In the past years, Iceland has been trending with travelers worldwide. It is simply a beautiful country offering nature’s most stunning sights as seen lately in many Hollywood blockbusters such as Batman Begins, Oblivion, Prometheus, and upcoming Star Wars VII to name a few.
Although most visitors come during spring and summer time, Iceland has a very special charm in
winter. During the cold and dark season, the nights reveal the most stunning spectacle nature has to offer: The Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights.
Filmmaker Boris Schaarschmidt spent three months in the Artists’ Residency NES, located in the small fishing village Skagaströnd on the north coast of Iceland, to capture this heavenly phenomenon. Equipped with his camera and countless weather apps on his phone, he chased the night sky to find open spots in the cloud cover to capture the Aurora Borealis during nights of high solar activity.
In a nutshell, the Aurora Borealis occurs when particles from solar winds collide with the earth’s atmosphere. Iceland is an ideal location to see the lights since the trapped sun particles travel towards the magnetic poles. But to see this natural light display, not only high sun activity is needed, but also clear, cloudless skies. So it is good to have a weather app on your phone that helps navigate where the cloud cover is open, and what the Aurora activity forecast is for the night. For tourists it is important to know that nowhere else in the world, the weather changes so quickly as in Iceland, especially during the winter months. It is not unlikely to experience storm, rain, snow, and sunshine all in one day. It is advisable to constantly check weather predictions and road conditions before you head out. Many tourists get lost during winter due to these sudden changes in weather. From one moment to the other, visibility can drop dramatically and a clear road turns into a snowbank shaken by a blizzard. Thanks to the highly organized Icelandic Association for Search and Rescue, most travelers make it home safe to tell about their Icelandic adventures, even if they should end up next to the road.
Although the Northern Lights are a magnificent sight to experience with the naked eye, most images we see of them are deceiving because they are taken with a very long exposure. So, to be perfectly prepared to catch that photo of the Aurora Borealis, one should bring a tripod or camera clamp mount that allows long exposures. Only then the true intense colors and brightness of the Northern Lights are revealed. Naturally, one needs to find a dark area away from street lights, cars and houses. While this is easy when driving around in Iceland on the open road, it can be a challenge when in Reykjavík. The Sculpture & Shore Walk or the
Boris Schaarschmidt drove nearly 2000 miles and took over 8000 images. He combined them into a fast paced time-lapse film. “I am addicted to these images, I can’t wait to go back again” he says. To get a taste of this amazing nature spectacle and to understand his addiction, watch his film ELDUR Á HIMNI (Fire in the Sky) on Vimeo: http://vimeo.com/97168133
Grótta Lighthouse are popular spots in the city to get the best captures. During high
Aurora activity, tourists flock to these locations. There are also a variety of bus tours that offer Northern
Lights tours. There is no guarantee to see them on one of these trips since it they are an unpredictable,
natural phenomenon, but these excursions travel to more remote areas where it is more likely to capture
the lights. There are also glacier tours on which tourists and Aurora-enthusiasts spend the night on a
glacier in a tent, and with a little bit of luck get the most magnificent show they will ever see.
During his residency,