The Northern Lights – a natural phenomenon that always casts a spell on people.
Photographer Markus Kiili has spent countless ice cold nights in the Finnish region of Lapland on his quest to capture them on camera.
“Northern lights are so beautiful, they are so huge and like something from outer space, like they are not from this world,” says Kiili.
Kiili is famous for his pictures of aurora borealis and he takes everything that comes with the job in stride. For hours he waits under the open sky, even in temperatures that are -30 degrees – all for the perfect picture.
When he gets the chance, he would light a fire in one of the nearby huts to warm up, but he never stays inside long - he wouldn’t want to miss the nocturnal performance. The Northern Lights can dance across the sky for hours or mere minutes.
They can only be captured with a long exposure, so he never knows how the photos will turn out.
“There are different colours in the northern lights, the green is more common, and there are also pink, red, violet and blue, but I like the pink most. The green is normally not as green as you see in the photos, but the pink is as is in the photo as in real life.”
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The photographer has shot more than 100 000 photos to date. He edits them on his computer, and knows just what it takes to do the lights justice.
“The important thing is that there has to be something in the front – a house or person or whatever – and something in the middle, and in the background there are the Northern Lights, so that you can get a perspective on how huge the lights are,” explains Kiili.
“If there are only northern lights, you can’t think how big they are.”
Kiili checks every evening to see how good his chances are of seeing the lights – they’re visible about 200 times a year.
The Northern Lights are created by electrically charged particles released from the sun that collide with particles in the Earth’s atmosphere. They appear stronger the closer you are to the North or South Pole.
“Good weather for the Northern Lights is having a clear sky, because they are about 100km from the Earth’s surface, so the clouds are much lower. If it’s cloudy you will not see the Northern Lights."
It must take a special kind of person to spend hours alone in the cold hunting down the lights.
“I’m anti-social I guess. [Joking] No no, you don’t need to be a special type of person. If you get tired very early, then it won’t be easy for you.”
When he finally gets a glimpse, his equipment can’t let him down. It needs special treatment in these freezing temperatures.
“When you take photos in cold temperatures, your battery life goes down really fast, so you need to keep the batteries warm and have extra batteries. You keep the batteries near your body to heat them up, I normally keep them in my clothes.”
And the nightly trips into the freezing weather has paid off. His beautiful images of the Northern Lights amaze people all over the world.