I got to visit Iceland for the 2nd time at the end of 2013. I have now been there during their longest days and their shortest days. The main difference between the two times of year is that in November it is dark. Like, 6 hours of daylight if you’re lucky. And by daylight I mean twilight – the sun seems to hover right at the horizon for that time and then goes into hiding again. It’s definitely cold there, but not any colder than here. It stayed in the low to mid 40s the whole 9 days we were there, only dipping below freezing when we would make a significant increase in altitude while driving over mountains (my dad’s FAVORITE). Once we landed at 6am after a short 4.5 hour flight from Boston, we had Viktor from Iceland Cruiser waiting to hand off our Land Cruiser and we headed up the western fjords to Grundarfjörður – yeah don’t ask me how to pronounce that. We made it the entire way around the ring road in 9 days.
The whole point of this trip was to do something fun with my dad. I surprised him with the trip to see the northern lights because according to everything I read, they are on an 11 year cycle with 2013 being the height of the “maximum activity” in this current cycle. So, the best they could possibly be for the next 10 years. Of course, you can’t just “go to see the northern lights”. All sorts of stuff has to align perfectly for you to see anything. Within the 11 year cycle there are also weekly cycles (and probably quarterly, monthly etc.) where you won’t see them at all for however long and then if they are seen one night, it is highly likely that they will get increasingly active for the next 2 nights, topping out on the 3rd night. So you see, it’s kinda nutty to plan a trip around them. It wasn’t until our very last night in the country that we had a clear night. Every other night was overcast. That’s another thing, the sky has to be perfectly clear. Ugh…I checked out the guestbook sitting on the coffee table at our place in Klausturvegur, and the people who stayed there two nights before us reported on “an amazing display”. I busted out the Aurora Forecast app on my phone, and it did say no activity until 2 days ago, meaning TONIGHT WAS OUR NIGHT. Long story short, it turned out to be one of the most active nights the island had all year – thank you solar flares! People keep asking me for pictures. I never intended to take photos of the Northern Lights. I honestly didn’t think we would see them, and if we were, I was going to experience them. It’s funny, thinking back I wish I had recorded all of our voices when it reached it’s peak intensity. I distinctly remember yelling “the sun is gonna get us” and screaming my head off both in awe and slight terror. I ducked for cover at one point. It was that crazy. I cannot imagine what seeing that would be like if you were not prepared for it. You know, like in the viking era, when nobody had aurora forecast iPhone apps. I would probably have assumed that the world was ending right then and there.
I did have my D4 with me, with the hope that maybe I could get ONE photo of it, even if it was a total blur. The very last photo of this post is the only digital photo. I grabbed my D4, focused to infinity, snapped that photo at f8 and a 1 second exposure, set it down and saw that it was actually quite awesome later once the show was over. 😀
I shot all of the following images on a few different cameras for those curious: Mamiya RB67, Minolta Autocord, or Nikon One Touch. Any color images were shot with on Kodak Ektar 100. All black and white’s were shot on Fuji Neopan 100, and there are a few on Ilford Delta 3200. They were developed and scanned by me!