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Cameras for Northern Lights & recommended tour operators

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Malaysia
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Cameras for Northern Lights & recommended tour operators

Hi.

I would like to see the lights (possibly around Kiruna / Abisko) in mid-Jan, but I am no professional photographer.

I am only using a normal Panasonic Lumix digital camera (TZ-30).

Would anyone know if such cameras will work in cold conditions and does it sound insane for me to spend a fortune to see the lights but merely using a layman's camera ?

I have seen photos of people viewing the lights and they all seem to snapping away with sophisticated camera sets etc.

Also, are there any recommendations for a tour operator to Abisko/Kiruna, preferably departing from London ?

I know of a company called Discover the World, but their prices are rather steep.

Thanks.

Mjolby, Sweden
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1. Re: Cameras for Northern Lights & recommended tour operators

Hi!

The Panasonic Lumix TZ30 seems to have manual settings for exposure so it could work.

I took the picture in my profile with an old Canon Powershot some years back, it was a fairly simple camera but it managed OK to capture the Northern Lights.

However, it is tricky to capture the lights on camera so I suggest that you start to practice your night time photography and get to know your camera. Or even better, join a photography course to make the most of your camera and your trip.

Can't comment on tour operators. Have you considered arranging something yourself? It will most likely be a lot cheaper.

Malaysia
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297 posts
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2. Re: Cameras for Northern Lights & recommended tour operators

Thanks for the prompt reply.

Good to know that the camera should work OK.

Yes, I am also thinking of arranging the tour myself, but will it work out to be much cheaper ?

Was thinking of lodging at the Abisko Mountain Lodge, not sure if that is a good choice.

Plus would like to pay the Icehotel a visit during the day.

Any other suggestions ?

Cheers.

Mjolby, Sweden
Destination Expert
for Stockholm, Sweden
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3. Re: Cameras for Northern Lights & recommended tour operators

I believe it can be quite a bit cheaper. At least it's worth looking in to. Tour operators tends to charge a lot for the "exotic" places.

To get to Abisko you could fly up north with Norwegian from Stockholm for a reasonable fair:

http://www.norwegian.com/en/

Then take the train from Kiruna. Or you could take the overnight train from Stockholm.

This a good site to see what options that are available:

reseplanerare.resrobot.se/bin/query.exe/en…

An option to Abisko could be Porjus, a great place for the Northern Lights.

There is a nice no frills accommodation in Porjus:

tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g1596408-d15949…

The hostess is a lovely English lady that knows pretty much everything about how to capture the Northern Lights on camera. Could be worth checking out at least, maybe you could even book a photography session with her.

To get to Porjus you could fly with Nextjet to Gällivare:

http://www.nextjet.se/English/Default.asp

Or go by overnight train. Transportation to Porjus could be arranged with the hostess.

A few things that you can investigate further :-)

Malaysia
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297 posts
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4. Re: Cameras for Northern Lights & recommended tour operators

Thanks again for the very informative reply.

Much appreciated.

Will definitely look into the option of basing in Porjus.

By the way, I read that Abisko national Park is one of the best places to see the lights because of the frequent cloud free sky above the lake.

Is this actually true or simply a marketing myth ?

Cheers.

Stockholm, Sweden
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5. Re: Cameras for Northern Lights & recommended tour operators

I think Abisko is a great place to see aurora. The national park is beautiful and offers a great setting. And there is some truth to the marketing - due to its rain shadow location Abisko gets a lot of clear days and is one of the driest places in Sweden. Still, there are no guarantees of a clear sky on a particular day of course.

About photography - I've lived in the area yet only ever managed a handful of good aurora shots. It's tricky. All my cameras have worked ok in the cold, it's just difficult to make justice to the colours etc. Just enjoy the spectacle & experience should you get to see one, and if you should happen to get a good photo treat that as a bonus. :)

As for the Ice hotel, it's nice to see it but a day visit is enough, it's not worth staying overnight IMO.

Malaysia
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297 posts
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6. Re: Cameras for Northern Lights & recommended tour operators

Thanks for the information.

Am considering either Abisko NP or Porjus area.

(The reviews for the apartment at Porjus sounds very tempting indeed).

If it is Abisko NP, would it be better to be based in Abisko Turiststation (STF Abisko Mountain Station) or Abisko Ostra (Mountain Lodge/Abisko Guesthouse) ?

Some of the reviews for the Abisko Mountain Station are not that impressive, but if it is more convenient to be based there, then will reconsider.

Problem is I do not have my own car.

Also, do most of the accommodation lend arctic clothing if I need them ?

Complimentary ?

Yes, I concur with you on the comment regarding the Icehotel.

Doesn't sound like a comfortable night sleep in spite of the high price.

At most I will stay a night in the warm room to be able to visit the snow rooms if time is short on my itinerary.

Cheers.

Stockholm, Sweden
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7. Re: Cameras for Northern Lights & recommended tour operators

Regarding the photography part, and cold conditions. One thing that you should know about is that cold weather affects the battery. The battery won't get damaged by the cold, but you will experience that it will get drained faster. Don't expect to take the same amount of photos as you usually do without recharging the battery.

You should also think about how you handle the camera when you go outside and back to the warm cabin. It's very dry outside when it's cold, but it's warm a humid in the cabin, so you will get condensation on the lens if you walk inside with the cold camera unless you protect it is some way. I always place the cold camera in the camera bag when I'm still outside and then I let it be in the bag for a while when I get inside. You don't want to get inside with a cold camera, check a few photos, remove the lens cover, and then walk outside again with condensation on the lens.

You can read more about photography and cold weather here:

ritzcamera.com/static/…winter-photo.html

I would also recommend you to bring a tripod, even if it's a small one.

Malaysia
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297 posts
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8. Re: Cameras for Northern Lights & recommended tour operators

Just wondering :

- if I should place a heat pack in the plastic bag which will be used to keep my camera while outdoors ?

- I will definitely bring 2 batteries - 1 in the camera and another spare.

Would this be sufficient ? Or how many extra batteries are recommended ?

I should be using the camera mainly in the evening if I am lucky enough to see the northern lights.

(am using a Li-ion battery for my digital camera)

Thanks.

Stockholm, Sweden
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9. Re: Cameras for Northern Lights & recommended tour operators

No, don't tried to keep the camera warm. It's better to let it be dry and cold while outside.

2 batteries should be enough. I usually only bring one, and then charge it every day when I sleep. One battery that is fully charged should last for a day, but it's always good to have that backup, especially if you forgot to charge the battery one night.

Malaysia
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297 posts
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10. Re: Cameras for Northern Lights & recommended tour operators

Thanks so much for the advice !