Joonas Linkola’s 5 top tips for seeing and photographing Northern Lights

Ask people what they think of when they think of Finland and the likelihood is Northern Lights will be on the list. Hardly surprising when you discover that Lapland — home to the spectacle— is 100,366 km2  nearly a third of Finland’s entire area. Yet despite its size, the chilly far north has less than 2 people per km2 . This might be why Northern Lights are considered such a marvellously rare spectacle. Except they’re not. Well, not according to explorer and Nothern Lights photographer extraordinaire, Joonas Linkola.


As you can see from Joonas’s dazzling shots below, he’s not only seen Northern Lights hundreds of times, but recorded their magic too. So, how does he do it? After you’ve checked out his amazing work, scroll down, and you’ll find his top tips for discovering and photographing aurora borealis in all their glimmering glory.

As you can see Joonas certainly knows a thing or two about amazing photography. So, without further ado, here are his tips for enjoying and shooting the Northern Lights!

Joonas Linkola’s 5 top tips for seeing and photographing Northern Lights

1. Head to Finnish Lapland between September and March. Active season for Northern lights starts already in the autumn and goes all the way till late winter.

2. Get away from light pollution. The darker the better, but of course if the Northern lights are strong, you can see them even in the middle of the city.

3. Watch the Aurora forecast, for example, or Expected geomagnetic activity helps you to make a decision whether to go out or not. Kp index of 3 or more indicates a good chance of seeing Northern lights.

4. Prepare to wait for a long time. So gear up properly and have some warm drinks and good snacks with you. Headlamp is a must if you go out from the city. 

5. For photos, you should get to know how to take various long exposures, for example, 4 seconds or 10 seconds, depending on the speed of the Northern lights. Tripod and a wide-angle lens are necessary for good results. 

Another important thing to remember is that Northern lights don’t look the same way as in pictures. First thing is that Aurora usually takes some time to appear in colour, and often gradually appears as rainbow-like arc across the sky. Next reason has to do with cells in humans’ eyes, the light is too faint to be sensed by colour-detecting cone cells. It is very dependant on a person, though, since some people claim to have seen light shades go green/purple/pink.

Modern DSLR cameras do much better job at “seeing” the colours of Northern lights. Especially if you shoot with long exposure, which records the whole movement of “dancing lights” and creates beautiful shapes. So you might consider grabbing your camera when you decide to watch Polar Lights!

If you want to hear more about Joona’s seemingly never-ending adventures, be sure to follow him on Instagram, check out his blog and listen to him being interview on the Very Finnish Problems podcast. In the meantime, happy Northern Lights hunting!



10 replies

  1. I saw northern light in the Netherlands ? even it was just a green glow in the distance. I didnt know what it was and it scared me 😀

  2. Not long ago we got to witness the most beautiful northern lights what I have ever seen, sky was full of multi-color fast moving lights, real awe. Not even in Lapland, but south of Oulu.

  3. Few days ago we saw it in Iisalmi, that is far from Lapland but we were lucky to watch a strong aurora. It happened last month too!

  4. Ooooohhh my dream! I would like some advice: I’m in love with Finland but live in Paris. I have been visiting Finland in summer and next year, it will be in winter and summer! My trip will be on February. Is end of February ok to see my dream? How up North should I go? Lapland or Hossa would be ok too? Thank you so much for your help, amazing people from amazing Finland! (I know, Finnish don’t like overwhelmed people like me when I speak about Finland but truly Finland is my dream country. And I write much more than I talk, almost Finnish already ?

  5. It’s interesting that I can relate to the Finnish, although I haven’t
    lived around Finnish people since I was nine years old. Of course,
    my mother was Finnish and my Father came from Finland,so that
    probably explains it. This has been very informative. Thank you.

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