Photograph the Northern Lights at Grotta Lighthouse

Grotta Lighthouse , Seltjarnarnes, Iceland

  • Activities:

    Chillin, Photography

  • Skill Level:


  • Season:

    Spring, Autumn, Winter


Capture Iceland's stunning Aurora Borealis against the Grotta Lighthouse.

While I was in Iceland for 10 days, I was blessed enough to see the northern lights every single night. Because of all the opportunities, I was able to learn some lessons about them.

The best times to see the northern lights in Iceland are late fall, early winter, or early spring. It will only get dark enough to see them in the winter whereas during the summer it never really gets dark at all so they aren't visible. Mid winter does get dark enough but it will most likely be cloudy and rainy, which is why it is best to go when the weather is transitioning into winter so you get the darkness without the storms. It also doesn't have to be late at night either. I saw them as early as 7:30 PM so as soon as it gets dark have your gear set up and be aimed for the sky.

While out in the day, look for open areas without tall trees or objects blocking too much of the sky. Plan out where you will try to shoot them ahead of time so you are ready and don't have to scramble around when they come out. Some epic places to shoot them are Seljalandsfoss, Jokulsarlon, and Kirkjufellfoss if you are out of ideas. If you are stuck in Reykjavik, you can always walk down to the lighthouse and shoot them there, it is just about an hour and a half walk from the center of town.

Before going to Iceland, I would recommend getting your night photography down. Shooting the Aurora is similar to shooting stars except that you actually will want to keep your exposures a bit shorter so they keep their forms and don't just look like big green blobs. They slither around pretty fast and are constantly changing direction. Use aperture and ISO as your priority for brightness but don't open up anymore than 2.8 so you can still keep everything fairly narrow and in focus, but it's up to you as well. If you aren't sure where to begin, I would start with your aperture at f/2.8, your shutter at 5" and your ISO at 1600. From here play around with your settings and try lengthening your exposures and lowering your ISO or visa versa. They really are bright so you don't need to bump your settings up too high. If you are shooting timelapse, you will probably want to keep your intervals short so that the streaks of light don't move too quickly when you play it back, but again, depends on what you want.

Like I said, the key to getting awesome shots of the Aurora is to be ready for them. If the skies are clear, you are most likely going to get a good show!

Pack List

  • Camera
  • Tripod
  • Warm Gloves
  • Warm Clothes
Read More

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

Community Photos

+ Add Photos


Overall rating: 

Leave a Review

Very good post. Consider also Kleifarvatn for seeing the Aurora in a beautiful setting close to Reykjavik. Just posted an Adventure about this. Keep up the good work!!

almost 2 years ago
almost 2 years ago

Catching them dancing in the sky with your naked eye is one of the more incredible things that you can ever witness. Advice for chasing them is to set up a trip where you would have the opportunity to see them but not to plan your trip entirely based on them. I know people who have travelled for two weeks in Norway, basing their entire trip on seeing them, and they never appeared. (Huge let down) You won't have a disappointing trip if you plan a trip to Iceland to see a bunch of amazing things while you are there and giving yourself the opportunity to see them. If they don't show they don't show and you still were able to see some incredible scenery!

about 2 years ago
about 2 years ago

Eric Bennett Explorer

Instagram: @bennettfilm Videographer, Photographer from San Diego, CA currently living in Provo, UT

Are we missing something? Suggest an edit

Nearby Adventures

Hike the Sugar Bowl Loop in Kings Canyon NP

Tulare County, California

First and foremost, to get to this trailhead you need to drive down a 2-mile, one lane dirt road that is quite steep.

6 Saves

Hike to Ehukai Pillbox

59178 Ke Nui Road, Hawaii

This hike starts directly across from Banzai Pipeline, the famous barreling wave at Ehukai Beach.

7 Saves

Winter Hike to Calypso Cascades

1046 County Highway 115, Colorado

While most people go snowshoeing near the Bear Lake or Glacier Gorge area in RMNP, Wild Basin is a much less trafficked option.

5 Saves