Come with me on a magical journey into the world of the arctic circle and all the beauty that it beholds. This is the home of vikings, the north wind and of course the beautiful aurora borealis (commonly known as the Northern Lights in these latitudes). Click on thumb to view full size. Please note all photographs are copyright Mark Humpage and may not be used or copied without permission.
Camera equipment - Olympus E3 and lenses, 8mm fisheye, 7-14mm, 90-250mm, 50-200mm, 14-54mm. Extreme gear for an extreme environment. A few Northern Light images were taken with the E1 (at the same time as using the E3 to maximise on exposure capture).
Nothing ever goes to plan! Cloud cover forecast in this location for next few days. Al Chapman (cameraman) and I take stock. The next day we head east, 500km to north eastern Finnmark in hope of clearer skies (forecast). The tortuous yet beautiful route takes 7 hours and 2 ferries as we reach Alta.
From Alta, the next morning another 3 hours south and east takes us to our final destination near Karasjok, Finnmark. Arctic Highways, bitterly cold and iced over but open!
Upon arrival we meet up with our host Oskar who transfers us to base camp, via snowmobile. Another 30 minute journey into the wilderness. It was worth it! Base camp greeted us with this view.
A few images of the camp, or life for the next few days. The toilets were....amusing to say the least! Transport was now via snowmobile.
Unpacked and settled in we ventured off northwards in the snowmobile to explore the best locations for shoots. A raised plateau greeted us about 10 minutes snowmobile distance away. It was raw, blowing and truly wild. The view from here was spectacular, difficult to tell land from sky at times. It became a regular shoot hotspot for us.
And finally....what we had set out to achieve. Northern Lights on both nights of our stay in Karasjok and clear skies to boot. We stepped outside at approx 7pm (5pm the next day, and stayed there all night) Al and I were overjoyed. It was spectacular, continuous and magical. We could have been on a Disney set!
Well almost finally! A quick note about the equipment and exposures. All night time/Northern Light exposures were taken with long exposures ranging from 30s to 4 mins. Tough indeed to effect sharpness on images. Aperture was kept to minimum - F3.5 on 8mm fisheye, F4 on 7-14mm lens and image stabilisation was ON as was Noise Reduction. The NR effectively doubles exposure times. Next time I want to use 2 or 3 E3's to maximise captured images! The Olympus E3 and lenses have been put through pretty extreme working on this trip. With working temps recorded -20 and below, blizzard conditions at times and duration working in the freezing temps. At times my hands and feet were numb, I could not feel them. The gear was faultless, not one issue or problem. Batteries drained a tad quicker (as you might expect) but hardly noticeable (and I had plenty) resulting in a totally successful shoot. The environment was tough, as was the subject, but I had the equipment to deliver the goods. It is said that 50% of a successful shoot is being there, the other 50% is the camera system. It certainly makes my job easier!
The Northern Lights - "No pencil can draw it, no colours can paint it and no words can describe it" - The Vikings thought they were the contrails of Thor's chariot, pulled by three goats. I can now believe it!
Watch Al Chapman's stunning High Def video of the trip
Mark Humpage, Feb 2008