Guest blogger and photos by Anders:
We were eating dinner when Hans came in and told us he was ready to take us on the Nordlys Tour. We were very fortunate to be the only ones on the tour, which was good for me because I did not want to slow people down. My plan was to take some pictures of the northern lights and also enjoy them. Hans took us outside and first we went down to a frozen river, only a short ways away, to try to see them. We saw them faintly and I got some pictures but I was still not confident with my settings so the pictures were very grainy. We then went to a mountain and tried to see the northern lights. They were stronger up there and I got my best pictures. The northern lights were not quite what I expected, but we did not see a strong display. It was a nice experience overall.
Follow up by Christy:
One reason for coming north was to see the northern lights, and Alta is the perfect place to see them because of the latitude/longitude and weather. It has long been a base for scientific study of the aurora. Ted and I were lucky to see some spectacular lights in Tromsø the last time we lived here, so we were hoping for a little luck again this time. Back then, you just looked up and hoped for the best. Now there are websites and apps that forecast the aurora, but it’s like the weather, not a sure thing. There had not been much activity in the days before we came according to other guests and we did not see any the night before. It had also been cloudy, but the clouds had moved to the south by evening. It was cold, but we were bundled up and there was no wind. I sat on the ground and Nora sat on me, while Ted and Anders worked with the camera.
Hans has been taking guests to see the lights for almost 20 years, so he has a lot of experience with photos and a special spot up in the mountains about 20 minutes away from Sorrisniva. We were prepared to be out until midnight if they were active, so we were lucky that it started when we were finishing dinner, actually, if we had been done a little earlier we could have seen more from the river. It also stopped quite definitively at about 9:30, so we got back for a reasonable bedtime. When I got up to use the bathroom after 11, there was no activity.
I just have one complaint, which is really about the human eye. Viewing the aurora in person was not as vivid as the pictures show. With our fancy camera technology (and some post-processing), we can take a long exposure to gather a lot of light and create a picture. However, our eyes can capture the movement and changes that the camera cannot, so the northern lights will live in our memories. The stars are also fantastically crisp and clear up in the mountain away from the light. I was as mesmerized with some incredibly twinkly stars as I was with the aurora. It was a special night.
Hans took some photos as well and emailed them to us. The first two and the last were taken outside of Sorrisniva, so there is extra light from the buildings. He also captured us in one photo by flashing a light at us during the long exposure. The bottom left photo is from the mountain.