20 Mesmerizing Photos Of Aurora Borealis That Got Selected For The 2023 Northern Lights Photography Competition

Published 7 months ago

The ethereal beauty of the Aurora Borealis, also known as the Northern Lights, has captivated the imaginations of photographers and stargazers alike for centuries. In the pursuit of capturing the elusive dance of lights in the polar skies, photographers from around the world participated in the 2023 Northern Lights Photography Competition organized by the esteemed travel photography blog, Capture the Atlas.

Let’s embark on a visual journey through some mesmerizing photos that stood out among the competition, showcasing the breathtaking allure of the Northern Lights. And if you wish to check out the winners from last year, click here.

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#1 “Beauty Of The North” By Elena Ermolina

Image source: capturetheatlas

Kola Peninsula, Russia

“On that beautiful night, the sky was painted green by the Northern Lights and their ethereal dance.

The Aurora was casting an incredible glow over the natural elements in the landscape. In this breathtaking moment, I managed to capture the celestial spectacle with my camera, which revealed even more colors than my eyes could see.”

#2 “The Arctic Dance” By Vincent Beudez

Image source: capturetheatlas

Tromso, Norway

“As Northern Lights photographers, this is the moment we live for, the strongest solar storm of the year. That particular night, the Northern Lights were so strong that they were even visible from France, my home country.

At that time, I was in Northern Norway, which meant I could see an incredible show even facing south. I was able to see the most colorful Northern Lights I’ve ever witnessed. Being a night photographer as well, I’m not only looking for the Northern Lights, but I chase shapes within a perfect environment, to create the perfect composition.

It’s hard to put into words the feeling when I saw this red curtain surrounded by dancing lights.”

#3 “Bakers Oven Aurora Australis” By Josh Beames

Image source: capturetheatlas

Bakers Oven, Australia

“I just recently noticed that the sun had emitted a massive solar flare which looked to be heading in Earth’s direction.

I kept an eye on the charts and was excited to see that it would be a direct hit, granting a great opportunity to capture the elusive Southern Lights!

As I checked the weather forecast, I saw we were going to have the perfect conditions, combined with the possibility of capturing a strong Aurora Australis. We made our way along the Great Ocean Road, to Bakers Oven, where were treated to an absolute show after sunset.”

#4 “The Dance Of The Green Lady” By Luis Cajete

Image source: capturetheatlas

Haifoss, Iceland

“Witnessing a great Northern Lights display is an absolutely stunning experience. I took this picture at a beautiful waterfall in Iceland called Haifoss. The strong wind made photography challenging.

After an almost cloudless sunset, we took refuge in our camper van to rest and have a warm meal. Despite the forecasts not indicating significant solar activity, we decided to wait until nightfall and try our luck. We couldn’t pass up the opportunity to have this impressive place all to ourselves.

When we saw the first green lights through the window, we jumped outside. The sky exploded above us; the Northern Lights moved swiftly, and the strong wind continued to put us to the test.

At the peak of activity, I focused on securing the camera settings, and that’s when I began to enjoy the show, always mindful of not making a misstep and gripping the tripod tightly.

It was a dream come true to witness such incredible Northern Lights in a place like this.”

#5 “Aurora Explosion” By Jason Perry

Image source: capturetheatlas

Tasmania, Australia

“Taken in Tasmania back in April 2023, the Southern Lights displayed their strongest presence in a long time. The celestial show commenced right after dark, coinciding with the emergence of the Milky Way core. This is undeniably a convergence of people and space.

The house lights on the right side, closest to me, contrast with the mountains of Freycinet National Park across the bay. I positioned myself as close as possible to the rocks, where the rising tide caused water to swirl around them. Despite having to reset the tripod a few times, the resulting reflection made the effort worthwhile.”

#6 “Blåvatnet” By Lukas Moesch

Image source: capturetheatlas

Tromso, Norway

“On the way to the location where I took this photograph, I had a magical encounter with a rare white reindeer – which is a sign of good luck.

Despite this good omen, I wasn’t entirely sure I could capture the Northern Lights that particular night. After waiting for several hours, I began to witness a very faint glow during blue hour. What happened after that was mind-blowing! The whole sky turned green, purple, and red. The show lasted the whole night, and my hike back was lit by the bright green sky.”

#7 “Gatklettur Northen Lights” By Stefano Pellegrini

Image source: capturetheatlas

Gatklettur, Iceland

“I spent a week in Iceland, chasing the Northern Lights. Opting for total freedom of movement to track clear skies each night, I lived in a car, planning my itinerary day by day instead of booking hotels in advance. The strategy paid off, and I captured the aurora on four out of seven nights. This photo is from the first night.

Arriving at the location after dark, I parked the car and prepared my sleeping bag. Despite being up since 4 AM, I set my alarm clock to wake me every hour in anticipation of a KP5 forecast for the night. I woke up at 2:30 am on my own and spotted green hues from the car window. I hurried out, shooting frantically to seize the opportunity.

The final image is my second attempt. Initially, I framed the arch from the front down on the rocky shore but I wasn’t satisfied with the result. After a night of running around various locations, at 5 AM in the morning, I returned to the beach for another composition.”

#8 “Waning Sun” By Alex Wides

Image source: capturetheatlas

Senja Island, Norway

“A 300° panorama captured on Senja Island (Norway) featuring the setting sun and an intense kp7 Northern Lights display.

Embarking on a three-month journey from Italy to the Great North, you anticipate witnessing incredible sights, but this trip surpassed all my expectations. Arriving at Senja Island, my personal favorite among the places I’ve been fortunate enough to visit, we encountered the most powerful Northern Lights of the year, exactly as predicted.

The horizon is glowing with the light of the setting sun; in September, it sets at 11:00 PM, painting the sky in vibrant shades of green, purple, and red. This shot encapsulates the essence of the journey, capturing the beauty of an extraordinary adventure on one unforgettable evening with my family and two dogs, witnessing an awe-inspiring spectacle.”

#9 “Circle Of Life” By Frøydis Dalheim

Image source: capturetheatlas

Lappland, Finland

“This is a magical place in the forests of the Finnish Lapland that I was fortunate to capture during an evening in late March.

A pair of swans were further down the river, and occasionally I could hear them singing. Even though it was freezing cold, at almost -30° Celsius, I enjoyed being embraced by the peace and harmony of this beautiful night!”

#10 “Red Alert” By William Preite

Image source: capturetheatlas

Dolomites, Italy

“I was in the right place and at the right time, during my usual autumn tour in Italy’s Dolomites.

That Sunday, I never thought I would witness such a rare spectacle. There was a strong magnetic storm in the north, which partly spread to Southern Europe. Scientists call this event SAR (Stable Auroral Red arcs) which is even more rare than the Aurora itself.”

#11 “Northern Lights In Nova Scotia” By Kristine Rose

Image source: capturetheatlas

Nova Scotia, Canada

“I had no plans to go out and shoot this night. I spent the entirety of the previous day flying back from a trip west where I was shooting the Milky Way every night. I was feeling jet-lagged and had to be up early with my kids the next day.

However, when I looked outside and saw a break in the clouds and the lights from my front step, I knew I had to go. It’s rare in Nova Scotia to get a solar storm and clear skies. And what a storm this was! A strong G4 geomagnetic storm lit the skies across North America, putting on the best show I’ve ever seen here in NS.

I drove 15 minutes to a north-facing dock, set up my cameras, and sat watching the show. I couldn’t be sure what exactly I captured since walking on the dock introduced camera shake to my images. Even though I had to get my kids up in 4 hours, when I got home, I immediately downloaded the images to look through, and may have done a silent happy dance in my kitchen at 3 AM upon seeing this one.”

#12 “Kirkjufell Explosion” By Marc Marco Ripoll

Image source: capturetheatlas

Kirkjufell, Iceland

“This was our second night in Iceland, and the popular Mt. Kirkjufell was painted in green. With an aurora forecast in place, we stood there at dusk, anticipating the celestial display. As darkness descended, timid auroras emerged on the horizon.

Initially, I framed the classic view of the location, but suddenly, the sky exploded over my head! Faced with this spectacle, I mounted my wide-angle lens, aimed it towards the sky, and started shooting the first row of a panorama. As it wasn’t enough, I went for the second, then the third, and finally the fourth row!

The real challenge came when I tried to stitch it all together at home. Given the considerable movement in the Northern Lights, neither Lightroom nor Photoshop proved effective. In the end, I resorted to using control points in a specific panorama program, and it worked!”

#13 “Lost Who I Want To Be” By Jordan Mcinally

Image source: capturetheatlas

Moke Lake, New Zealand

“I was pretty lucky this night to have a few friends message me a heads up that a big Aurora Australis was forecast, so I had just enough time to rush to this local spot with a painfully steep ascent, watching beams start to dance across the horizon as the sunlight was fading!

I spent around 5 hours up here and had this whole ridge to myself, shooting over 300 frames of all manner of beams and colors as the show was constantly changing!”

#14 “Infinity” By Giulio Cobianchi

Image source: capturetheatlas

Lofoten Islands, Norway

“In the last few years in Lofoten, I’ve captured several “double arc” panoramas, but each time is a complex endeavor as many factors must align, and in the Arctic, it’s no easy feat. The aurora needs to be visible only to the north, it has to be a moonless night, and clear skies are essential. Additionally, the conditions must allow you to reach the peaks without excessive risk.

Picture yourself at the summit of a mountain, positioned between the Northern Lights and the Milky Way, aware that this ephemeral moment may last only seconds or minutes.

Being focus on such a situation, and not wasting the moment, is challenging. The planning involved in capturing this type of photo brings immense satisfaction, watching the elements of this intricate puzzle slowly converge. This photography style has become one of my favorites.”

#15 “Island Of Aurora” By Kat Lawman

Image source: capturetheatlas

Wales, United Kingdom

“I was fortunate enough to capture the Northern Lights from Northern Sweden back in March, with beautiful visible green waves overhead. However, I never expected to capture an incredible Aurora like this just a 15-minute drive from my door.

Upon reaching the location, the aurora was exceptionally powerful. I worried that by the time I had sorted all my equipment and scouted my composition, I might miss the main show. Nevertheless, I set up my tripod next to a small pool of seawater, focusing on capturing reflections. At this point, the aurora had slightly diminished, and I had to endure a few rain showers. However, my efforts and perseverance paid off around 9:30 pm when huge green and pink light pillars shot out of the sky—completely mesmerizing!”

#16 “Aurora Flame” By Richard Zheng

Image source: capturetheatlas

Dunedin Peninsula, New Zealand

“The peninsula of Dunedin in New Zealand is a good place to observe the aurora. It not only has very little light pollution but there are many bays facing South, which is ideal to capture the Aurora Australis. This photo was taken at an lookout on the roadside of Highcliffe.

This was the first time I had the opportunity to take photos of the Aurora and emission nebulae using a special camera for astrophotography.

In this photo, you can see the Large Magellanic Cloud in the upper right corner. The red mass in the upper left corner of the picture is the Colloidal Nebula, and extending down is the Carina Nebula.”

#17 “Green Snakes” By Filip Hrebenda

Image source: capturetheatlas

Vikten, Norway

“This photo was taken at one of the lesser-known beaches in Lofoten, Norway, called ‘Vikten.’ As with my other shots, I aimed to capture something new and different. During low tide at Vikten beach, numerous small pools emerge in the rocky paths carved by the ocean. So the first crucial step was to wait for the low tide.

Then, I sought the ideal composition with a foreground pool to create a leading-line effect. After a few minutes of searching, I found it! The next challenge was achieving sharpness, which can be challenging in low light conditions. To address this, I needed to focus stack the foreground. I used six individual shots for focus stacking the foreground to ensure everything was sharp.

Following that, I had to wait for the ideal aurora shape to improve my composition. I captured several photos and selected the one in which it formed the ideal shape for my composition. This allowed the aurora itself to become a part of the leading lines, resembling ‘green snakes’.”

#18 “Goleuadau’r Gogledd” By Mathew Browne

Image source: capturetheatlas

Wales, United Kingdom

“The title of this image, ‘Goleuadau’r Gogledd,’ translates to ‘Northern Lights’ in Welsh. Finding the accurate translation proved challenging, as this phrase isn’t commonly used in everyday conversations here in South Wales.

Witnessing the aurora borealis this far south is a rare occurrence, and capturing it at an iconic location like Paxton’s Tower adds to its uniqueness. Paxton’s Tower, a hilltop folly with a history spanning over 200 years, overlooks the picturesque Carmarthenshire countryside.

For over an hour, the horizon beyond the clouds emitted hues of green and pink. However, for a brief yet magical moment, the sky came alive with impressive pink pillars, visible to the naked eye.”

#19 “Storm Over Sukakpak” By Nickolas Warner

Image source: capturetheatlas

Alaska, USA

“Located approximately 70 miles North of the Arctic Circle, Sukakpak Mountain is one of the most beautiful peaks in the Brooks Mountain Range. While I have photographed the Northern Lights in this area on numerous occasions, the most photogenic angle typically faces south, making it a bit challenging for auroras to align with the mountain.

That night, there was an expectation of an X-Class flare hitting, so I knew we needed to head somewhere great. We took our chances and decided to drive an hour north from our accommodation to capture Sukakpak Mountain in all its glory.

It’s very tempting to pull over and shoot where you are standing when the aurora is blazing above your head. When we got there, the sky exploded with more energy than I’ve seen in more than a decade of photographing the Aurora. Attempts to capture Northern Lights that intense resulted in a blurry mess. Instead, we ignored the cameras and stared up in awe as to not miss the light show.

It was only once things slowed down that I captured this panorama.”

#20 “Echant” By Paul Wilson

Image source: capturetheatlas

Canterbury, New Zealand

“The Aurora Australis from Camp Saddle in Canterbury, New Zealand.

After a challenging hike with 30 kg of equipment, I was delighted when the aurora made an appearance! The Large & Small Magellanic clouds can also be seen; these are galaxies visible only from the Southern Hemisphere.”

Saumya Ratan

Saumya is an explorer of all things beautiful, quirky, and heartwarming. With her knack for art, design, photography, fun trivia, and internet humor, she takes you on a journey through the lighter side of pop culture.

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