Iceland is Magic.
Seeing the Northern Lights has always been my DREAM. I live in Michigan and I have been trying to stalk them as long as I can remember. Summers on Harsen’s Island spent staring at the night sky, driving an hour north in the hopes the light pollution is low enough, sitting around bonfires in Traverse City checking the Aurora app… It’s been a real obsession of mine.
One of the reasons I wanted to go to Iceland in September is the increased percentage of the aurora borealis having a high KPI index. The week we went, my friend even planned it so we would have a few days with no moon, giving us even more of a chance to see the magnetic ribbons. Another plus for us, not for the environment, was the solar activity. A few large flares occurred which made the magnetic fields even stronger. The first glimpse I had at the most magical site was on the plane to Iceland. While flying over Greenland we got to witness a few minutes of the dancing lights. It was bright and beautiful and filled me with excitement.
I was obviously hoping to see more throughout my trip but was so seriously stunned, I would have been so happy even if that was it. Somehow, I racked up enough good karma to see them two more times. The third time was in a campground parking lot. It was cloudy, dark, rainy, cold… But we looked up and saw them dancing again for a few more minutes and again, it was pure magic.
The second time was the most incredible. They were so bright I even got some photos of them with the sunset on my iPhone – which getting a northern lights photo on a phone is nearly impossible. Anyway, after driving all day we decided to take the 2 mile hike out to the Sólheimasandur plane crash. Quick history lesson, this is a US Navy DC-3 airplane that was forced to land on the black sand beach after running out of fuel. It crashed and thankfully everyone survived. This happened in 1973 and it was difficult to get to in the past, therefore it remains in place. This spot has become famous to photographers from around the globe because of its unique characteristics and story. This is why my friend wanted to make the trek. I was very interested to see the scene so I excitedly agreed to tag along. We hiked out at sunset, took probably 40 minutes, and in the best stroke of luck, we ended up being joined by only one other couple, meaning all shots with no people. (Helllllls yeah).
After getting in some amazing light painting, we started to see the streaks. They came up so quick, just as we were saying “I hope we see the lights”. The appeared strong and moving rapidly. Everyone started shooting away and we were so excited when they decided to stay out and play for a while longer. My friend got his shot of the northern lights behind the plane, I got my shot of the lights and the mountains and the beach and the sunset and the plane and myself. You should absolutely check out Taylor’s work also. We were able to take in their beauty for hours uninterrupted and it’s the most beautiful vision I will ever see. The photos will never do it justice but I hope it inspires you to chase these lights.
30 Before 30: 7 down, 23 to go!