Northern Lights Tour with Time Tours - Iceland

By Iceland Everywhere, Auroras Northern Lights, ihavethewanders
Photo Credit: Our Guide: Iceland Everywhere


























If this post seems to be coming out of nowhere, head back over and read my previous post about my secret trip to Iceland to chase the Northern Lights.


After my arrival at 4:35 am Keflavík International, I hazily drove to Reykjavík, still scanning the sky for any lingering auroras. I didn't see any but I quickly saw how much snow they had received as I got closer and closer to the city. By some miracle, my vehicle did not get suck. There was so much snow on the roads. I was actually quite surprised. The road where my Airbnb was located, looked as if they hadn't even tried to clear it, just let the cars mat it down. I had been assured street parking but the snow made it impossible. Luckily there was a  parking lot at the edge of the road (I later got a ticket because I missed the meter time but the location was worth it. Note: They are very serious about parking violations and very punctual. You will get a ticket if you go over your meter. )

cars, Iceland cars, car size comparision
The car I was driving on the left, the car I wanted to be driving on the right. 

My Airbnb apartment rental surpassed my wildest dreams and quickly shot ahead to my favorite on of all time...so far. (I keep my hosted Airbnb and my rental Airbnb's in different categories.) I was elated. Then I fell into bed overcome by my jet lag and slept for three hours. This never happens to me. I can always power through. The excitement on the plane left me with no little to no sleep whereas I can usually get at least a decent amount. This was one of two naps I had to take when I arrived. Interrupted only by grocery shopping and preparing for my Northern Lights Tour.

Northern Lights in Rekjavik
Seeing an Aurora while waiting for my
Northern Lights Tour
Time Tours was scheduled to pick me up between 20:30 and 21:00. They were very easy to deal with and will pick you up pretty much at your door. (Airbnb, Hotel, wherever). While I was outside waiting to be picked up, I had my eyes peeled to the sky, really more looking at the stars BUT  then they appeared again! I was seeing Northern Lights on my way to see  the Northern Lights! I didn't really have time to get out my tripod so I took a few more grainy pics on my phone.

Due to the demand that evening (a projected high Kp), Time Tours had contracted out to Iceland Everywhere Tours for some help. Our lovely guide was their proprietor,  and he looked and sounded like an extra from the show Vikings, but I sadly can't remember his name.  We were in a bus/van/minibus vehicle. It had a few empty seat but the tour was well attended. We were accompanied by a second vehicle but we didn't stay together long.

Once everyone was picked up, our guide gave us the run down of the night, some Aurora basics and what we should expect. He mentioned that it should be a good night as the Kp index was high and he had seen people standing on the corners in the city looking up, which indicated that they were already seeing auroras. I started seeing auroras again pretty much as soon as we got on the road out of the city. We were still in the city when they started. As he drove, he gave the scientific background of the auroras, and then he started seeing them and saying ok, look in this direction. Then as soon as it got dark enough/ we were far enough from the city (really not that far), we stopped on a dark "road" with some wide open space next to it, surrounded by mountains. It ramped up right as we stopped. It was like he had turned them on. It was stunning

As I set up my tripod, I realized I was going to be cold even though I was wearing pretty much every article of clothing I brought to Iceland. My gloves were clearly not warm enough and my hat could have been warmer. I brought my Panaxonic Lumix GX7, Lumix DMC-ZS30 and my iPhone 6S. I thought about bringing my Nikon D-90 but in the interest of weight I didn't. I also haven't used it since 2014. Both Lumix cameras have manual settings so I thought I would be alright. I didn't buy any extra camera equipment for this trip, I used a lens I already had, a tripod I had in the basement that I had honestly never used and kept it as simple as possible. I downloaded two apps, "Slow Shutter" and the aptly name "Northern Lights." I read a few articles on "how to shoot the northern lights" but in the end they were useless, because in my jet lag stupor, I forgot to take the filter off of my lens. I have a habit of just leaving it on there and I pretty much forgot it was there. I spent a good portion of the night mystified at my camera. I had it set correctly, my guide even double checked for me since I was having so much trouble, and yet there was nothing, even though the display was repeatedly brilliant. I mean seriously brilliant, even our guide was freaking out. So much so that when the sky seemed to open up overhead while we were driving he pulled off the road into a parking lot with tons of tourists and rental cars because it was too gorgeous to miss. He would later tell us, that the display we saw only happens maybe once or twice a year. He had seen some in October that were close but still nothing like what we saw. (He was just as excited as we were, so I wholeheartedly believed him.)

At a certain point, after multiple locations and multiple displays, I kind of gave up on my camera, freezing and frustrated, I just enjoyed the show and took pictures with my mind. I spent the remainder of the night in awe and gratitude.  Luckily our guide was experienced and made sure to take pictures of all of us in front of the auroras. I know it looks fake but I promise it wasn't :)


Pictures with the apps mentioned above - 
( I don't remember which is which app) 



















Pictures from our guide - @IcelandEverywhere 



By Iceland Everywhere, Auroras Northern Lights
Photo By: Iceland Everywhere 

By Iceland Everywhere, Auroras Northern Lights, ihavethewanders
Me, wearing everything I brought to Iceland. 

By Iceland Everywhere, Auroras Northern Lights
Photo By: Iceland Everywhere 

By Iceland Everywhere, Auroras Northern Lights, ihavethewanders
Photo By: Iceland Everywhere 

By Iceland Everywhere, Auroras Northern Lights, ihavethewanders
Photo By: Iceland Everywhere 



Some more photo fails from me - 


Aurora Fails
There were actually auroras when I took this. 

Northern Lights, Auroras, ihavethewanders, Aurora Fails, stars
That's not dust on your screen, they're stars! At least the stars came out!



And then, on my last night in Iceland, I was treated to a final show of glory! 


Auroras, Northern Lights, Reykjavik, Auroras from Airbnb
From my Airbnb window!

Auroras, Northern Lights, Reykjavik, Auroras from Airbnb


Auroras, Northern Lights, Reykjavik, Auroras from Airbnb



I took the above 3 photos out the window of my Airbnb apartment in Reykjavík. I thought maybe just maybe it was clear enough out to catch a final glimpse before I left. I scoured my apps, decided it was going to happen and just started watching. And then it showed up! I ran from window to window to window, tripod in hand, filter off, and started shooting hoping something would come out. I could see the Auroras from two sides pretty well, the third side faced the brightest part of the city so almost nothing was visible there except the normal awesome view. I was so excited I was practically shaking. It took hours to finally fall asleep after seeing my FOURTH beautiful display. Nothing topped the views I got on the tour that first night, but wow, wow, wow! This whole experience, wow! Even now, writing about it months later, I can still FEEL it. 


A few Aurora hunting items to note - 

- Everything you read says to get away from the city lights and into complete darkness. This is true however, with a clear enough night and high enough Kp index, you can actually see auroras in the city. They won't be as bright but it is possible. (see last set of pictures)

- Wear even more layers than you think you will ever need, always.

- Bring a tripod if you want to take pictures. Self-timer is your friend.

- If you normally shoot with a filter on your lens, make sure to take it off!!! I can't express this enough, I forgot mine was on there and I got almost no visible pictures from the most impressive night of auroras I saw because of this.

- Bring snacks, water, possibly hot chocolate, maybe something stronger. You will be out there longer than you initially think, especially if it is a good night.

- There are a few decent apps out there that slow shutter speed if you want to take pictures with your phone, I would still advise a tripod though. (See above)

- Get an Aurora tracking app before your trip if you are heading out without a tour. There are many of them out there, so see which interface you like best. Kp index is really your most important feature, if it has Kp index by hour, even better. I didn't pay for any pro features, but I am sure those are good too.

Aurora Tours in Iceland 

There are numerous choices and something for everyone. 4x4 tours, big bus tours, jeep tours, small bus tours and literally everything in between. I started my search on Trip Advisor and chose Time Tours because of the good reviews, the small bus and the price. I was very happy with my choice. My tour cost was approximately $70.00 USD, for a small, guided, nearly 5 hour tour. Worth every penny.


(This is NOT a sponsored post but it does have affiliate links in it).

Sawrah

1 comment:

  1. Chasing the Northern Lights is actually tougher than it looks, but wow! the experience is ultimately rewarding! AMAZING photos you got there!

    ReplyDelete