Thinking of taking a trip to see the Northern Lights? I headed into the wilderness from Yellowknife, CA to see the Aurora Borealis up close and I have a few tips to share…
You are never too young to make a bucket list, and for most of my life the very top of my list was to see the Northern Lights. Seeing pictures of the coloured night sky always made me so envious of people who get to experience this awesome phenomenon. Being from Australia, the biggest hurdle for me to see them was the journey to the top end of the earth from the bottom of it! But a few years back I said “what the hell” and made my way over there. The trip sure was an interesting one, but looking back there are some things I did well and other things I regret. So if you are thinking of travelling to see the Northern Lights, let me offer you some tips to get the most out of your journey!
Before I got there
First things first – I researched the best time of year to go, the best place to go and the best company to go with. I chose Yellowknife in Canada as they stated that there was a 95% change of seeing the Northern Lights on a 3-night visit – a promise they lived up to for me!
I also researched like crazy on how to take pictures of the Northern Lights. I read blogs, professional websites and bought a book on the subject. I wanted to be prepared and try to capture the experience as best I could. All the guides talk about how difficult it is to be a successful photographer in these freezing conditions, but I thought to myself “how hard can this be”… well, I sure found that out the hard way!
Getting there – Yellowknife, CA
Before I ventured out to Yellowknife I spent a week snowboarding in Banff. This made my travel to Yellowknife a breeze as there are direct flights from Calgary. Once in Yellowknife getting around is easy as it’s a very small place. But what I wasn’t ready for – getting off the plane to -33. WOW! For someone from Queensland in Australia who is used to heat 90% of the year, it hits you like something I won’t even attempt to explain. Whilst you can rent extra cold weather gear from the viewing company, be prepared for the initial part of your arrival before you get to your room. But rest assured – once you get the clothes from the tour company, you are then covered from head to toe which will keep you as toasty as you can be in sub-zero temperatures (and makes for a great selfie).
Northern Lights Viewings
I went through a company known as Aurora Village who bus you out of Yellowknife to the middle of nowhere, where apart from the lights of the TeePee’s they have, there is no light pollution at all. These are perfect conditions for viewing the Aurora. I remember hoping off the bus, looking up, and instantly seeing it. It is something I will never forget. The Aurora Village was amazing and was set around a lake (which was frozen at this time). The village is a series of TeePee’s that have fireplaces in them for you to warm up when you no longer can handle the -40 outside. I went for 3 nights, and nights 1 and 2 were perfect. No clouds in the sky and the Aurora was out in all of its glory. Night 3 was cloudy and so the night was a complete waste, but 2 out of 3 nights were sensational.
1 – Practice your photography before you go because in -40 in pitch black darkness, it is really hard to adjust your settings and know if you are doing it right.
2 – Take a good magnifying glass in your tool kit – you can’t see the minor details of the blur on your cameras small screen with your naked eye.
3 – Be ready to be blown away by what your camera can see that you can’t. On night one all of my pictures had amazing reds in them, but with the naked eye I couldn’t see them. So with every picture I took, i was amazed at what was going on in the sky.
4 – Biggest lesson to learn – Review your pictures!!! I can’t stress this point enough!! As you can see from my pictures, all but one are blurry. This devastated me as I didn’t check my pictures the next day due to being awake all night and sleeping all day, I woke up the next day ready to go again. If I had checked my night one pictures on my computer I would of seen the imperfections and had a chance to correct them. Instead I have 300 pictures that are blurry, and for some reason one picture that is perfect (the very first in this post).
have you seen the Northern lights before?
About the Author
Adam is my partner in life and crime as well as Be Forever Healthier’s resident tech fixer-upperer and chief taste-tester! When he isn’t helping me figure out how to insert line breaks on Instagram or laughing at my jokes (ok maybe not that last part), you’d most likely find him working too hard at his real job as a CIO. His travel wish list is a mile long but he hopes to knock off the seven wonders of the world in the next few years and loves to share his travel experiences with others.