Aurora hunter's checklist: capturing the Northern Lights
Seeing the Northern Lights in person is a dream shared by many. The chance of capturing them on your camera makes...
We’ll be featuring a new guest photographer every month, with their top 3 photo picks and professional tips.
I first begun my journey in the outdoor industry back in New Zealand in 2004. I always had a camera with me, back then a Nikon film SLR and a pocket 2 megapixel Canon Ixus. For me photography is about capturing the moment, appreciating the outdoor and great landscapes. It is a way to be very present in that location, putting my focus on the landscape I am shooting at the time. Processing photos takes me back to those places and moods over and over again.
I take photos purely for those selfish reasons, not to display them to the great public or participate in competitions or exhibitions. For this reason it has obviously taken me some effort to get used to the social media side of photography and the need to display my work to a wider audience. I consider myself really lucky to be able to combine both of my passions, photography and the outdoors, through my business.
I took a small group on a four day ski expedition to Halti last March. On the first evening, after a good 8 hours skiing and a good meal, we were all tired and ready to get some sleep in the wilderness hut. I knew this was meant to be the only clear night and had been keeping one eye on the sky throughout the evening. Suddenly the skies were covered in green lights and we spent a good while enjoying the display.
Out in the Käsivarsi wilderness area, the magnitude of the northern lights is more obvious than anywhere else, I think. The great, vast openness of the round fell landscape, the profound arctic silence and millions of stars make a truly magic background for the aurora. It is almost too beautiful to capture in a photo.
Tip: Get out of your comfort zone, get out into the wilderness, be prepared to walk, ski or get a snowmobile ride to get out of the village. In Lapland you are likely to see stunning Auroras just about
When I first came to Finland, I lived in Hetta, Enontekiö. As you drive into the village, you drive pass a petrol station, one of those which have seen it’s better days. The backyard is now a home to random stuff accumulated over the years and overall, it is not the prettiest landscapes in the otherwise photogenic national park surroundings of the village.
One misty September morning, I took my camera with me for the walk with our dogs. My intention was to go down to the lake, but on the way, I saw this captivating light coming through the forest behind this petrol station. It’s been one of my favourite shots ever since, and I’ve got a large print made of this photo – a serene misty morning forest to calm me down on any stressful day.
TIP: Learn to look pass what is obvious, where ever you are, you might see something worthy of your attention. What might seem just a petrol station, can have a fairy tale forest right behind it. Don’t restrict your photography purely on the “most photographed” sights of Lapland, sometimes the best shots can also be behind you!
Surprisingly, it is harder for me to get used to the summer’s light nights than the winters polar night in Finland. At the end of June 2013, we were visiting my in-law’s cabin in Salamajärvi, Ylitornio. The place is the typical round logs cabin in the middle of the forest, looking northwards to the lake.
My wife was fast asleep, but the midnight sun shining on my face kept me awake. I saw the most amazing light on the sky, so I got up. I stayed out for a good couple of hours and to be honest, I did get eaten by the mosquitos like never before. But the photos I got that night are all worth it, I think.
TIP: The landscape in Finland, especially when photographing lakescapes, is often rather flat. To make your photos more interesting and give them more dimension, make sure you have something capturing in the foreground. A boat, big rock, tree, a person, anything to add more depth to the picture.
In a nutshell:
Name: Gareth Hutton
Based in Kilpisjärvi, Lapland Finland
Occupation: Outdoor and photography guide
Fun fact: When I first came to Finland, I didn’t really know what the northern lights were, and had no interest in them. It wasn’t until my then girlfriend, now my wife, took me out one night and showed me what I was missing that I started to develop my passion.