Winter solstice …

Day 4:  On this, the shortest day, the heavy weather shifted to the west and the skies to the north became less threatening:

South of Ornes ...

In the morning, two hours behind schedule, Finnmarken sounded three long blasts on the ships horn as she eased into the Arctic Circle at 66°34′. A few miles on, she broke the silence again as a sister ship headed south into the light and we headed further north into the dark. In this part of the world, the winter solstice was actually timed at 12:03 am on 22nd December i.e. when the Sun was exactly overhead the Tropic of Capricorn.

Ships that pass ...

It was no coincidence that I was reading George Mackay Brown’s A Time to Keep – short stories set in the Orkneys, they describe a culture that had strong parallels with remote Norwegian fishing communities. The Orkney bars were populated with the crews of Norwegian whalers and the older stories speak of Viking raiders.

The tale of Check Harra, a man who could not resist gambling with the fifty two cards, contains this short passage which describes his time living among the Indians of North America:

He was lord of an area as big as Britain, a white wilderness with here and there a reindeer herd on the move and at night the splendour of the Merry Dancers, swathes of heavy yellow silk swirling and rustling in the Arctic sky.

That night the Merry Dancers were wearing green:

North Lights ...
Northern lights ...

The images were taken with a hand-held Fuji X100s pushed to ISO 25600 – better results could be achieved at lower ISO settings and a longer exposure on a tripod but, not from a moving ship – the stars streak (and don’t forget to remove the UV filter). There will be more to come.


  1. klaasfidom · January 5, 2015

    Great pictures!

  2. Sarah Longes - Mirador Design · January 5, 2015

    Absolutely stunning! Great job with the Northern Lights 🙂 Really like the silhouettes of the mountains!

    • northumbrianlight · January 6, 2015

      Many thanks Sarah – something of a technical challenge – at ISO 25600 the camera sees much more than the human eye. These have actually been darkened – in the originals you can see the snow on the mountains + a lot of ‘noise’ that you don’t want to see.

      • Sarah Longes - Mirador Design · January 6, 2015

        That’s the big problem with those sort of ISO’s! I often have to use 3200 for music photography and you just lose so much facial detail to the noise. Respect for getting those shots!

      • northumbrianlight · January 7, 2015

        The Fuji X100s sensor is particulary good which helps 🙂

      • Sarah Longes - Mirador Design · January 7, 2015

        The Sony sensors are amazing! I’d love to have the new a7s. The Fuji X series are quite similar and very pretty looking too 🙂

  3. west517 · January 5, 2015

    WOW— wonderful!!

  4. jcollettphotography · January 5, 2015

    Great image, love the red and blue.

  5. Mjollnir · January 5, 2015

    Glad you got to see the northern lights (and read a bit of GMB).

    • northumbrianlight · January 6, 2015

      Many thanks, it made everything worthwhile – GMB makes for a grand travelling companion in the north. I also had time to read Beside the Ocean of Time – a classic.

  6. Cate Franklyn · January 5, 2015


    • northumbrianlight · January 6, 2015

      Thanks Cate – it made all the travelling worthwhile – even the cattle market that is Heathrow’s Terminal 5 🙂

  7. noellevignola · January 6, 2015

    completely captivated by this piece.

  8. restlessjo · January 6, 2015

    Hooray for the lights! But that first image is my favourite 🙂

    • northumbrianlight · January 6, 2015

      Mine too Jo – the pictures of the lights were more of a technical challenge than an artistic exercise. There is no substitute for seeing the real thing.

  9. Ese' s Voice · January 6, 2015

    Gorgeous – all of them, especially, the lights…ahhh… 🙂

  10. LaVagabonde · January 6, 2015

    Truly magnificent. I have the feeling that this was a profound voyage for you.

    • northumbrianlight · January 6, 2015

      Exactly right Julie and that day in particular. It had the sense of everything Kathleen Jamie describes in Darkness and Light (Findings) – “We cheered the beans and drank a toast, because tonight was mid-winter’s night, the night of the complicit kiss and tomorrow the light would begin its return”. A never to be forgotten short day and long night.

  11. iosatel · January 6, 2015


  12. la_lasciata · January 6, 2015

    All glorious.

    • northumbrianlight · January 7, 2015

      You are too kind – hope you continue to enjoy the ride 🙂

      • la_lasciata · January 7, 2015

        Can’t see why I shan’t …

  13. Malin H · January 7, 2015

    I have one word; Wow!!!

  14. Cindi · January 7, 2015

    Such marvelous images. The first one captures the expanse of the sky — and the two types of weather.

    • northumbrianlight · January 7, 2015

      Many thanks Cindi – I am extremely envious of you living there!

  15. Andrea Stephenson · January 8, 2015

    Wow, wonderful pictures.

  16. greenmackenzie · January 8, 2015

    wonderful post, those beautiful images swirled up with some myth and magical words. I hadnt thought about the challenge of shooting long exposures on a moving ship. But beautiful images none the less. What a great adventure!

    • northumbrianlight · January 9, 2015

      Many thanks – It is everything you could hope for – you would love it.

  17. MJF Images · January 9, 2015


  18. Scott Marshall · January 21, 2015

    I probably more than most understand your comments regarding capturing the Aurora from a moving ship – how frustrated were we. I did get a few in Tromso whilst docked which were okay – but I would fly back in to Tromso again and hire a car – you have really captured the trip beautifully with some magical light – I felt we were limited to 2D images with the sea always being the foreground.

    • northumbrianlight · January 21, 2015

      Many thanks, much appreciated – I have seen your Instagram auroras at Tromso and they are excellent – as they should be rather than my over-pushed grainy efforts. Good excuse to go back and try again though 🙂 A friend suggests flying into Sweden and hiring a car from there – much cheaper supposedly but I haven’t checked yet.

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