THE 25 MOST AWE-INSPIRING NORTHERN LIGHTS PICTURES
Photographing the Northern Lights is always an unforgettable experience.
There aren’t too many things like witnessing the Aurora dance across the sky with your own eyes and capturing the amazing shapes and colors on your camera.
Aurora photography always feels like a reward; you need not only to know the best settings for Northern Lights photography and to have the proper gear, but also, some luck, since the “Green Lady” is unpredictable and elusive.
On top of that, inspiration is always essential. For this reason, we’ve gathered the best Northern Lights images of 2019, so you can visit some of the most fascinating places to see the Northern Lights on our planet and be inspired by some of the best landscape photographers in the world.
“The night we joined our dreams” – Marc Adamus
Earth, water, and sky: it was quite simple really, but still one of the most memorable nights of my life.
The ice was the most amazing thing you could imagine, truly a visual paradise. The clarity was stunning, and the ground above the ceiling of this crystalline underworld, which reflected all of the many lights above.
After taking several shots, with my buddy Rodrigo by my side, I did a little focus stacking to finish it off and get the entire foreground, which was about 5-10ft across, sharp. The Aurora, performing in a mosaic of shapes and colors, stayed in almost six hours, where I had anticipated it would be.
The camera picked up the light on the ice almost as if it were day. I could return here every year for a decade and I’d probably never see these conditions again.
“Otherworldly” – Paul Zizka
A nighttime ice climbing shot at the toe of the Athabasca Glacier is something two friends and very skilled climbers (Mike Stuart and Takeshi Tani) and I had planned for some time, but we were forced to postpone it several times.
Sometimes the road closed due to avalanche concerns. Other times, we were all ready to go, but the clouds rolled in.
When the conditions were finally right, I hoped for star-filled skies, but as we rolled out of Banff, the Aurora forecast called for a small chance of an Aurora display. The forecast came true as soon as we reached the ice: it wasn’t even dark yet, but the lights were already dancing overhead. We ran around like little kids, buzzing from the unique experience.
For hours, the camera revealed an incredible array of colours. On occasion, the Northern Lights even wandered towards the south, which is very rare at our latitude.
Many times, we go out there, put in the work, and come home tired with nothing to show for it. That’s how it goes with these types of images. If they were too easy to create, that would take away from the process for me.
I think everyone involved has learned to put the outdoor experience above all else, to prioritize the process over the results. That way, none of us ever come home disappointed, even if we don’t have any images we’re thrilled with. We’re all just happy to be out there, surrounded by snowy peaks and stars. If the images happen, they’re a rewarding by-product, but nothing more.
“Phonenix Rising” – Adrien Mauduit
On November 10th, 2018, the Aurora forecast wasn’t predicting very active auroral activity, and on top of it, there was an overcast weather forecast for Senja Island in Norway.
Right around 5 pm, however, Senja started to work its magic and it completely cleared up above the island. I decided to take a last-minute trip to the fjord. After a one-hour drive to the northern part of the island, I ended up in Mefjordvær, on top of a famous viewpoint overlooking the end of the fjord.
The auroral activity was very low and I was actually setting up a time-lapse for the Milky Way when, all of a sudden, an unexpected high-latitude substorm kicked in without warning and completely blew up the highlights on my Milky Way time-lapse!
I decided to stop it, reduce the exposure to 1 second (since the Aurora got extremely bright and fast) and point my camera towards the mountain ridge behind me.
Five minutes later, this band exploded back towards us into a very bright and colorful “corona”. When I checked my images after shooting, I just couldn’t believe what I had just captured: in one of the frames, the rapid movement froze into a giant phoenix seemingly rising up from the mountains. It’s definitely the wildest Aurora shape I have captured in my career so far.
The best displays are often the ones that are unpredictable.
“Angel Dust” – Joshua Snow
My first visit to Iceland was interesting and stressful, mostly since the Aurora made a vivid appearance almost every night. I spent a few days here, returning several times to the area to capture the incredible pattern in the snow and sand mixed by strong winds. That night, the Aurora appeared in a wide band across the sky like you see in the image. Later on, the pinks and purples came and went.
The Northern Lights can be tricky to capture. When they were moving quickly, I found that to capture the defined pillars and spikes within the bands, I needed to boost my ISO quite high (5-10k) and use fast shutter speeds (1/3-5 seconds) at ƒ/2.8. Other times they moved slowly enough that I could use much longer shutter speeds and use lower ISO’s.
A few minutes after capturing the series of images needed for this shot, I sat back to enjoy the show.
“Mixed Realities” – Catherine Simard
On my last trip to Gaspésie, I spent 18 days living out of my car and exploring the region where I live, which is something I’d never done before. I fell completely in love with Quebec.
On my last night in Percé, I saw a promising Northern Lights forecast and decided to give it a try. I shot the composition with the rock during the blue hour, and after that, I found a nice parking spot near the rock and did a time lapse for 3 hours with a 50mm f1.4. The lights were moving fast, so I brought my shutter speed down to 6 seconds and raised the ISO in an attempt to capture the details of the lights.
It was just amazing to be sitting there and experiencing the Northern Lights right from home. I should’ve taken that road trip many years ago- just a reminder that sometimes the most beautiful adventures are right in your backyard. It’s all about perspective.
“Heimdall’s Gaze” – Enrico Fossati
Even though I’m not exactly well-known for my night shots, shooting the Northern Lights is something I find truly exciting.
However, to reap the rewards, you need to put in some efforts, such as, for example, going outside and standing in the cold for a long time after a warm dinner while you wait for the “Green Lady”.
The above image was composed before the night even started. I suggest to everybody searching for a location suitable for shooting the Aurora before the night even begins; choosing the right composition in a totally dark environment is always challenging, even for expert photographers.
That day, I discovered a nice ice block with a hole in the middle, so I imagined the lights dancing through the hole. After a bit of patience, we had a pretty lucky night with a great green light show.
“SkocKrafoss” – antonio prado
This is one of my favorite photographs. It’s a focus stacking consisting of two shots: an image for the foreground focused on the ice cracks, and another for the background and the Northern Lights over Skogafoss.
With this photograph, I’ve tried to convey to the viewer the magic you experience every time you witness the Aurora Borealis. It’s also important to always add “an extra” to the image. I think an Aurora image is not necessarily a good photograph, so it’s always necessary to include more elements.
“Heavenly arc” – Nick Page
The night I shot this image, I was leading one of my Palouse workshops in southeast Washington state. I had already planned on taking my group out to do astrophotography because of the clear skies and new moon conditions, but while heading out to shoot I started getting Kp index notifications from my Aurora apps.
By the time we got to our shooting location, the Kp index was 7.7! I knew immediately the shot I really wanted to capture was a panorama, with the Milky Way leading into the aurora show that was unfolding in front of our eyes.
“Bubble Dreams” – William Preite
I took this picture on my first trip to the Lofoten Islands, at the end of February 2019. My friends and I were pretty lucky, since we enjoyed Aurora activity during most of the trip, as it reached Kp5 during some of the nights. After this experience, I would say that it’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever witnessed.
As our trip was coming to an end and we were driving back from the islands, we discovered this cool location: a perfect ice floor completely uncovered by snow.
I thought it was a perfect spot for shooting the Aurora, and when I was scouting for a composition and found these beautiful air bubbles trapped in time, I immediately fell in love with them!
“Too Perfect to Believe” – Stefan Forster
I think that what makes a good Northern Lights image is mainly a good foreground. That’s why I travel to Greenland during the fall season whenever I can.
There were many elements in this image that took years of perseverance for me to find them all together. This bay in Southern Greenland is usually very calm, but you also need a low tide, clear skies, and strong solar activity (Kp 4+) to see the Aurora travel towards the southern sky.
In 2010, there wasn’t enough solar activity. In 2011, there was no ice, and solar activity was low again. In 2012, there was a perfect Aurora but no ice. In 2013, there was a lot of ice but low solar activity. In 2014, there were the perfect ice conditions but no solar activity, and in 2015, all the best conditions finally occurred at the same time and I could take this image!
Since I’m a photographer who never does “blendings” or composites, it was very important for me to really witness this unique event.
“Aurora Dreams” – Autumn Schrock
Chasing the aurora can be quite an emotional experience. That night, the skies were completely overcast, and I didn’t have much hope that I would be able to see any aurora, even though the predictions were extremely high.
Sometimes holding onto just a sliver of hope can change everything. I glanced out the window one last time and couldn’t believe my eyes; the clouds were scattering and the Aurora was peeking through. I ran outside to this magical scene, which has now been ingrained as one of the most memorable nights of my life.
“Light Chimes” – Alyn Wallace
Living in Wales you have to be prepared for a lot of failures when hunting the Northern Lights.
Prior to this shot, I’d managed to capture some faint glows with the camera, but this night my perseverance finally paid off, with a display that was visible to the naked eye from a latitude of 51°N in the Brecon Beacons, Wales.
“Haukland Aurora” – Kai Hornung
It was the second time in my life that I got to see the Aurora. The night before, the day of my arrival in Lofoten, Norway, I saw a faint Aurora sitting in the sky. That was beautiful. But what happened that night at Haukland Beach moved me to tears.
My friends and I waited at the beach for about 4 hours, scouting compositions, chatting with each other, and trying to somehow stay warm on a freezing night of around -10 to -15 C.
All of a sudden, the faint light in the sky got brighter and started moving faster and faster. It was unlike anything I had ever seen; the moment the Lights literally exploded in the sky and danced all above me, I had tears of joy in my eyes.
I raised my arms shouting for joy and pressed the shutter of my camera. The Lights were so strong that I didn’t have any problems at all capturing the Aurora against a bright almost full moon.
“Solar storm” – Alessandro Cantarelli
This 180-degree panorama captured in Norway during a photo tour in the Lofoten Islands was taken on a magical night.
The Northern Lights started to “dance” in the early hours of the evening, and even though there was still a lot of light from the sunset, it was great to be able to take a single shot for the sky and the foreground without having underexposed or overexposed parts.
I took 4 vertical 12mm shots to capture the strong and amazing light.
“Lofoten Autumn Light” – Mikkel Beiter
The Aurora Borealis captured on a calm and clear autumn night on the great Lofoten archipelago in Norway.
I took a rather spontaneous trip to Lofoten for a few days to capture the changing of the seasons in this amazing area of Norway. I had the luck on my side because a G1 solar storm was predicted to hit the Earth during my time there, which would increase the Aurora Borealis activity.
During the day, I scouted this area while looking for potential night shots with the Aurora. When I went back during the evening, as I took out my equipment, the Lights started to show up in the sky. That was just the beginning of an incredible night, since the Aurora danced for more than 5 hours.
When shooting the Aurora, I usually take just one image, but in this case, I went low and close to the edge of the water to capture the beautiful autumn leaves, and I had to take 8 horizontal shots upwards to create the vertical panorama.
“Kirkjufell love” – Agnieszka Mrowka
Last September, I spent the last weekend of the month camping and shooting the Northern Lights across the Snaefellness peninsula in Iceland.
While I didn’t plan to photograph this famous spot, at one point, I simply ran out out of possibilities, so I decided to go there. I was lucky since there was a big display of Northern Lights, and the Lights were still “dancing” when I got there! Kirkjufell Mountain never disappoints.
“Multiverse Portal” – Aritz Atela
Of all the times I have seen Northern Lights, this is one of the most special Auroras I’ve ever seen.
At the famous black church of Budir in Iceland, it was amazing to witness how even though the Aurora looked static, it showed a shape and sharpness like I had never seen before.
I took advantage of this, lowering the ISO a little bit (to avoid digital noise) and increasing the exposure time to have a more balanced image.
“Hagglund delight” – Jonny Harrison
While it is common to see the Aurora Australis (or Southern Lights) in Antarctica, this picture was taken during one of the best displays I’ve seen while living on the continent.
This image was taken at 1:30 am in temperatures around -35 Celsius (-31F). At these temperatures, Aurora photography in Antarctica is a mix of trying to capture everything that’s going on while not getting too cold and keeping well covered.
On this occasion, the bright green lit up the ground as it reflected off the ice turning the dark night to day, a rare treat indeed.
This photo is overlooking one of the Hagglund tracked vehicles that are widely used in Antarctica, and was taken a few short steps from the front door of the Scott Base.
“From Above” – Laura Oppelt
Sometimes there are moments when I’m quite sure there’s somebody or something that is in control of our destiny and life from above.
I’m not the kind of person that trusts in supernatural forces or a divine creator, but at times it’s hard to doubt that there’s some magic going on.
This image is a composite out of two single exposures taken within 6 minutes: one for the house, mountains, and reflection, and one for the Northern Lights. During my Lofoten trip in January 2019, I had the pleasure of seeing the Aurora dance in the sky, but just for a short time, so I created this image to try to represent that ephemeral moment.
“Anywhere I roam” – Carlos F. Turienzo
Climbing Mount Reinenbringen at night is an unforgettable experience, and one of those things that probably shouldn’t be done, especially if you’re on your own.
After I felt doubtful on a couple of occasions, during the last day of my trip, the possibility of regret won the battle over prudence.
Although it’s not necessary to be a climber to get there, without daylight, it’s quite dangerous; there isn’t a clearly marked trail and it’s easy to get lost in the wooded area at the start.
After mustering up my courage, I went on the hike and everything went well. I reached the top, where I enjoyed an incredible night and a nice sunrise.
Was it worth it? Yes.
Would I do it again? Never alone.
“the crown” – Shadi Nassri
I’m an Aurora hunter and I usually travel three or four times a year to Iceland to capture the Aurora.
However, it wasn’t until 2017 that I captured my first “Corona”. This was the first picture of the season, taken at the end of August.
“Ring over eYstrahorn” – Ian Plant
I took this photo by the ocean while exploring the eastern fjords of Iceland.
The waves were crashing 30 to 40 feet high when they slammed against the cliffs above the water. I sat and watched the waves hit the cliffs for several minutes before cautiously making my way down, just to make sure I could stay safe and dry and to avoid being swallowed by a rogue wave.
The Aurora started to dance in the sky above the mountain, and when it briefly took on this ring shape, I knew I had something that was rarely seen. During the long exposure, several waves rushed into the cove below me, and the blurring water filled in the spaces between the rocks, creating a curving shape in the foreground that mirrors the curve of the Aurora.
“a Dream of Green” – Rodrigo Viveros
We spent 7 nights sleeping on this mountain range under harsh conditions: ice bubbles, frozen lakes, ice cracks, etc.
This one is from the third day: a crazy and intense Northern Lights moment when the Lights were moving frantically in the sky. I was just shooting another amazing mountain when I looked back and saw the Aurora over the renowned Tombstone range.
This is probably the best night I’ve experienced in my entire life.
“Magic night” – Amada Terradillos
The first time I saw the Northern Lights It was just upon my arrival in Iceland, on a cold night that I will never forget. I still remember the words a good friend told me, which came true: “Once you see the Northern Lights, you’ll be hooked forever.”
I can’t complain, since I’ve been able to see the Northern Lights on all my Aurora trips, and I hope to keep shooting the Lights in the coming years, since it’s a really magical show.
This picture was taken in the Lofoten Islands. That night we were lucky enough to have the Aurora dance across the sky for quite some time, and only my fatigue made me want to sleep after a few hours.
“Unforgettable Welcome” – David Aguilar
The Lofoten Islands received us in the most glorious way our first night at Uttakleiv Beach.
The Aurora started shining ever so slightly on the sky as the KP wasn’t higher than 2’67.
As it usually happens with the Aurora, all of a sudden, it exploded across the horizon and spread across the sky in a matter of seconds, moving at a breakneck speed.
It didn’t last for long, but I managed to capture this panorama of a moment that will forever remain in my memory.
I hope you’ve found inspiration in the images and stories of these incredible photographers and that you’re feeling more encouraged to travel, see, and photograph the Aurora around the world.
The magic of the Northern Lights is contagious. Thanks for spreading the word and the beauty of our world by sharing this article.
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Below you can find the gallery with all the images at full size. Enjoy it!
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