Iceland – October 2012

I have finally ticked off one of the longest-standing places on my holiday wish list – Iceland to see the Aurora Borealis, aka the Northern Lights. It’s one of those places you really want to do with someone special, like Paris or Rome, and happily it was also on Em’s wishlist! I’ve posted two galleries of images on flickr, one of Reykjavik and the surrounding areas, and the other of shots of the aurora out at þingvellir (pronounced Thing Vell Ear). The aurora was simply stunning.

It wasn’t a night of high solar activity, probably only a 3-4 on the scale, but enough to get capture clear images on my camera. I used a 25 second exposure time at ISO 800 with a wide-open aperture with the camera on manual and on a tripod, enough time to absorb some of the colours shown but not generate significant star trails as they moved across the sky.

Whilst it makes sense thinking about it afterwards in terms of the camera absorbing the full range of colours of the light, what is you seen on the camera image is simply not what you see in person. The aurora shows more as a white light in different patterns that moves constantly across the sky.

I created a timelapse video using a series of still images to give some sense of this movement.

Whilst the aurora was our main reason for visiting Iceland, I have to say that it is one of the coolest places I have ever stayed. The locals are friendly and welcoming, and it just feels like one of the safest places on earth. Despite its reputation as an expensive place, Reykjavik was similar in price to London, and was even cheaper than London (especially with VAT refunds) for clothes and luxury goods.

We ate well at a range of wonderful restaurants such as the Sjavargrillid (Seafood Grill), fiskfélagið (Fish Company) and Icelandic Fish & Chips opposite the old harbour, as well as cheap and cheerful options such as the infamous hot dog stall where Bill Clinton asked for “one with the lot”! Other highlights included seeing minke whales and visiting the Blue Lagoon spa about an hour outside of Reykjavik. Overall, Iceland is a brilliant place to visit – and one I’ll happily visit again in future.

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