Just so you know: I went to see the Aurora lights back in Dec 13, and this piece was written somewhere in January. Haha 🙂
I thought I could try travel writing. I mean, it’s really quite simple, come to think about it. Just plant your butt down at the place, look around at the people and scenery, create a story, place pen to paper, and start scribbling.
That’s easier said than done. My brain was quite a blank when I tried, reflecting the piece of pathetically- white paper in front of my face. I looked around our campsite, which meant the van, and well, just the van, with loads of white. We were surrounded by vast snow- covered mountains, and snow- covered ground, and basically snow- covered everything. The moon was shining full and bright, overly so, and a couple of stars twinkled down at us. There was not a soul in sight, except for the few of us who were chasing the Lights.
We were at the Swedish- Finnish border, conveniently located along a frozen lake.
And waiting, with frozen puffs of breath and poised cameras, for the Northern Lights to make an appearance. Two things, I learnt, from this trip. 1. Nature is terribly unpredictable. 2. It’s good to see stars (not the ones around your head when you are dizzy) when chasing the Lights. Hence, whenever someone spotted stars when we were driving along the road, we’d pull over and set up camera stands and wait.
Well, we didn’t just sit on the snow like statues carved out of stone, for me, at least. I was running about, each step taking me down into knee- deep snow. Trust me, it’s really good exercise. I tried building a couple of snowmen, but snow conditions weren’t that applicable for such activities. In the end, I settled for some snow angels, and finally, growing tired, lay down and faced the sky.
The silence was profound. It forced itself against my ears, like a pair of mufflers, and made me think that I had lost the ability to hear anything. The howling of wind allayed my fears, though it was hardly comforting— it was more of a harsh reminder that we were out here, in the wilderness, miles and miles away from civilization.
It got cold after a while, and so I got up and plodded through snow again just to keep warm. There was an orange glow, near the back of the van, and I saw that the guide had created a fire. He was boiling water, and in no time, we were clutching warm packets of instant soup in our hands, drinking delicately with spoons. The steam clouded my spectacles, and for a moment, I was afraid the Lights would pop out in the sky and I wouldn’t be able to see it.
My fears were baseless, of course. The Northern Lights were a no- show.
After an hour or two, we packed up and headed back. This was around two in the morning. And yup, we didn’t manage to catch the Lights. I didn’t know what to feel. We had come to Norway specially to see the Northern Lights. And this was already the last night we would spend chasing the Lights. On the brighter side though, the snow covered mountains had been beautiful, and we had even walked across a frozen lake. I leaned against the cool window pane, gazing out at the frozen landscape.
But as I said, Nature is terribly unpredictable. Sometimes, it’s unpredictable in your favour. Halfway through while driving on the frozen road, someone in the van shouted, ‘I see stars!’
And then we were stopping, gloved fingers thick and clumsy with excitement as we fumbled with camera stands and our cameras. We waited, and finally…
Two interlocking spirals of green fell through the night sky. All was silent, as we stood and stared, and really stared, hard. I was twitching about, waiting for my camera to finish loading after taking the first photo, and clicking the button again to take a second one.
Here’s why I was impatient: It was really, really dark there, in the wilderness. I needed a wide aperture opening; hence using an eight second shutter speed was necessary. In addition, I used a ten second timer, because the camera needed time to stabilize after I clicked the shutter button. And actually, two seconds timer should have been ok, but well, I decided to err on the side of caution… So, that resulted in a bit of jumping- on- the- spot kind of anxiety. All in all, it took eighteen seconds plus maybe ten more (for the loading) to take A SINGLE SHOT. And the Aurora Borealis could fade out of existence any minute, any second.
Anyway, we saw a bit more after those two spirals, then the sky was once more a blank piece of black, dotted with stars, so we packed up and left. And I was happy. We had managed to catch a glimpse of God’s wonders.
On the third night, we just had our dinner, and were lounging languidly in the hotel lobby, when someone yelled, ‘It’s outside!’ and there was a great rush of people running out.
We got out, and wow… The Northern Lights were spreading out in waves across the dark, velvet sky, soaring above our heads and streaking over the hotel. The green lights were reflected on the water’s surface (as out hotel was by the harbor), and it was amazing. The beautiful display of the Aurora Borealis lasted for an hour, so we had plenty of time to take more than a dozen shots.
Sometimes, the things that we want might be just right in front of us, staring us in the face. You don’t need to go miles and miles away to find it. I know, that sounds really cliché and terribly unimaginative, but it’s true.
ENJOY THE PICTURES! 🙂