on the weather, we prioritise using our private locations, built in various directions. These exclusive private locations offer good shelter, a fireplace to keep you warm, and the chance to prepare snacks on an open fire. Since our main goal is finding clear skies for a chance of seeing the Northern Lights, if clouds hinder our private locations, we'll change direction accordingly, even if it means sacrificing some comfort.
Every Northern Lights hunting tour with Beyond Arctic is unique, exploring different areas of Finnish Lapland. Some nights, the sky is clear everywhere, making the hunt for clear skies easy. On such nights, we focus on enjoying the view from the best location. Other nights may have cloudy local forecasts, requiring us to utilize all our knowledge to hunt for the Northern Lights and clear skies. This might involve more driving and extend the tour duration, but the effort pays off when you finally get to view and photograph the Northern Lights.
PREPARATION FOR AURORA HUNTING
When setting out for Aurora Hunting, planning your route and direction is absolutely crucial for success. Furthermore, in Finnish Lapland the weather can be cold and unpredictable, making good preparation essential for an enjoyable experience. It's also worth noting that the Northern Lights are a natural phenomenon, so it is good to be prepared with patience and time.
Ensuring safety in the cold climate means wearing appropriate winter clothing for the temperature. If you plan to stay outdoors for an extended period, having extra layers to keep warm is wise. Out in the wilderness in Lapland, building a fire is another good solution for staying warm, whilst also providing a delightful opportunity to barbecue some snacks. Our vehicles are equipped with safety gear and firewood to handle any situation during the night. On our small-group tours, we provide light snacks to prepare on the open fire.
The safety and comfort of our guests are in the core of our activities throughout the tour. We understand that many guests travel from afar where winter clothing may not be necessary, so we offer high-quality winter clothing to keep everyone warm and comfortable during the extended outdoor hours. If you're interested in exploring Lapland on your own but lack the proper clothing, you can also rent a clothing set from us.
Every guest will receive an adventure backpack filled with essentials like a headlight, barbeque gear, and warm drinks. The backpack can also be used to carry personal items on the tour, ensuring everyone has a safe and enjoyable experience.
For photographers, choosing the right gear is crucial. A wide lens is recommended to capture a breathtaking sky filled with Northern Lights. It's also advisable to bring extra camera batteries, as cold temperatures can drain battery life quickly. A tripod is a must for improving stability and ensuring sharp night sky pictures. When wanting to take things still a step further, we can add a remote into the set too.
At Beyond Arctic, we are photography professionals and will assist you with all the settings, tips, and tricks to capture stunning Northern Lights photographs. You'll be offered a tripod free of charge to use on the tour. We've observed that smartphones can also capture impressive Northern Lights images, and we now provide tripods for smartphone use as well.
LOCAL WEATHER - LOCATION MATTERS
When your goal is to see Northern Lights, one of the most critical factors to consider is the local weather. Keeping a close eye on multiple weather forecasts can build a better overall understanding of what to expect in the coming days. In Finnish Lapland, weather predictions can change frequently, shifting from a fully cloudy outlook to a suddenly clear night, or vice versa.
Getting accustomed to weather patterns and interpreting available data takes time and experience. Some nights, one forecasting service might prove more accurate than others, and conflicting forecasts from various sources can occur. Nevertheless, at Beyond Arctic we strive to make the optimal decisions by consulting multiple sources and relying on our strong experience and expertise.
Due to the weather's somewhat challenging predictability in Lapland, we never finalise our decisions too early. Usually, we have a rough idea of where to head one day prior to the tour, but the final decision is made just before the tour starts. We discuss the possible options together in our team and take into account all possibilities. Last-minute changes might occur as we adapt to latest updates in the weather models.
Having explored Lapland for years, moving around the Arctic terrain is second nature to us. The region boasts excellent road connections, but we carefully consider each route's unique factors, ensuring safety and accessibility. All our chosen locations offer fantastic Northern Lights viewing opportunities. The combined knowledge of Team Beyond Arctic grants access in all directions and guarantees that each of our tours will take you to a location with high potential for witnessing the Northern Lights.
To enhance our Northern Lights hunting, Beyond Arctic has built a vast network of private locations over the past seven years. We now have dozens of private locations and a further hundred-odd other options to choose from whenever the hunt for the Aurora is on. Our private locations offer fantastic views and are prioritised whenever possible. Using these private spots ensures no other people are present allowing you to enjoy an exclusive Northern Lights experience.
We also have the advantage of a network of live cameras in various locations. This helps tremendously when finalising our plans for a given night. Observing the real-time sky situation helps us fine-tune plans, and adjustments may occur during the tours. The team actively monitor weather conditions and swiftly share any updates. Beyond Arctic's Northern Lights hunting tours strive to be as exclusive as possible, with a maximum of 8 participants on each small-group tour. Sometimes, during the hunt, if one location appears especially favourable, we might bring Northern Lights hunting groups together for a fair and optimal experience for all participants.
Cameras are the perfect companions for a Northern Lights tour, offering a unique advantage as a hunting tool. When utilising exposure techniques, cameras can capture more than the human eye, revealing valuable information about the night sky even if the Northern Lights aren't immediately visible. By pointing the camera north and using long exposures, you might spot the Northern Lights forming in advance, preparing you for a stunning show. The camera's versatility allows it to capture the lights regardless of whether they appear faint to the naked eye or dance vividly before your eyes, thus ensuring you won't miss any magical moments.
For DSLR cameras, some key settings to consider include using a wide focal lens of 35mm or shorter to encompass more of the Northern Lights in your frame. Faster lenses with an aperture of f/4.0 or below are recommended. Manual mode and manual focus are ideal settings for precise control, focusing at infinity or, ideally, on the stars. Checking focus regularly by zooming into the pictures helps prevent blurry shots.
Start with exposures between 5-15 seconds and use the smallest f-value possible (e.g., f/1.8). Adjusting the ISO setting can enhance light in the picture, but may also add some grain. Experiment with ISO values around 1600 to 3200, depending on your camera's capabilities. Combine these settings to achieve the ideal exposure triangle. Employ a 2-second self-timer to avoid camera shake when pressing the shutter button. Lastly, mount the camera on a tripod, a vital accessory for long exposure photography.
Discover the Northern Lights photography tour focuses on combining Northern Lights hunting with photography. Led by professional photographers, our tours guarantee exceptional pictures. Your photographer-guide will capture moments throughout the tour. If you are looking for the perfect portrait of you and Northern Lights in the background just mention this to your photographer-guide and prepare to pose for the once in a lifetime picture.
On our tours you’ll learn valuable photography skills, applicable to capturing captivating images in dark settings for various subjects. Photographing the Milky Way differs from capturing the Northern Lights, just as taking a portrait is different from capturing landscapes. Our Beyond Arctic photographer-guide will guide you through these nuances, providing valuable expertise. Ultimately, the goal is that you will be able to take your own wonderful pictures of the Aurora Borealis.
We specialize in creating stunning portraits against the backdrop of the Northern Lights, making the tour a cherished memories for all. For those seeking an even more personalized experience, we offer private tours tailored to your preferences, perfect for romantic proposals or special celebrations.
Ensuring quality is our priority. Each photograph is meticulously edited, and you'll receive only the best images without watermarks, delivered via email within three to seven days. Your high-quality pictures are free of charge and will serve as lasting reminders of your unforgettable Northern Lights experience.