I was kindly gifted the Northern Lights Photography Tour Experience by Arctic Shots.
Seeing the Northern lights is on almost every traveller’s bucket list. Being stood in the dark, looking out at a winter sky dancing with colours is a magical experience and one many come to Iceland to try and witness.
It is possible for anyone to go out and find the Northern lights by themselves which is a tempting idea to avoid additional expenses (I’m not going to beat around the bush here, Iceland isn’t cheap, so I understand the need to save money where you can). However, for a bucket list experience such as this one, I honestly think it’s worth parting with your cash to get the best chance of seeing the Aurora and to have the best experience while doing so. Although it is possible to successfully see the lights without a tour, the guides have infinitely more expertise and experience than you can get even from reading every single blog post and travel guide out there. It’s a lot harder than it looks to spot the aurora; from where to look, what to look for, understanding the aurora forecast and knowing when there’s a chance of success or not. Also, most tour companies offer a free additional tour if on your first hunt you are unsuccessful. Besides, nothing is stopping you from doing both; you could spend every night aurora hunting if you wish! I was determined to see the Aurora during my stay so I went all out in my search! Check out my post describing my time at the Aurora Basecamp for an alternative Northern Lights viewing experience!
If you are wanting to capture that money-shot snap of the dancing lights across the sky, it benefits not only to go on a tour, but to go on a photography specific one. I am a keen amateur photographer and I’ve shot a lot of wildlife and travel snaps but I honestly didn’t know the first thing about trying to photograph the aurora! Some guides on the generic tours know a little about setting up your camera to capture the lights but these tours are often of larger groups. It’s not wise to rely on the guide knowing what he’s doing with a camera and secondly that you’ll even get chance to ask for help amongst the clamour of other people on the tour with you. I was determined that if I was lucky enough to see the Northern Lights I wanted some good pictures of them so when the opportunity arose to work with Arctic Shots I was incredibly excited!
Arctic Shots is an Icelandic based company who have a passion for photographing Iceland’s phenomenal landscape and began the business to help tourists from around the world capture it’s beauty too. They offer a large number of tours working with the country’s seasons to provide different and varied photography experiences. All tours are private making the activity much more immersive and with the guide’s full attention you are able to get a lot more out of the experience. Arctic shots are able to cater to all experience levels and if photography isn’t really your thing but what you do want are memorable shots from your trip, Arctic shots also offer a personalised photography service too and will try and cater to you requests if there’s something specific you want to gain out of the tour. If you want that little extra magic from your Iceland experience then Arctic Shots have you covered.
So, as I said, the best way to see the northern lights in Iceland is with a guide. Bragi from Arctic Shots had a wealth of experience, not only in finding the lights but also knowing some great peaceful places to see them away from the crowds. Now, as a tourist, this is a very hypocritical statement, I know, and I’m probably going to get some hate saying this, however, I hate tourists. Ok, maybe that’s a little mellodramatic, I don’t hate ALL tourists but a large proportion can be pretty annoying. The pushy, inconsiderate manner some people conduct themselves in with thoughts only on themselves and getting the shot they want irrespective of whether that means entirely ruining someone elses irks me. So the fact that Bragi found a beautiful remote shoreline for us to hunt for the lights with no other tourists was a big plus for me! Let’s be honest, we’d all rather have these special moments all to ourselves.
Now, hunting the Northern lights is a game involving patience. The electromagnetic field is incredibly changeable from minute to minute so one moment there’s nothing and the next the aurora could have lit up the sky. If only it were that simple but the weather also has a hand in your success rate. The clearer the sky the better the viewing possibilities. However, what I learnt from my trip is that the weather in Iceland alters at the drop of the hat and you can be in the middle of a snow storm one minute then the next it can be peaceful and without a cloud in the sky. As the old British saying goes; “If you don’t like the weather, just wait a minute” and the same certainly applies for Iceland! Arctic shots offer a free repeat tour if you do not see the Northern lights and will also update you the day a tour is booked to discuss if seeing the aurora is likely.
So, if you do choose to go on a tour with Arctic shots what can you expect? Well, other than an experienced guide to help identify the Northern Lights and an excellent, picturesque location to view and shoot them, you will also get expert guidance on setting up your camera to photograph the lights, souvenir photographs from the evening taken by your guide including photos of you with the aurora, a warming hot chocolate and even more cockle-warming shot of Icelandic liquor. I was a little apprehensive before my tour as I was travelling on my own and didn’t know if it would be awkward on a private tour with just the guide and myself, but from my experience, it was great and I didn’t feel awkward at all. There was plenty to keep me occupied and Bragi was very personable and I enjoyed chatting to him about the business, Iceland, photography and much more. I certainly would not be put off from booking a tour with Arctic shots as a solo traveller, in fact it was arguably more engaging and sociable than a large group tour where everyone else has come with family, friends or partners.
Overall I had a great experience with Arctic Shots, I couldn’t believe how well my photos came out and I am so happy I have these as souvenirs of my trip! Booking a tour, not only to view the Northern Lights but also to experience the beauty of Iceland would not be regretted especially If you’re a keen photographer or you want some amazing shots of your adventures in Iceland.
If you’re feeling inspired by this post and want to see more what Iceland has to offer click here!