Greenland’s Welcoming Night Show

Greenland Qaleraliq Northern lights 5446 August 16, 2018

Image: Aurora over Qaleragdlit glacier, South Greenland. Nikon D750, Nikkor 14-24 mm at 15 mm, f/2.8, 4 sec, ISO 6400, on tripod.

One of my life goals was to see the northern lights, or aurora borealis, in person.  When I began learning photography, that goal changed to include photographing them as well.  I learned a few tips from my friend and expert night photographer, Beth Ruggiero-York (Beth’s website), a couple weeks ago.  I was told that there would be a very slight chance that we might see the aurora in Greenland, but that it would require a combination of all the right factors occurring at the right time.  Mid-August is typically the beginning the viewing season for the aurora in northern climates since the sun begins to set early enough to give a dark sky at night.  Greenland is north enough in the northern hemisphere for this to apply, but we were in South Greenland which lessened our chances in comparison to some of the other popular areas such as Disko Bay (along the west coast but farther north) or northeastern Greenland.

Greenland maop.jpg

We also needed a clear night and had heard reports that this summer had been one of the worst summers in recent history for rain, fog and storms.  We believed it as we had already lost two days of our Greenland trip due to flight cancellations from fog.  Our best chance would be when we were at camp that first night, many miles away from the nearest village or house.  When we arrived, however, we had just taken a zodiac for 2 hours through a rain storm and the skies were clouded up.  We headed to bed in our tent around 10:30pm, only to be awakened an hour later by Sanda, one of our fellow adventurers from Spain, screaming “Northern Lights” and “Get up! Hurry!”  I jumped from the top bunk, screaming at Troy to “Get Up” too!  I threw my camera gear together and headed out with Troy lighting the way with his phone to the overlook where we could see the water of the fjord.  One of my first shots was the scene below.

Greenland Qaleraliq Northern lights 5425 August 16, 2018

Image: Aurora over Qaleragdlit glacier, South Greenland. Nikon D750, Nikkor 14-24 mm at 15 mm, f/2.8, 5 sec, ISO 6400, on tripod.

From there, it just got better.  The lights changed constantly with slow swirling movements.  The blanket of green light above the water in the image above changed and became more concentrated.  I adjusted my composition to focus more on the intense greens along the left side of the water.

Greenland Qaleraliq Northern lights 5443 August 16, 2018

Image: Aurora over Qaleragdlit glacier, South Greenland. Nikon D750, Nikkor 14-24 mm at 15 mm, f/2.8, 4 sec, ISO 6400, on tripod.

We continued to watch the skies and saw a streak going high into the sky over the mountains to our right.  I quickly changed to a vertical orientation to capture the intensity of the streaks flowing high above our heads.  The Milky Way was up there as well but it was drowned out by the vibrant greens.

Greenland Qaleraliq Northern lights 5557 August 16, 2018

Image: Aurora over Qaleragdlit glacier, South Greenland. Nikon D750, Nikkor 14-24 mm at 15 mm, f/2.8, 5 sec, ISO 6400, on tripod.

The longer we watched the sky, the more we noticed the color of the light change and a purple/pink color showed up!  It appeared as if the lights were coming from a small group of clouds, spreading forever into the sky above us.

Greenland Qaleraliq Northern lights 5497 August 16, 2018

Image: Aurora over Qaleragdlit glacier, South Greenland. Nikon D750, Nikkor 14-24 mm at 15 mm, f/2.8, 4 sec, ISO 6400, on tripod.

As the light became more purple, I switched back to a vertical orientation to capture this new display of color.

Greenland Qaleraliq Northern lights 5434 August 16, 2018

Image: Aurora over Qaleragdlit glacier, South Greenland. Nikon D750, Nikkor 14-24 mm at 15 mm, f/2.8, 4 sec, ISO 6400, on tripod.

I constantly kept my eyes on the mountains to my left as well since they provided a great silhouette for a more simplistic shot, focusing on the colors of the light and the stars.

Greenland Qaleraliq Northern lights 5515 August 16, 2018

Image: Aurora over Qaleragdlit glacier, South Greenland. Nikon D750, Nikkor 14-24 mm at 15 mm, f/2.8, 4 sec, ISO 6400, on tripod.

As the night progressed, clouds began to increase in streaks above the mountain, creating a more dramatic look to the silhouetted mountaintops.  It became colder as well but photographing the aurora in 30-40 deg F temperature was a blessing compared to typical aurora photography in minus 40 deg F in Alaska in December.  I was definitely grateful!

Greenland Qaleraliq Northern lights 5538 August 16, 2018

Image: Aurora over Qaleragdlit glacier, South Greenland. Nikon D750, Nikkor 14-24 mm at 15 mm, f/2.8, 4 sec, ISO 6400, on tripod.

Well past midnight, more clouds came in but the lights continued their ever-changing display.  This resulted in more texture in my images as the light filtered through the patches of clouds.

Greenland Qaleraliq Northern lights 5584 August 16, 2018

Image: Aurora over Qaleragdlit glacier, South Greenland. Nikon D750, Nikkor 14-24 mm at 16 mm, f/2.8, 5 sec, ISO 6400, on tripod.

My final series of shots early that next morning included this green glow that lit up the valley.  I achieved my final goal of the night, capturing the aurora in the reflection of the water!

Greenland Qaleraliq Northern lights 5568 August 16, 2018

Image: Aurora over Qaleragdlit glacier, South Greenland. Nikon D750, Nikkor 14-24 mm at 15 mm, f/2.8, 5 sec, ISO 6400, on tripod.

I could have left Greenland after this first night completely satisfied with the whole trip even though we had been in the country for less than 12 hours.  We didn’t realize how lucky we were to see the aurora that night and soon found out that it had not been visible in any of the towns or villages where we would soon be heading.  In fact, no other night on the rest of the trip was clear enough for viewing this spectacular sight.  We were that fortunate.

To see these images individually, please visit my gallery here: Amy’s Impressions

Author: Dr. Amy Novotny

Amy Novotny is a physical therapist, marathon/ultra runner and nature photographer. She treats patients for a variety of conditions but specializes in chronic pain and calming an overactive nervous system using special diaphragmatic breathing. She has used this technique to help her qualify and run in four Boston marathons! She enjoys the outdoors and can often be found running and hiking on trails in throughout Arizona. She attempts to capture the beauty of nature with her photography both locally in Arizona and also throughout the United States. She is becoming more interested in wildlife photography and attempting to capture the emotion of animal interactions. In her spare time, Amy volunteers as a photo guide for the Arizona Highways PhotoScapes nonprofit and shares her joy of nature with others. Please feel free to contact her regarding her photography, physical therapy or running.

32 thoughts on “Greenland’s Welcoming Night Show”

  1. I can surely understand and share your excitement as once you experience the Aurora, you are forever changed! It’s truly spiritual. I’m SO glad you got to see and photograph it! Gorgeous images Amy – love the reflection in the water – amazing. Once you get a taste you can just never get enough. You will forever be “chasing the Aurora”… 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh Amy this is just so beautiful. I can’t imagine how you were feeling but now I want to go there! Like you, I’ve always wanted to see the Aurora Borealis lights and this put me just one step closer to doing it. How could you stand it!!! It was meant to be for your and Troy and others. So glad you experienced this as well as all the other things so far. How ever can you top this??

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much Leisa. I was excited beyond belief. I could barely function and control myself as I was trying to choose the correct camera settings. We both were in awe. I sure hope you make it a priority to go see these. Completely worth the experience. 🙂

      Like

  3. Great pictures. Right place at the right time. Some would say lucky, but after standing out in the cold for hours in Iceland and Alaska, I know better. I truly admire both your diligence and skill, which resulted in such memorable images.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Seeing the northern lights dance brightly is truly a magical experience. You were fortunate to get such a good show. When I was in Iceland we had a night show like the one you photographed. What was really cool was that there is a web site that shows radiation storms coming off the sun and follows the particles as they travel toward Earth. I could view the wave and see what time it passed Earth and that was the hour that we saw the lights.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Mark. That’s really cool. A friend sent me something similar to that but one thing about Greenland is that the option to check a website or the internet is nonexistent. So it’s a matter of peeking your head out of the tent. :-). If I go to Alaska sometime during the winter, I’ll likely check a website.

      Like

  5. Spectacular pictures Amy. Definitely an Owen Meany situation – all your hard work, patience, skill led to you being where you needed to be just at the right time! I am very happy for you. Chris

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Randy! I looked it up and I think they are hoping for more space photos. That is a whole different world of astrophotography. And yes, I would love to do that someday! I’m glad you are following along. I hope you are doing well!

      Like

  6. Really stunning & I have to say – much better than we got in Alaska, plus you had the advantage of warmer temps not freezing up your camera!! Well done & I’m super happy for you!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Amy, Wow! These are stunning photos of a beautiful phenomenon. Nothing beats Mother Nature but you sure caught the show! Excellent blog which allows all of us to live vicariously through your adventures. Thanks for sharing! Lacey (Jeff’s wife) Insel

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Lacey, if I may please borrow a word from you, WOW !!! What an awesome adventure, and I then talk about the whole trip. And the images, they are simply awesome Amy. Great job !

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.