Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Auroras @ Nellim

What is the purpose of traveling all the way to Finland? To see the auroras of course! The night time is all yours and you can either opt to walk around in the hope of catching the elusive auroras, or join one of the aurora camps organised by the Wilderness Hotel Nellim.

Why did I say elusive aurora? Despite us joining 2 aurora camps during our stay at Nellim, we did not see any auroras during the camp. However, that is only half the story. More of that later.

The aurora camp will start at 9.30pm at night and will most probably end close to 1am. However, do not under-estimate the temperature at night. The wind seems to be always pretty strong. 2 pair of socks is a must, even in their winter wear and I wore my snow pants within their winter wear. Even with all that clothing, I still felt a little cold.

My hands are by default very cold because I had to manipulate my camera, and there is no way I can use mittens to manipulate the controls. Oh well. Anything to see the auroras.

You will sit in a sleigh pulled by a snowmobile. You can take a look at the picture below for a sleigh pulled by a snowmobile. Yes, the picture is in the day because it's pretty difficult to take pictures of the sleigh at night so I took this picture the next day. :)

The sleigh below is more representative of the ride I was in. There were reindeer skins at every seat though to keep you warm. It does help, for your information.

The guide/guides will bring you to location within Lake Inari with almost no lights so that you'll have a higher chance of seeing the aurora. They will also setup a campfire which is very useful because it will become very cold at night, no matter how layers you're wearing. Doesn't the campfire look cozy? :)

However, as I mentioned above, I did not get to see any auroras at all in the 2 aurora camps that I went. The weather was quite bad on the first day so there is nothing that you can see. For the second day, the sky was clearer and we saw ... ...

nothing. :( Yes, only stars and a bit of clouds. That's it. No aurora activity that night even though the sky is clear. Now you may understand what I mean by elusive auroras. It's not a guarantee that you'll see something even when the sky is clear. The stars are beautiful though.

BUT ... Like I said, it's only half the story. The lakeside cabin that we stayed in however, is also a good place to catch auroras because it is overlooking Lake Inari and at night, there's absolutely no man-made lights in that direction, except for the moon light.

We were lucky. On the first night, we happened to catch quite a strong aurora. What do I mean by strong auroras? Well, I like the pictures do the talking. Refer to the 4 pictures below.

Strong auroras will appear, regardless if the moon is full because well, it is strong. :) Personally, I've seen 3 types of auroras during my Finland trip. The strong ones, the normal ones, and the weak ones. As you can see above, the strong auroras are defined by very strong colors. In my case, it's green.

On the second night, we encountered some normal and weak auroras. Refer to the pictures below for examples of a normal aurora.

As you can see above, the colors are not as strong as the first batch, with the exception of the last 2  pictures above. Well, those pictures were sort of sitting in-between a strong and a normal aurora but I recall the lights that I've seen were not as strong compared to the first night.

Subsequently on the second night, I've also caught some weak auroras as shown in the picture below.

I think by now you'll be able to differentiate between the different kinds of auroras. All the aurora photos above are processed slightly. Initially I did not want to post process the photos but I realised that certain pictures did not reflect what I truly saw on that night, which led me to do a bit of post processing.

I am only post processing the aurora pictures because I want to show you the contrast between the aurora and the environment. Contrary to some opinions, simple post processing of auroras will not allow you to add things into the picture that did not exist in the first place. Giving an example, I've certain photos where the aurora is very very very weak and despite best efforts, there is no way to show the aurora clearly and the aurora looks more like clouds.

Unfortunately, I wasn't really prepared to take photos on the first 2 nights and I forgot to set my camera to take the photos in RAW format. As a result, there are limits on how I can manipulate the images.

Anyway, we are lucky to see the auroras on the first 2 nights of our stay. If you recall I did mention that I caught 3 nights of auroras. More of that in another post. :)

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