Northern Lights by Drone? You Won’t Believe Your Eyes


Northern lights over Iceland filmed by Icelandic photographer Oli Haukur using a drone. Don’t forget to expand the screen.

I knew the era of real-time northern lights video was upon us. I just didn’t think drones would get into the act this soon. What was I thinking? They’re perfect for the job! If watching the aurora ever made you feel like you could fly, well now you can in Oli Haukur’s moving, real-time footage of an amazing aurora display filmed by drone.

Oli Haukur operates the drone and camera during a test run. Credit: Oli Hauku / OZZO Photography
Oli Haukur operates the drone and camera during a test run. Credit: Oli Hauku / OZZO Photography

Haukur hooked up a Sony a7S II digital camera and ultra-wide Sigma 20mm f/1.4 lens onto his DJI Matrice 600 hexacopter. The light from the gibbous moon illuminates the rugged shoreline and crashing waves of the Reykjanes Peninsula (The Steamy Peninsula) as while green curtains of aurora flicker above.

The Sony camera is shown attached to the drone. To capture the aurora, Haukur used a fast lens, high ISO and set the frame rate to 25 frames per second (fps) or 1/25th of a second per frame. Credit: Oli Haukur / OZZO Photography
The Sony camera is shown attached to the drone. To capture the aurora, Haukur used a fast lens, high ISO and set the frame rate to 25 frames per second (fps) or 1/25th of a second per frame. Credit: Oli Haukur / OZZO Photography

When the camera ascends over a sea stack, you can see gulls take off below, surprised by the mechanical bird buzzing just above their heads. Breathtaking. You might notice at the same time a flash of light — this is from the lighthouse beacon seen earlier in the video.

To capture his the footage, Haukur used a “fast” lens (one that needs only a small amount of light to make a picture) and an ISO of 25,600. The camera is capable of ISO 400,000, but the lower ISO provided greater resolution and color quality.

Moonlight provided all the light needed to bring out the landscape.

The drone used to make the night flight. Credit: Oli Haukur
The drone used to make the night flight and aurora recording is seen up close on takeoff. Haukur, of Rejkyavik, Iceland, works as a freelance photographer and filmmaker as well as providing professional drone services in that country. Credit: Oli Haukur / OZZO Photography

Remember when ISO 1600 or 3200 was as far you dared to go before the image turned to a grainy mush? Last year Canon released a camera that can literally see in the dark with a top ISO over 4,000,000! There’s no question we’ll be seeing more live aurora and drone aurora video in the coming months. Haukur plans additional shoots this winter and early next spring. Living in Iceland, which lies almost directly beneath the permanent auroral oval, you can schedule these sort of things!

Am I allowed one tiny criticism? I want more — a minute and a half is barely enough! Haukur shot plenty but released only a taste to social media to prove it could be done and share the joy. Let’s hope he compiles the rest and makes it available for us to lose our selves in soon.

Stunning Aurora Timelapse from Iceland, December 2014

As we get ready to wrap up the year and the month, here’s an absolutely beautiful compilation of views of the aurora — or norðurljós as they are called in Icelandic — from the month of December 2014 in Iceland.

“Even though the month is not over yet, the weather forecast does not allow any shooting the rest of the month,” said photographer Ólafur Haraldsson via email.

Haraldsson’s timelapse captures the quiet and magical beauty of the aurora and the majestic and varied landscapes of Iceland.

See more of Haraldsson’s wonderful work on his website — which includes some amazing 360 degree interactive panoramas — or on Twitter and Instagram.

Aurora December 2014 from Olafur Haraldsson on Vimeo.

Wow! Epic 4K Timelapse of Aurora Over Iceland and Greenland

Holy Northern Lights, Batman! This new timelapse is just beautiful! Photographer Joe Capra traveled to Greenland and Iceland to shoot 10 nights of the arctic Aurora. Not only was the aurora absolutely stunning, but the landscape is equally beautiful. Joe said that all the footage was shot in super high resolution 4K Ultra HD, and you can even see the bright aurora reflected in small rivers and streams.

Here are some of the locations Joe shot the footage: Greenland locations include the Kangerlussuaq, Ilulissat, Ilimanaq, Ilulissat Ice Fjord, Russell Glacier, Greenland Icecap, and Disko Bay. Iceland locations include the South Coast, Snæfellsnes Peninsula, Kirkjufell, and Grundarfjörður.

Check out more of Joe’s work at his website Scientifantastic.

Two Lands – Greenland | Iceland from SCIENTIFANTASTIC on Vimeo.

Stunning Aurora at Mount Kirkjufell in Iceland

Wow! Mount Kirkjufell is a well-known and often-photographed landmark, and there are many who say it is the most beautiful mountain in Iceland. Photographer Nanut Bovorn captured Kirkjufell in all its glory on April 2, 2014, surrounded by starry skies and an incredible aurora. Simply stunning.

Below is another image taken the same night which also shows the beautiful landscape that surrounds Kirkjufell, with a stream and waterfalls, all under the beautiful nights skies in Iceland.

Mount Kirkjufell sits on a little peninsula and is 463 meters high.

Mount Kirkjufell in Iceland surrounded by the aurora on April 2, 2014. Credit and copyright: Nanut Bovorn.
Mount Kirkjufell in Iceland surrounded by the aurora on April 2, 2014. Credit and copyright: Nanut Bovorn.

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Astrophotos: Aurora Reflections from Iceland

Our friend Cory Schmitz planned the perfect time to go on a Iceland Aurora photo tour. With the recent activity from the Sun, there have been some great views of the aurora borealis in Iceland. “These images are very close to what the sky actually looked like to the naked eye,” Cory said on G+. “Motion, color, everything. Right above our heads. Insane — what an experience!”

Thanks for sharing the experience, Cory…. but next time, bring us with you, huh?

Aurora Borealis,  shot with a Canon 5DmkII and Canon 14mm f/2.8 LII prime lens at Jökulsarlon beach in Iceland on November 12, 2013. Credit and copyright: Cory Schmitz.
Aurora Borealis, shot with a Canon 5DmkII and Canon 14mm f/2.8 LII prime lens at Jökulsarlon beach in Iceland on November 12, 2013. Credit and copyright: Cory Schmitz.

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Astrophotos: Northern Lights Over Iceland

Photographer Jack Fusco recently took a trip to Iceland, hoping to capture the unique Icelandic landscapes and night skies but ran into bad weather. “The weather wasn’t favorable for photography during the day and the skies completely cloud covered at night,” Jack said on Flickr, “and the last night I spent in Iceland was the only night that I was able to see the stars.” But what a night it was!


“I wasn’t completely sure what the Northern Lights would look like when I saw them, but when I first spotted them streaking across the sky I could hardly contain my excitement. I may not have gotten to photograph all of the spots that I had hoped, but on this night, for me, I felt like I truly had found something incredible,” he said, and the experience reminded him of Carl Sagan’s words, “Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.”

The Northern Lights fill the Icelandic Sky - 1-20-2013. Credit and copyright: Jack Fusco.
The Northern Lights fill the Icelandic Sky on 1-20-2013. Credit and copyright: Jack Fusco.

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Frost, Fire and Northern Lights in Iceland

Northern lights over the Jökulsárlón glacial lake in Iceland on September 19, 2012. Credit: Jean-Luc Dauvergne

Iceland is a land of stark beauty and extremes in both weather and landscape. But its also a place to see some of the most spectacular views of northern lights. Jean-Luc Dauvergne a journalist from Ciel Et Espace, a French astronomy magazine, recently traveled to Iceland and said in an email to Universe Today, “I think that this incredible place may be one of the most beautiful landscapes in the world to do photography with northern lights.” After seeing a view like this one at the Jökulsárlón Lagoon, on September 19, 2012 at the height of auroral activity, Dauvergne will likely return to Iceland again. “The weather was nearly perfect. And I saw northern lights every night What luck!”

He sent us another image of northern lights taken beside a US Navy DC3 “Dakota” that crashed in Icelandic South Coast in bad weather in 1973, which is located in the Solheimasondur area at the foot of the famous Eyjafjallajökull volcano that erupted in 2010, along with a video he created from his travels to Iceland.

Northern lights in Iceland on Sept. 20, 2012. Credit: Jean-Luc Dauvergne

You can see more of Dauvergne’s images at http://astrophotography.fr/

The travel bureau from Iceland should consider using this video that Dauvergne created in order to advertise the great experiences one can have in this country. First in the video is Gulfoss, the “Golden Falls”, a 70 meter wide waterfall; then a geyser, named “Geysir” which the biggest geyser in the world after those in Yellowstone National Park in the US; then is the Vatnajökull area , the biggest glacier in Europe. “The most impressive place is the Jökulsárlón where the glacier arrive in a lake that communicates with the ocean,” said Dauvergne

Frost, Fire and Northern Lights in Iceland from Jean-Luc Dauvergne on Vimeo.

Passing Through – A Beautiful Iceland Timelapse

This awesome video by Kristian Ulrich Larsen and Olafur Haraldsson melds the stark but beautiful landscape of Iceland, the words of Nicola Tesla, and cool computer graphics.

The text is from a speech given by Tesla in 1893, where he implies that the world should be conceived as a whole where everything is interconnected.

“Like a wave in the physical world, in the infinite ocean of the medium which pervades all, so in the world of organisms, in life, an impulse started proceeds onward, at times, may be, with the speed of light, at times, again, so slowly that for ages and ages it seems to stay, passing through processes of a complexity inconceivable to men, but in all its forms, in all its stages, its energy ever and ever integrally present.

A single ray of light from a distant star falling upon the eye of a tyrant in bygone times may have altered the course of his life, may have changed the destiny of nations, may have transformed the surface of the globe, so intricate, so inconceivably complex are the processes in Nature. In no way can we get such an overwhelming idea of the grandeur of Nature than when we consider, that in accordance with the law of the conservation of energy, throughout the Infinite, the forces are in a perfect balance, and hence the energy of a single thought may determine the motion of a universe.”

—Nikola Tesla “The Electrical Review, 1893”

Passing Through from Olafur Haraldsson on Vimeo.

Astrophotos: Stunning Aurora in Iceland by Andrew Welstead

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From one hemisphere to another: Noel Welstead from Australia sent us a note that his son Andrew had traveled to Iceland this week, and one of his goals was to see if he could photograph the Northern Lights. Andrew was in the Skaftafell National Park, the south central part of Iceland when he took these stunning images. See more below.

Aurora seen in February 2012 from Skaftafell National Park in Iceland. Credit: Andrew Welstead
Aurora seen in February 2012 from Skaftafell National Park in Iceland. Credit: Andrew Welstead

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