See a dazzling collection of the year’s best northern lights pictures

Mathew Browne’s entry “Goleuadau’r Gogledd”, which translates to ‘Northern Lights’ in Welsh.

Mathew Browne

THERE are few sights as spectacular as aurorae, and they are used to dazzling effect in the Northern Lights Photographer of the Year contest, run by travel photography blog Capture the Atlas.

?Waning Sun? ? Alex Wides Senja Island, Norway A 300? panorama captured on Senja Island (Norway) featuring the setting sun and an intense kp7 Northern Lights display. Embarking on a three-month journey from Italy to the Great North, you anticipate witnessing incredible sights, but this trip surpassed all my expectations. Arriving at Senja Island, my personal favorite among the places I?ve been fortunate enough to visit, we encountered the most powerful Northern Lights of the year, exactly as predicted. The horizon is glowing with the light of the setting sun; in September, it sets at 11:00 PM, painting the sky in vibrant shades of green, purple, and red. This shot encapsulates the essence of the journey, capturing the beauty of an extraordinary adventure on one unforgettable evening with my family and two dogs, witnessing an awe-inspiring spectacle.

“Waning Sun” shot on Senja Island, Norway

Alex Wides

This year, 25 breathtaking shots from around the world have made the final cut, a selection of which are shown here. Each brings a special dimension to this extraordinary phenomenon, which is caused by charged particles from the sun colliding with atmospheric gases.

?Circle of Life? ? Fr?ydis Dalheim Lappland, Finland This is a magical place in the forests of the Finnish Lapland that I was fortunate to capture during an evening in late March. A pair of swans were further down the river, and occasionally I could hear them singing. Even though it was freezing cold, at almost -30? Celsius, I enjoyed being embraced by the peace and harmony of this beautiful night!

“Circle of Life” taken in Finland at almost -30°C

Frøydis Dalheim

With the next peak of the sun’s activity (known as its solar maximum) approaching in 2024, people are already catching a glimpse of aurorae – both northern and southern – in wider regions than usual. Next year’s displays are set to be even more spectacular.

?Fleeting Moments on Ice? ? MaryBeth Kiczenski Alaska, USA Hiking under the Northern Lights is an experience I?ll never forget. Witnessing the Aurora from an ice cave is even more unforgettable! Both experiences are fleeting but for different reasons. The aurora comes and goes as the solar wind blows, while ice caves emerge and disappear as the planet undergoes heating and cooling cycles. This specific ice cave, especially the ice arch featured in this photograph, collapsed over the summer. Knowing its days were numbered, I prioritized a visit in March of this year. Consequently, this image holds extra significance for me, capturing those ephemeral moments and serving as a reminder not to take things for granted.

“Fleeting Moments on Ice” shot from an ice cave in Alaska, USA

MaryBeth Kiczenski

 

??Lost Who I Want To Be? ? Jordan McInally Moke Lake, New Zealand I was pretty lucky this night to have a few friends message me a heads up that a big Aurora Australis was forecast, so I had just enough time to rush to this local spot with a painfully steep ascent, watching beams start to dance across the horizon as the sunlight was fading! I spent around 5 hours up here and had this whole ridge to myself, shooting over 300 frames of all manner of beams and colours as the show was constantly changing!

”Lost Who I Want To Be” shot at Moke Lake, New Zealand

Jordan McInally

Many of the shots in 2023’s competition were taken in locations where it is unusual to see the northern lights, such as south Wales, captured in Mathew Browne’s Goleuadau’r Gogledd (main image). The name is a loose Welsh translation of “northern lights”, and the image shows local landmark Paxton’s Tower illuminated. “Witnessing the aurora borealis this far south is a rare occurrence,” said Browne. “For over an hour, the horizon beyond the clouds emitted hues of green and pink. However, for a brief yet magical moment, the sky came alive with impressive pink pillars, visible to the naked eye.”

?Kirkjufell Explosion? ? Marc Marco Ripoll Kirkjufell, Iceland This was our second night in Iceland, and the popular Mt. Kirkjufell was painted in green. With an aurora forecast in place, we stood there at dusk, anticipating the celestial display. As darkness descended, timid auroras emerged on the horizon. Initially, I framed the classic view of the location, but suddenly, the sky exploded over my head! Faced with this spectacle, I mounted my wide-angle lens, aimed it towards the sky, and started shooting the first row of a panorama. As it wasn?t enough, I went for the second, then the third, and finally the fourth row! The real challenge came when I tried to stitch it all together at home. Given the considerable movement in the Northern Lights, neither Lightroom nor Photoshop proved effective. In the end, I resorted to using control points in a specific panorama program, and it worked!

“Kirkjufell Explosion” taken near Iceland’s Mount Kirkjufell

Marc Marco Ripoll

Also shown are Marc Marco Ripoll’s Kirkjufell Explosion (pictured above), taken near Iceland’s Mount Kirkjufell; and Alex Wides’s Waning Sun, shot on Senja Island, Norway.

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