For many years I wanted to go to Norway but when my dear friend organized the trip and invited me, I caught the ball and I left!
The main purpose was to live the experience of the Northern Lights, but by doing some research I discovered that Norway offers many other activities to live in full the territory, from the fjords to the sledge dogs tours to the possibility of spending the night In Sami tents, waiting to see the the Northern Lights.
But let's take a step at a time!
The trip was organized in the first week of December 2016 for 3 days.
The climate in the Fjords area, specifically the part that faces the Norwegian Sea, is characterized by conditions often changing in a few minutes, passing from the starry sky and clear to a sudden snowstorm, so not demoralizing is crucial.
Planning is always the heart of such a project and an on-site guide / fixer makes the difference.
In these situations getting prepared is crucial to getting something good at home, and luckily we found a young but very experienced Italian guide that helped us optimize the 3 days available.
During pre-trip preparation I tried to analyze what problems I should have faced.
First of all, surely the cold extremity; a valid advice given to me was to dress in layers to better manage the various conditions, also because often you can not go back to the hotel to change you.
So clothing is one thing to be careful about ... if you're cold working becomes difficult; Hands and feet will be the most sensitive to this aspect because you spend a lot of time standing in the cold with padded gloves making managing camera controls.
The other aspect is the low light and when I say low I mean pretty dark, in fact at that period, except for a few hours between 9.30 and 11 AM in the morning where the sun never did peep (a sort of sunrise / sunset without sun ), the general perception was like late night.
The Northern Lights is such a beautiful sight. It take your breath away so much that anyone around you does not speak a word, all in religious silence in the midst of nature.
As I said, during the preparation I have documented so much about the Northern Lights and I found out that in Finland, the Northern Lights is called the 'revontulet', meaning 'fires of the fox'.
According to the Norwegian vikings, it was the reflection of the sun on the shields of the Valchirie to give birth to the Northern Lights.
The Northern Lights does not have a definite shape, the most classic are arch, 'spotted' or spiral / 'S', when the activity is mild. The most incredible and rare, which occurs solely in conditions of maximum solar activity, is the circular, crown-shaped crown (corresponding to a crown) at the Zenith.
The Northern Lights usually form around the magnetic poles of the two hemispheres and create the so-called auroral oval that determines the area where the phenomena can be observed more frequently and with greater intensity. The presence varies depending on solar activity: when the latter increases, the oval widenes to the most southern areas, making it visible, for example, in Scandinavia.
The best conditions for seeing the Northern Lights, in my opinion, are subjective from place to place. On the days of my trip, I was lucky enough to see her several times, whether there was a moon or a cloud.
Surely the clear cloudless and moonless sky is the most favorable situation.
The best time to observe the Northern Lights in Tromso is from 19:00 to 24:00 at night, but on rare occasions the Northern Lights may manifest itself much earlier or later.
Many argue that the moon with its strong light might annoy the view of the Northern Lights, from the photos you will see later is not always true.
However, it is necessary to move away from the light pollution of the cities.
The phenomenon as seen is unpredictable. It is to be said, however, that due to the continuous monitoring of solar activity, short-term forecasts can be made.
Valuable help is the information available on numerous sites (NORTHERN LIGHTS FORECAST) which I often advise to monitor frequently to update in real time.
Even the duration can not be predicted, it can take a few seconds, a few minutes or even the whole night!
I was very lucky because shortly before departure I was commissioned to test the new X100F which was new to the market.
Below you will find the complete list of equipment I've brought with me.
Recommended equipment for photographing Northern Lights and getting good results:
- Camera (better if Fujiflm ... ahahaha), preferably of the latest generation, because new sensors and recent processors allow more performance.
- A good tripod, sufficiently stable in the case of strong winds (be careful to grab it with bare hands: exposed to very low temperatures when aluminum is in danger of being attached to the skin).
- Remote shutter, to avoid even the smallest vibrations, alternatively setting the self-timer still solves the problem.
- Wide-angle lens, f1.4, f1.8 or f2.8 are ideal; if the stabilizer is present on the lens, disable it.
- Replacement Batteries. Normally in situations outside the standard (both hot and cold), the batteries discharge more easily. In contrast to the reflex cameras, the mirrorless cameras, having to continuously feed the sensor tend to keep the camera at a constant temperature; This produces less heat shifts consumption in general and is more consistant. It is better to have some extra batteries (keep warm in the jacket) rather than risk not to take pictures!
- Dedicated enclosure or plastic bag for protecting the camera in case of rain or snow (if the camera is tropicalized you can avoid it).
- Thermal clothing suitable for very low temperatures, you can easily reach -20 / 25 °.
- Torch or front torch to illuminate the path to be followed and light painting.
- Front light with "red jelly" filter, because during the night photo-session it is preferable to be in the dark so as not to disturb others near you by avoiding parasitic lights in the frame, but above all because your eyes will not get used to it every time darkness while allowing you to see the controls on the camera at the same time.
It is very important to pay attention to the temperature fluctuations.
Formation of condensation on both the camera and the lens may prevent you from taking pictures for hours or even days. To prevent this from happening, simply close the machine and aim it in their special backpack, maybe wrapped in a towel before getting in your car or getting in a warm place, having the trouble to wait a while before pulling out the equipment.
Tips for photographing Northern Lights:
- Manual focus, preferably infinity, unless you have a focus on which you want to emphasize
- Manual exposure
- Manual ISO
- Raw format
- Always use best-in-time ratio between shutter speeds and ISO (there are no fixed rules, it depends on everything, how and where you are shooting)
- Remember that the Northern Lights move !!!!! Under each image you will see you find the settings I used but below are two examples:
Long time, around 15-20 seconds and low ISO, to capture the movement of the sunrise and to have the 'brilliant green' brush effect in the sky.
Short times, around 6-8 seconds and high ISO, around 2,500 / 3,200 to capture the real shape of the sunrise and its rays.
Caution: If you photograph with moon presence, the parameters shown change significantly, its influence varies greatly on landscape lighting, giving you the opportunity to make different images.
Some pictures that you will see the perception is like is day, but it is actually full night!
Having many activities I wanted to take advantage of starting from the city of Tromso.
Tromsø (in Sami Romsa) is a city in northern Norway located in Troms County, which is the administrative capital; Is commonly considered the capital of Lapland.
It is the seventh largest Norwegian city by population and is the largest city in North-Norge (northern Norway).
The town center is located on Tromsøya (Tromsø Island) but the urban agglomeration also develops to the east, on the mainland, with Tromsdalen ("The Valley"), and to the west on Kvaløya (Whale Island). On both sides there are bridges linking the center with the suburbs, and also a submarine tunnel to Tromsdalen; It is dominated by the Tromsdalstinden mountain (the Tromsdalen peak), situated to the east on the mainland.
The city center contains the largest number of old wooden houses in North-Norge. The Arctic Cathedral, built in 1965, is probably the most famous monument in Tromsø.
Tromsø is about 350 km north of the Arctic Circle (66 ° 33 '39 "north latitude) and from 21 May to 23 July it is possible to admire the midnight sun phenomenon, the phenomenon that, with the approximation of Summer solstice, occurs above the polar circles where the sun never falls below the horizon and consequently never drops the night.
In the winter months, from November 23 to January 18, the Sun does not rise above the horizon, but, due to the dusk, the phenomenon of the so-called polar night does not occur. In fact, even on the day of the winter solstice, the maximum elevation of the Sun reaches -3 °, which is 3 degrees below the horizon, sufficient to have the diffusion needed to ensure the presence of light. On January 21 of each year, Tromsø celebrates the "sunny day", Soldagen.
Tromsø is at the center of the area where the northern borealis is visible, since it is neither too north nor too south. In fact, it is one of the best places in the world to observe this phenomenon. Because of the rotation of the planet, the sunrise in Tromsø is generally visible between 6pm and 9pm, although sometimes it is possible to see it a little before or after that time.
In this situation, having to walk a lot I opted for the X100F, voluntarily deciding not to bring me anything else.
It was a perfect decision, because I could hold the camera in my pocket and, if necessary, have it always available, so everything without a tripod.
Waiting for the afternoon we dined and spent a few hours in a "Sami" tent, a traditional Lappone.
The Sami are a population that in Norway still have a very lively presence, which maintains a strong cultural identity.
Their traditional home was and is in some cases made up of either a portable tent, made of reindeer skin, or a fixed hut. Their traditional means of transport was the reindeer-driven sled, an animal to which they are very attached.
They live in a particularly inhospitable environment because of the rigid temperatures and the total absence of sunlight during the winter season.
Their traditional form of religion was the shamanic one. Among the ancient main gods there is the "Mother-Earth" ruling the births and the God of Thunder.
The Sami believe in the existence of a soul that, at the time of passing, is removed from the body.
The priestly figure was embodied by the shaman, who carried out a series of propitiatory rites to anticipate the future using a magic drum. Many propitiatory rites related to animals: when one of them was killed, a piece of meat from every part of the body was inserted into a sort of grave to be buried in the belief that the divinity, ingrained by the sacrifice, Animal in another world. The Sami believed in the magical power of dreams, and interpreted it as a way of communicating with the world of the dead.
Finding myself for a while in the same place allowed me the full backpack choosing what I needed when I needed it.
I tried to create a different view from typical night-time images. The feeling is almost paradoxical with the moon in the place of the sun and thinking about the shadows at night is definitely unusual.
Although I used the tripod, I still pushed the ISO limits I had available, getting great results.
Going on the fjords is an experience not to be missed; The sense of peace and tranquility that breathes in those places is indescribable.
A fjord, from the Norwegian fjord, meaning "landing", is a sea urchin that creeps into the coast, even for several kilometers, flooding an old glacial or river valley.
Usually the walls of the fjord are very similar to those of the steep, steep, steep slopes but covered with forests.
Being able to move my car with the weight of the backpack and the tripod was not a problem, then maximum freedom.
Last but not least the dog sled was an incredible experience, strong contact with these animals makes you feel sensations that only by experiencing them can be appreciated.
On this last occasion, knowing that I would spend 2 hours on the non-passenger sled but as a driver, I only carried the X100F with me, which I must say was amazing. For the last 2 images I used the XT-2 with 16mm because I needed a higher angle of shooting and one more stop.
The last night before going to rest, considering that cold and light shortage in the long term strongly affect the physiology, I was given half an hour to the port because I wanted to take advantage of the night lights of the city on the opposite side of the fjord. I only came out with the XT-2 and the 56mm ... the pictures speak for themselves.
Photographically really a trip to remember, I was very fortunate both for climatic conditions and for seeing the 2-day 3-day boreal sunrise.
The material I brought with me was absolutely up to expectations and the X100F proved to be an exceptional travel companion, despite the great cold weather.
Beyond the photographic aspect I have come back from this experience with the desire to go deeper in the north and its cultures so those who would like to participate in the next trip (probably early 2018) will soon find information in the area dedicated to travel on this blog.
Finally a special thank you to my friend Gianni, owner of the agency "Pianeta Gaia" for the beautiful organization of the trip.
XF 56mm f1.2 APD
XF 35mm f1.4
XF 23 mm f2
XF 16mm f1.4
XF10-24mm f4 R OIS