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Yorkshire based Professional Landscape and Wildlife Photographer

Adventures in the Arctic 2016/17 Part 1 (or Does the Aurora Make a Noise?)

Posted on 28/12/16

I'm a bit behind in writing blogs but thought I'd get stuck back into it!

I'm back up in Northern Sweden (working for Lights over Lapland) and had a very good Winter so far with lots of hiking and photography. This blog starts on the Winter Solstice and the below image of Lapporten (the big U shape in the mountains) over lake Torneträsk was taken on that day. The weather has been all over the place at the moment as you can see here the lake has not even started to freeze. We have had many days above freezing this December which 200km north of the Arctic circle is a bit bonkers!

But that hasn't stopped the auroras! For what ever reason the auroras always go a bit crazy around the solstices nobody really understands why. I even had this conversation with a space scientist from NOAA. He backed up that they have statistical evidence that the aurora activity significantly increases during the equinoxes but they don't know why. This equinoxe was no exception and on that day the earth came into a large stream of solar wind from the sun and felt the effects of this for some days.

On the 21st the sky was full of thick cloud (100% forecast too) and I had the night off. So I was just chilling out and checked the Lights over Lapland webcam) and that was showing some breaks in the cloud with strong aurora shining through. A quick walk out to a dark area and the sky started to clear more and some great fast moving aurora started to show. Nivi is a bit of yoga queen and I managed to get the below shot!

The long winter solstice geomagnetic storm had begun...

Two days later I had quests arriving for a 4 day Christmas special Lights Over Lapland trip. The guests from Hong Kong, Singapore and the USA had great auroras on all 4 nights!

The below 4 photographs are from the 1st night. We had very good and bright auroras during the meal (I got everyone outside to look at them) and as walked to the site they were less bright but still visible. But the night didn't finish there and about 10pm I saw the brightest and most intense pink colours I've ever seen (3 shots down).

My office is below!

The below image was so bright that I had a shadow from the aurora for a few seconds. I also had a tripod plate malfunction so didn't get a shot of it.

This image was taken at 1/6 of a second shutter speed! Not the usual 10 or 20 second exposure....

So the following day was Christmas Eve and we had 100% cloud and snow. I could see the clients thinking if there was any point going out and of course this Abisko so we did. We had only been out for about 45 mins when we had aurora and snow at the same time. I took the opportunity to do a Christmas aurora selfie (well actually one of the clients helped). As the flash reflected off the snow it gives that snow globe effect.

So onto night 3 Christmas day and I was taking my clients to the famous Aurora Sky Station (I know it's a tough job but someone has to do it!). I had to met them at 5:30pm at the STF and already the aurora was going wild. I had to grab this shot of the STF and this was taken handheld at 1/10 of a second to give you an indication of how bright it was!

And this was the view South!

Now onto the noise. I'm not saying that I think the aurora itself makes a noise but maybe the impact of that strong solar wind makes other things make noises. A number of times when there has been strong aurora I have heard weird noises coming from electric cables. The 1st time was during the St Patricks Day Geomagnetic Storm in 2015 and then a number of times since. On Christmas night whilst waiting for the lifts to start one of the guests said what is that noise and we had a huge aurora in the sky and you could here this weird noise. The noise is hard to describe but I walked off path closer to the electric cables and managed to get a recording on my iPhone which is HERE.

I've submitted this to Dr Tony Phillips who runs and he is a man who knows a lot about aurora so we shall see.

On the final night of the tour we headed out to Roger Marklund's new site in 100% cloud and yes we saw aurora and I found this scary tree.

The day before the Winter Solstice I got one of my favourite images of the season so it only feels right to include it in this blog. This is a stacked image of air bubbles trapped in an icicle. I will be definitely be getting this printed when i get home.

Hope everyone has a great New Year any questions let me know.

All the best,

  • Great stuff Oliver!!!

    Chad Blakley - 28 December, 2016
  • Love the pictures Oliver!
    ...But that really is a wierd sound coming from the electric cables.

    Opal Giger - 28 December, 2016
  • Great blog, reminds me of our own trip and the explosive auroras on that night by the part frozen lake that was cracking up!

    lynn neeves - 29 December, 2016
  • Best wishes Oliver, cracking shots as per. Take care.

    geraint evans - 29 December, 2016
  • Such beauty!  Takes my breath away.  Thanks Oliver.

    Cynthia Murphy - 30 December, 2016
  • Beautiful

    teresa hester - 30 December, 2016
  • about your blog:
      i’m happy that you started with your blog again. beautiful pictures. the colors of your auroras look beautiful and very real to me.
    nice that you work on the pictures in the way, how you’r real outside impression was.

    about the sound:
    i red a lot about the sounds have been heard in older days…......i think then without power electric cables.
    but everything is possible!
    the magic moment to be out under auroras might be also part of strange impressions and a over awareness of nature…....very real and understandable for the one, witnessing this wonder on the sky….....for all the others it might just be “not possible”,” something else”,a mistake
    now to your sounds…. what i’ve heard sounds like :wind on the iPhones microphone or the “singing of the wires in case of wind or very cool temperatures.
    ........maybe electrical interferences of the aurora….......who knows!
    best luck to you and thanks for sharing.

    andreas brodbeck - 30 December, 2016
  • Absolutely beautiful pictures!!! The aurora sounds might be a good cure for my tinnitus!! LOL

    Bob D. - 30 December, 2016
  • i know i will never get a chance to see auroras around here in rochester ny but i am hoping to be in the right place at the right time for just a glimpse 0f what you have seen. Keep up your great interest and photos, they are breathe taking.

    thomas w yehl - 30 December, 2016
  • Beautiful work, Oliver.  The high-pitched chirping, for lack of a better term, sounds very reminiscent of the sound that train tracks sometimes make just before a train comes through.  I always thought it was the rails moving from the weight of the oncoming train.  The noise is easily heard and was often quite a ways from the oncoming train.  Growing up near tracks, this sound could be heard when the train was a good minute down the tracks and before you heard the actual train.  Just a thought but the sound did bring back that memory.


    gary hargreaves - 30 December, 2016
  • Hi Swedish newspaper write about your travel my sami ancestors landscape. Thank you for wonderful Pictures and story part of Sweden constantly overlooked by Stockholm elite - never developed it.s full potential! I hope leave Stockholm soon and for good -hope time to visit my proud sami ancestors land.

    Kaj - 02 January, 2017
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