My first week here in a small village called Utsjoki in Finnish Lapland was a memorable one to say the least. Not only did I begin my training as a tourist guide, but I also had the pleasure to take part in my very first Northern Lights Photography course…in Finnish. You love photography and would love to learn more about capturing the Northern Lights? Then fear not, I have put together an overview of my experience so you know what to expect from a Northern Lights photography course and whether or not it is the right thing for you!
Day 1 – The Theory
The photography course started with an introduction to theory at a community hall in Utsjoki. The intro covered all the basics about night-time photography, photography in cold weather conditions and camera settings. Since the course was in Finnish and my Finnish language skills are only making baby steps at the moment, I didn’t understand an awful lot of this part. Thanks to the great course leader and the friendly participants however, I still learned some valuable lessons that helped me improve my Northern Lights and night-time photography.
Armed with our newfound knowledge we couldn’t wait to get started. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t so kind to grand our wish. We quickly realised that everywhere within a 150 km radius was covered with a thick layer of clouds. If you read my guide on how to experience and capture the Northern Lights, you’ll know that clear skies are crucial to Northern Lights hunting. We decided to capture the sights of Utsjoki by night instead. Even without an appearance by lady aurora, it was a successful and fun night that allowed us to practice our composition and play around with night-time settings.
Here are some of the results featuring some of my favourite places in Utsjoki by night:
Day 2 – Landscape & Northern Lights Photography
The second day started with a 4.5 hour landscape photography session. We stopped at five different locations that each featured a different scenery, which was perfect to practise the use of a tripod during the day, something I don’t tend to do very often and of course get some shots of the ever-changing landscape here in Lapland at this time of year.
Being outdoors for long periods of time in extreme temperatures means that you will need to charge your batteries more often as the cold drains them in no time. So while our batteries were on charge, ready for an evening of Northern Lights chasing, we refuelled and indulged in some local cuisine at the Deatnu restaurant in Utsjoki.
We started our evening of Northern Lights chasing at 5pm and set off on a 10 hour round trip to Norway to find the only location nearby with clear skies that night. Now you might think that sounds crazy, but when you’re in a van full of people that share your passion for photography and the Northern Lights, it almost seems normal. After more than two hours drive, constantly checking the cloud forecast and aurora activity, we finally arrived at a spot with only 20% cloud coverage.
It was dark and windy and at first glimpse it looked like we had just about reached the end of the world. We weren’t far off. After a few minutes my eyes had adjusted to the darkness and I was able to see just how perfect the spot was. The sea right in front of us and the snow-covered hills in the distance were the ideal backdrop. Now the only thing we were waiting for was Northern Lights to get that perfect shot.
The first sign of green light lit a fire of excitement amongst the group. So much so that I think none of us really felt the cold anymore. A few hours and several hundred photographs later we were ready to leave and head back to Utsjoki. Somebody opened a bottle of wine and we all toasted to the memorable and successful Friday night. All but the driver of course (we’re not THAT crazy). The hardest part was getting back to the cottage and not checking how the photos had turned out on the laptop until the next morning. Which brings me to the final day of the workshop – the editing.
Day 3 – The Editing
Despite a late night we were all ready to get started on the editing at 10am sharp. Fuelled by the joy of seeing the final results and a good old cup of strong Finnish coffee. Markus, the course leader gave us some great editing tips for Adobe Lightroom. Although everything was in Finnish, he really made sure everyone got the individual guidance they needed to get the best possible result. I have only started using Lightroom a few months ago. So getting some hands on advice from a talented photographer like Markus really helped to improve my editing process.
My favourite part of the day was that we all got to share a selection of our photos from the course at the end and get feedback on every picture from the group as well as Markus. Not only did everyone get some great pointers on how to up their game and improve further, but we also got a glimpse of how each of us has experienced the course. It will never seize to amaze me that you can send 10 people with a camera to exactly the same location, yet end up with 10 different shots. That my friends is why I love photography.
Summary – So why go on a Northern Lights photography course?
A photography course like this is great if you want to:
- Learn more about night-time and Northern Lights photography
- Practise the use of your camera equipment in cold weather conditions
- Really get to know your camera settings
- Improve your photo editing skills
- Meet a bunch of like-minded photography enthusiasts
- See some Northern Lights
- Capture the Arctic landscape by day and night
- Have a memorable time
- Learn some Finnish (just kidding, these courses are also available in English)
Found yourself saying yes to all of the above? Then a Northern Lights photography course in is just what you’re looking for. I cannot recommend this experience enough. The course not only helped me improve my photography skills, but I also got to spent a weekend with the most amazing group of people, who like me would go a long way to get a good shot.
The talented Finnish photographer Markus Kiili organises photography courses like this a few times a year. You can check out his photography & find more details on his Instagram. The price for this 3 day course was 350€. Northern Lights photography classes are also arranged in a variety of other locations across Finland and the Aurora Zone (more about that in my post about Northern Lights: How to experience & capture the magic), of course the content, price and length of the course may vary depending on the organiser.
Edit: Here are the details for this year’s Northern Light Photography Course in Utsjoki. It’s a five day (Sun-Thu) course on photographing the aurora borealis and nature from the 5th – 9th November 2017. The price for the course is 450€ per person, but does not include accommodation (45€ per night) or food.
This is not a sponsored post. I just wanted to share my positive experience with you and give you an overview of what you can expect from a Northern Lights photography course.
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