Nick Pandev had one ultimate purpose on his trip to Iceland: to photograph the Aurora Borealis. The initial plan was to take an all-inclusive vacation, but as Pandev and his wife talked with those who had made similar attempts and failed, they realised that they needed to change their plans. They decided to expand their holiday, explore all of what Iceland had to offer, and the longer they stay – the bigger the chances of spotting and capturing this natural phenomenon.
It could easily be called – planet Iceland, as a lot of Sci-Fi movie directors choose this country of extremes to preset how an alien world could possibly look like. It is no secret that NASA trained their most legendary astronauts and nine of the twelve men who would later set foot on the moon between 1969 and 1972, came to Iceland to train for their missions.
“Once we were there we forgot what day it was, what time it is, and on day 9 we were very near to changing our flights again,” said Pandev, a faint smile evident behind the words.
Once Pandev landed on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, which they reached after approximately 2 hour drive from the capital City of Reykjavik, he knew that the environmental conditions were right for him to catch the elusive Aurora Borealis. The excitement was building. It was time to visit Mount Kirkjufell.
Success Was Found Just Beyond Midnight
Nick set up a timelapse sequence to be able to capture the movement of the Aurora Borealis and his stunning photograph is the first image from that sequence. “I would say that the light was created by the mixture of the partly diffused intense Northern Lights and the setting moon, two days to its first quarter,” he said.
Nick was looking for three specific factors in the creation of an Aurora Borealis photograph: the Aurora Borealis itself, an interesting landscape, and water elements that would be able to reflect the incredible colours of the sky itself. That’s how Mount Kirkjufell was chosen. “I did extensive online research, scouting the chosen location in daylight,” he said. “I sometimes even checked the postcards in the local gift shop!”
How Was the Photograph Created?
Pandev took the first image from his timelapse sequence and uploaded it through Adobe Camera Raw. “I did reduce the noise first of all,” described Pandev, “revealed the shadows by a fraction, minor contrast adjustment and overexpose half a stop which I could do at the time of capturing the photo but did not want to go over the 15 second exposure, so I could capture the constantly moving Aurora Borealis as nearer to what I have seen as possible”
“Chasing the Northern Light could be a highly addictive hobby especially if you have an adventurer spirit and nature loving personality and not to forget a camera in you backpack. In case you fit the above subscription I bet that you shall not sleep a lot over the Arctic nights! Every time, every scape is an image awaiting to be captured in Iceland. And this image represents and confirms my words – very rear Lunar Halo captured by accident over the last night of my journey.”
For Pandev, the image represents his entire trip to Iceland. From the arctic wildlife to frozen waterfalls and even shipwrecks, the entire experience was definitely a lifetime highlight. “It was one of those moments when we as human realise how small we are and what an amazing place is our planet Earth,” said Pandev.
“On the other hand staring at the sky made me feel truly blessed for having this rare opportunity to witness and capture the Aurora Borealis”.
Nick’s photograph is in the October 2013 issue of National Geographic.
See also Magical Iceland – A Pictorial Journey by Nikolay Pandev