The Miraculous Aurora

Have you ever witnessed the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) or the Aurora Australis (Southern Lights)? World travelers, put them on your bucket list.

I traveled to Iceland in winter and hoped for a cloudless night and the right solar conditions. My group of photographers was rewarded with two such nights during our 10-day sojourn. The green and purple lights swirled from the horizon to soar above our heads and at times surrounded us in every direction. They seemed to erupt like lava over distant cliffs or nearby mountains. I shot dozens of long exposures during the awe inspiring action.

kirkjufell, aurora, northern lights
In my first experience with Northern Lights, the famous Icelandic mountain Kirkjufell made an iconic foreground. These moving bands of light are called curtains.
Iceland, aurora, northern lights
Northern Lights seem to erupt like lava behind this mountain, just to the left (north) of Kirkjufell, shown in preceding image.

Most Photographed Mountain in Iceland

Stock photos of Kirkjufell at sunset with three waterfalls in the foreground had captured my imagination before our Iceland trip. How I wanted to see that scene in person, and even take my own photo on location! ┬áBut alas, I realized that the sun doesn’t set in summer until close to midnight, and the logistics just would not work.

Would my only photo of Kirkjufell be this one through the bus window?

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Polarizer in the bus window gave the sky an eerie effect, as I captured Kirkjufell while driving past. One can see the way the top of the mountain resembles a church (“kirk”) shape.

As our ship left the harbor that evening, I got one more chance to photograph Kirkjufell and the surrounding mountains. Note to Self: while capturing the iconic photo you admire can become a treasure hunt that grows into an obsession, there is much to be said for creating your own unique set of images, rather than duplicating the classic shot. In fact, I will remind myself that creating my own unique images is the best path to take.

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Departing Grundarfjordur, Kirkjufell was sidelit in the evening light.