I photographed my first Northern Lights for this season from a plane window

Around halfway into the flight, something outside the aeroplane’s window caught my eye.

The lights in the plane cabin were on, so it was quite difficult to see, but I threw a jacket over my head to get rid of the reflections in the window and grabbed my camera.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have the right lens on me, but I still managed to get a pretty good shot showing the Northern Lights glowing green above the cloud cover.

It was September 25, and this image was the first I took in the Northern Lights season that in Norway, where I’m from, lasts from September to March.

I was flying from Oslo, where I had been visiting friends back to my home in Tromso, where I work as a photographer.

I knew there was a possibility of seeing the Aurora Borealis that evening. Being in a plane is a great way of seeing them as you are not dependent on clear skies when you’re above the clouds, and I was headed north, where they are more common.

With this in mind, I booked a seat by the window at the front of the plane and was pleased to find the flight was only half full.

Initially there had been nothing much to see, but when we approached Nordland in northern Norway, the Northern Lights started to dance in the sky.

I’m not sure if anyone else on the plane saw them – I regret not asking the cabin crew to dim the lights but it was difficult to keep my jacket in place while taking the photos… next time I will!

Being from Norway I’m lucky to have the Northern Lights happen on my doorstep, and to have had lots of amazing sightings of the phenomenon over the years. Chasing them is like an addiction.

I started photographing wildlife and landscapes when I was 12 years old but at 40, I am still constantly learning and improving. Even though I have photographed them a lot, there is always the possibility of getting a better shot so I always have my camera handy.

My favourite place to see them is at Andøya, which is the northernmost island in the Vesterålen archipelago, located around 300 kilometres inside the Arctic circle.

This is also the place where you find Andøya Space Center, where they launch rockets and do research on the Northern Lights.

The landscape here is truly breathtaking, which adds to the drama of the photos.

My most epic sighting took place last New Year’s Eve while I was driving with some friends from Tromsø, where I am based, to the village of Lakselvbukt.

We were treated to a spectacular show with a very strong, colourful display that lasted for several hours. The duration of each display really varies. Sometimes it can be seconds, sometimes minutes or, if you’re lucky, hours.

I get a thrill whenever I think about that evening. It was such a cinematic moment, sat there in the cold and watching the sky come alive above us.

It is possible to take pictures of the Northern Lights with most modern digital cameras – it’s just about brushing up on the basics and getting the ISO, aperture and exposure settings right. This is all easy to find with a bit of Googling.

A tripod is also a must in most cases to get a steady shot, and I normally use a wide-angle lens to cover a big portion of the sky.

The most difficult part is to get a technically good picture, with a nice composition, that stands out from the crowd.

Photos of the Aurora Borealis will never represent what you can see with your own eyes but the sensor of the camera is capable of capturing colours that are difficult to see with the naked eye.

I display and sell the images I take, and I have won numerous photography competitions, with cash or gear given as prizes.

Along with the Northern Lights I love capturing birds and whales in the colourful winter light.

Luckily coronavirus hasn’t impacted my work as the area where I live hasn’t been hit and I generally work alone.

For those who haven’t seen the Northern Lights, I would definitely add it to the list for when the situation allows.

There is something extremely mystical, moving and intense about seeing them. They give me goosebumps and I just stand there thinking ‘wow’.

As told to Sadie Whitelocks.

To learn more about Espen Bergersen and his work visit www.naturgalleriet.no

My Life Through A Lens

My Life Through a Lens is an exciting series on Metro.co.uk that looks at one incredible photo, and shares the story that lies behind it. If you have an experience you would like to share, please email [email protected] with MLTAL as the subject.

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