Chasing Finland’s northern lights: The ultimate insider guide

See Northern Lights in Finland

Hey there, Northern Lights lover! Are you planning a trip to Finland to catch a glimpse of the auroras? Well, you're in luck because we know a thing or two about the best places and times to see the Northern Lights. But before we dive in, let's get one thing straight - there's no guarantee you'll see the auroras. It's all about increasing your chances, and that's where the fun and adventure come in.

Best time and place to see northern lights

First things first, let's talk about the best places to see the Northern Lights in Finland. Northern Lapland is the place to be, with some of the best resorts being Levi, Ylläs, Saariselkä, and Salla. Ideally, head there between September and March. Active season for Northern lights starts already in the autumn and goes all the way till late winter. But, the best latitude to see the Northern Lights is around Kilpisjärvi, where the likelihood of seeing them is a whopping 75% on clear nights.

But, seeing and photographing the Northern Lights is not just about luck and location. Here are some additional tips from Joonas Linkola, a Northern Lights photographer, to increase your chances of catching the auroras in action.

Top tips from a pro northern lights hunter

  • Get away from light pollution. The darker the better, but of course if the Northern lights are strong, you can see them even in the middle of the city.
  • Watch the Aurora forecast, for example, or Expected geomagnetic activity helps you to make a decision whether to go out or not. Kp index of 3 or more indicates a good chance of seeing Northern lights.
  • Prepare to wait for a long time. So gear up properly and have some warm drinks and good snacks with you. Headlamp is a must if you go out from the city. For photos, you should get to know how to take various long exposures, for example, 4 seconds or 10 seconds, depending on the speed of the Northern lights. Tripod and a wide-angle lens are necessary for good results.

Be prepared to be surprised

And remember that Northern lights don’t look the same way as in pictures. First thing is that Aurora usually takes some time to appear in colour, and often gradually appears as rainbow-like arc across the sky. Next reason has to do with cells in humans’ eyes, the light is too faint to be sensed by colour-detecting cone cells. It is very dependant on a person, though, since some people claim to have seen light shades go green/purple/pink. Modern DSLR cameras do much better job at “seeing” the colours of Northern lights. Especially if you shoot with long exposure, which records the whole movement of “dancing lights” and creates beautiful shapes. So you might consider grabbing your camera when you decide to watch Polar Lights!

In summary

Seeing and photographing the Northern Lights in Finland is all about increasing your chances, planning your trip accordingly, and being prepared. Head to Finnish Lapland between September and March, get away from light pollution, watch the Aurora forecast, be prepared to wait for a long time, and know how to take various long exposures for photos. And remember, Northern lights don't look the same way in person as in pictures, so don't get disappointed if they appear differently than you expect. With all this in mind, go out and chase the auroras in the gorgeous Nordic landscapes of Finland!


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