Being a night sky photographer since 90s this was the strongest most colorful aurora I have ever photographed pole to pole when the northern lights dressed in pastels. In March 2015 I was finishing my annual photo workshop in Iceland when I noticed a major solar eruption is heading our planet. The particles take two day to arrive. Being near the Arctic I was well located but the challenge was to find clear sky.
The weather forecast took me to Snaefellsness peninsula in the west. The night of March 17th began with a blast. The aurora storm level was so high (Kp 9) that the northern lights started in twilight, over the south! It turned out to be the most intense geomagnetic storm on Earth in about a decade. At 2am I was at Kirkjufell (church mountain) and its miniature waterfalls, one of Iceland’s most iconic landmarks, waiting for the next burst of colorful rays when this view came to existence.
Storm level aurora illuminates the landscape, cast shadows, and dominates the entire sky. However it is much less colorful to the eyes as our color detecting cones need more light to activate. Green is the first you would notice. The intensity varies in each person while red and purple are the next colors most viewers recognize. Blue is the last, which was visible on some moments of this night.
National Geographic editors selected this image for the cover the Hidden Earth special issue and also in the best 2017 travel photos. Hanging on our living room wall my one year old son see this print every day, now recognizes the words Iceland and Aurora!
Location: Kirkjufell Volcano, Snaefellsnes Peninsula, Iceland
Photograph Date: 2015
Medium: Chromogenic Print