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“We will hopefully get to see the Northern Lights,” The amount of times that Thomas, my tour guide and owner of the tour company that I used called Chasing Lights, emphasized the word “hopefully” was almost enough to make me worry. Like many people, I was initially naïve to think that all you had to do was go to Norway to see the Northern Lights, but I quickly learned there’s a lot more that goes into the chase.
Needless to say, I got really lucky. Realistically, it was completely by chance because I only flew in on the 2nd because it was the cheapest flight to Tromsø. But to me, as a believer in the universe, energy, and Pachamama (“Mother Earth”, a term and belief I picked up in Peru), I know I projected enough positive energy to light up the sky myself… if, you know, I could glow and whatnot. But enough of my hippie shit, now I’d like to share with you my experience chasing the Northern Lights, and hope that it inspires you to go do it too!
Getting Ready for the Chase
Chasing Lights is run by a young, international team of Northern Lights fanatics and photographers, which is one of the reasons why I selected them. I don’t like tours that just take people to see something for the sake of making a profit off of something that’s not even theirs. I like people who are passionate about what they’re showing, because that makes a huge difference in the experience.
When I arrived, Thomas took me upstairs to their office where the young male and female guides were running around like badass explorers, getting everything ready for their chase that evening. I couldn’t help but note that as each would dash off to leave, they’d say something along the lines of, “Good luck!” or “Hope you see the Northern Lights!” which further emphasized that seeing the Northern Lights was really a luck of the draw.
Next he took me to the gear room, where the guides pre-select thick thermal snow suits for the tour guests, along with heavy duty snow boots. He also seemed amused to show me the freeze dried meals they use for dinner, which are all locally made and packaged. Downstairs his colleagues were loading Reindeer skins to sit on and firewood for the fire into the Wifi equipped bus outside. Did I mention that Chasing Lights has Wifi on their buses? #WINNING
The First Chase
About an hour later we arrived at a fjord near Nordkjosbotn, and geared up to get ready for the cold. Thomas and another guide, Jonas (from Sweden) ran ahead to scope out the area by the shore of the fjord, while our bus driver unloaded more gear and tripods for everyone to use. The only way you can get a decent photo aside from having the correct DSLR camera, is by using a tripod.
Suddenly Thomas flew back onto the bus and said, “Hey guys! Try to get dressed quickly, it looks like there’s already some Northern Lights out here!” Beyond excited, I wiggled around the best I could to get the massive snow suit and boots on before grabbing my own camera and jumping out of the bus. I had no idea how to use a tripod, or my camera for that matter, but I grabbed one anyway and carefully stepped down the steps they had made in the snow that led down to the bank.
Jonas helped me set up my dinky Nikon digital camera, which embarrassingly I’ll admit that my mother bought me so that I could take high resolution photos of my travels rather than only ever using a GoPro. I never wished I had a DSLR so bad than when I realized I couldn’t see shit using my camera, and that it dies immediately in the cold (I’m still grateful to have it though). Normally I’d be upset if I couldn’t get a photo of something, but after I saw the amazing shots that Thomas and Jonas were getting with their heavy duty DSLR’s, I was perfectly fine just jumping in their shots and learning about how they get them.
I was a little confused when we stopped in what seemed like the middle of nowhere just east of a town called Bardufoss, on what seemed like just an empty area covered in snow and pine trees. But when Thomas ran back on the bus freaking out even more than the last time, I knew there was something going on. It wasn’t until I heard the “Woah’s” from everyone outside that I decided to hurry up and get all my layers on.
When I stepped off the bus, I joined the chorus of “Wow’s”. There, in the middle of the dark, empty, snow-covered road, was an Aurora Borealis so bright that it actually looked like the ones in the pictures. Everyone started setting up their cameras, except me who just hovered over Thomas’ shoulder to see the view through his, even though you didn’t even need a powerful lens to see these Northern Lights.
The Aurora Borealis Ballet of the Year
The Northern Lights suddenly started dancing! Yes, dancing! Like a massive, long, silky, shiny green ribbon being waved around in the sky. They were moving fast, and I had no idea where they were going until suddenly I didn’t see so much ribbon anymore, but instead found myself looking straight up into the center of the Aurora Borealis, at what seemed like dozens of light columns reaching down towards me. If I ever had any idea what it would be like to get abducted by aliens, that would be it. That was the slightly terrifying part, mostly because I was alone in the middle of this dark road.
Campfire Under the Northern Lights
Northern Lights Pit Stops