Northern Lights

Lake Mývatn, Iceland, March 2012

It’s hard to describe what the lights actually look like. They move across the sky with speed and little predictability. At times they are blobby blotches of color that whisper across the sky in any direction, at others fine lines of shimmering light. It’s this shimmering you don’t’ see in the photos. You see it most in the brighter lights. It’s incredibly detailed, and they seem to go one forever into the sky changing colors from a green to a deep purple. They wave in the solar winds like fabric.

Northern Lights

At one point about 12:30am I stepped away from the camera. In a matter of seconds the entire sky filled with light that danced and shimmered in away completely unimaginable.

It is unbelievably overwhelming.
Staggeringly complex.
Immense and breathtakingly beautiful.

It lasted for such a short time, maybe 15 seconds, and then faded away altogether in about 2 minutes until there were only stars. Bursts of lights came along off and on for the next two hours.


Any photo you have seen is misleading and doesn’t do the experience justice. It’s a trick of the camera. Although the lights can be bright, likely they are very rarely as bright in reality. The long exposure required to register an image, technically, also makes the light brighter, and the details much softer. I tried to hold true to what you might actually see, and stayed away from the overly bright and saturated images seen elsewhere. Most of the images I made were at ISO 1000, f/4.0, 6 seconds with a 24-70mm f/2.8 L on a Canon 7D. I tweaked the images in very minor ways like cropping. I’m pleased to say these photographs are not the highlights of the evenings lights. I kept my word and looked through the viewfinder very little.

Read more about the trip to Iceland.