I went to Finland last December on 2018 and I finally full-filled one of my bucket list: Watching Aurora Borealis! Although I tried hard not too attached with my camera and should enjoy the nature phenomenon, it is too special not to immortalize the memory! Thanks to my sister who has experienced in chasing the Northern Light, I made a sufficient preparation that we were able to get magnificent photographs. Apparently, it is more challenging than I thought. There are a lot of of ammunition and strategies you should prepare when you want to capture an Aurora.
Avoid Ski Resort because Skiing Resort is mostly installed with a great amount of lighting and causing light pollution. It doesn’t need a rocket science explanation, you might not able to see the aurora because the density of the light is thicker than the aurora.
My first Aurora was seen when we were staying at Holiday Home Inarin Poroportit Sapara Inari. It was my best location to sky watching, where the nearby lake was frozen and there were no obstacles such as trees or houses. The sky was pitch dark that you can fully enjoy star and aurora gazing.
2. Understand the KP Index
KP Index is the scale of visibility (from ‘less visible’-0 to ‘very visible’-9) of Aurora that can be perceived by normal human vision. KP Index 9 is a very rare thing where you can even watch it from southern part of Europe. My friend has seen an Aurora in Edinburgh last time in 2015. Normally, KP Index in Finland during winter averagely between 3 – 5 which is quiet visible. However, you need also take cloud percentage into consideration. If the cloud thickness is too dense, it might block the Aurora from the view.
To help you measuring the KP Index and the cloud percentage, you can use a foolproof apps. I use Aurora Fcst Apps for iOS. The best part of this apps, you can see the Aurora entirely at the other part of the Earth. It can also give you a bell ring to notify you when the Aurora approaches your current location.
3. Best time
Aurora Borealis is actually happening everyday in a year. However, it is more recommended to visit Finland during August-April. During winter time, the sky becomes darker sooner which is very ideal if you want to prepare earlier to hunt an Aurora. You can plan the best location to watch the Aurora and move to other location in case you want to have greater viewing.
4. Camera Setting
I used Sony ILCE-7SM2. Lens: FE 24-40 mm F3.5-6.3 OSS. The setting was Aperture: 3.5; ISO/FILM: 160; Shutter Speed: 30, Focal Length: 24.0mm Flash Off; White Balance Auto. Since you are going to use low ISO, bringing tripod is highly suggested. I personally don’t like to set higher ISO that causing noise on the result. For a night photograph, this camera has a good result, however the downside is on the battery consumption. The battery drains faster because of the cold. When you are travelling to colder location, the battery must be close to your body heat. You should know, I stocked myself with 5 batteries.
Photo by Stella. Taken at Igloo House, Luosto
5. Extra (only for winter-weaklings like me!)
Since I am growing up as a tropical kid, I am weak against the cold. It was – 25 Celsius Degree, I warm myself with three layers of cloth. I added some heat packs inside of my pockets and boots. I also cover my ears with Muffler Hat. For my hands, I covered with two layers of gloves. Maybe some of you don’t need this advice but you better over-clothes yourself than sorry! Feeling too cold can ruin your mood! Don’t let it happen when you are going to watch an Aurora! 🙂