The Northern and Southern Lights put on quite a show this year – and some of the world’s most talented photographers were on hand to capture them in all their dazzling glory.
As we reveal.
Here we present the best aurora pictures taken around the world in 2023, as carefully chosen by the travel and photography blog Capture the Atlas. The images feature in the blog’s Northern Lights Photographer of the Year collection, which it presents each year to ‘inspire and share the beauty of this natural phenomenon’.
This year’s impressive selection was captured by 25 photographers from across the globe, with images snapped by 13 different nationalities.
Dan Zafra, editor of Capture the Atlas, curates these photos throughout the year. He looks not only for images taken by some of the most renowned photographers, but also for new talent, and for new locations where incredible aurora images are rare.
Capture the Atlas said: ‘We are seeing Northern Lights displays at lower latitudes and aurora images in unique places where they haven’t been photographed before. In this edition, we have aurora images [taken] in Wales, Germany, Italy’s Dolomites, mainland Australia, and even Death Valley National Park.’ And here they are in all their natural glory, scroll down to see the full collection…
Alex Wides captured this captivating display on Norway’s Senja Island, just as the sun was setting. He said: ‘You anticipate witnessing incredible sights, but this trip surpassed all my expectations. Arriving at Senja Island, we encountered the most powerful Northern Lights of the year, painting the sky in vibrant shades of green, purple, and red’
LEFT: This magical place in the forests of Finnish Lapland provided the perfect backdrop for Frøydis Dalheim’s image. ‘Even though it was freezing cold, at almost -30 Celsius, I enjoyed being embraced by the peace and harmony of this beautiful night,’ Frøydis remarked. RIGHT: There was a strong and rare magnetic storm taking place as this photo was captured in Italy’s Dolomites. ‘I was in the right place at the right time,’ said photographer William Preite
LEFT: Lukas Moesch waited several hours in Tromso, Norway, for this impressive shot. ‘After waiting for a few hours, I began to witness a very faint glow. What happened after that was mind-blowing as the sky turned green, purple and red,’ he said. RIGHT: Iceland’s sky played host to arcs of neon green during Marc Marco Ripoll’s second night in the country. ‘Timid auroras emerged on the horizon behind the popular Mt.Kirkjufell,’ he shared
LEFT: Elena Ermolina snapped this incredible scene while on the Kola Peninsula, Russia. The photographer mused: ‘The sky was painted green by the Northern Lights and their ethereal dance. The camera revealed even more colours than my eyes could see.’ RIGHT: Luis Cajete witnessed this breathtaking Northern Lights display over the stunning Haifoss waterfall in Iceland. He described the moment as a ‘dream come true’
LEFT: Richard Zheng snapped this eye-catching shot on New Zealand’s Dunedin Peninsula. RIGHT: The Aurora Australis from Camp Saddle in Canterbury, New Zealand. ‘After a challenging hike with 30kg of equipment, I was delighted when the aurora made an appearance,’ said photographer Paul Wilson. ‘Large and Small Magellanic clouds can also be seen – these are galaxies visible only from the Southern Hemisphere’
Nickolas Warner shot the above image in Alaska, approximately 70 miles north of the Arctic Circle. In the middle of the image is Sukakpak Mountain, which Nickolas describes as ‘one of the most beautiful peaks in the Brooks Mountain Range’
This image is a rarity, as it shows the Northern Lights in South Wales forming a spectacular backdrop to Paxton’s Tower, a 200-year-old hilltop folly in the picturesque Carmarthenshire countryside. The photographer, Mathew Browne, said: ‘For a brief yet magical moment, the sky came alive with impressive pink pillars, visible to the naked eye’
LEFT: On March 23, 2023, Earth experienced the strongest geomagnetic storm in six years – and Virgil Reglioni was out in Otertinden, Norway, executing this unique shot. RIGHT: This dazzling photo was taken in the Lofoten archipelago in Norway by Filip Hrebenda
LEFT: Stefano Pellegrini spent a week in Iceland chasing the Northern Lights. Opting for total freedom of movement to track clear skies each night, he lived in a car, planning the itinerary day by day instead of booking hotels in advance, but the strategy paid off. ‘I captured the aurora on four out of seven nights and this photo is from the first night,’ he said. RIGHT: Kristine Rose took this incredible image in Nova Scotia, Canada. She described it as the best show she’d ever seen there
Way to glow: Justin Miller took this heavenly snap in his home state of Michigan
‘I never expected to capture an incredible aurora like this just a 15-minute drive from my door,’ said photographer Kat Lawman of this image. She lives in Wales, and added: ‘Huge green and pink light pillars shot out of the sky – completely mesmerising!’
LEFT: ‘This is the moment we live for,’ said Vincent Beudez of this image, which he took in northern Norway. He added: ‘[It was] the most colourful Northern Lights I’ve ever witnessed.’ RIGHT: Photographer Kenneth LeRose took this image at the lowest altitude in the U.S – Badwater Basin in Death Valley National Park. It sits 282ft (86m) below sea level. Kenneth said: ‘I couldn’t believe my eyes. This was my favorite shot taken from [a] memorable night’
LEFT: Josh Beames shot this mesmerising image at Bakers Oven in Australia just after he noticed that the sun had emitted a massive solar flare, which looked to be heading in Earth’s direction. He kept an eye on the charts and was excited to see that it would be a direct hit, granting a great opportunity to capture the elusive Southern Lights. RIGHT: This stunning shot by Jason Perry was taken in Tasmania, with Jason revealing that ‘the celestial show commenced right after dark, coinciding with the emergence of the Milky Way core’
Laura Oppelt took this stunning shot in Wadden Sea National Parks, Germany, and found it hard to believe that she witnessed such a strong aurora show so far south from the Polar circle. She said: ‘At a certain point, everything in the sky seemed to explode, and I couldn’t help but scream out loudly on the beach in pure excitement and disbelief’
Photographer Jordan McInally took this hypnotic image at Moke Lake, New Zealand, having arrived there, he revealed, just as light beams started to dance across the horizon and the sunlight was fading. He added: ‘I spent around five hours up here and had this whole ridge to myself, shooting over 300 frames of all manner of beams and colours as the show was constantly changing’
This awe-inspiring image was snapped in an ice cave in Alaska by photographer MaryBeth Kiczenski, who revealed why the picture is extra-special: ‘This ice cave collapsed over the summer. Knowing its days were numbered, I prioritised a visit in March of this year. Consequently, this image holds extra significance for me, serving as a reminder not to take things for granted’
This spectacular ‘double arc’ panorama was captured by photographer Giulio Cobianchi in the Lofoten Islands, Norway. Revealing the conditions that need to align to create such a dazzling image of both the Northern Lights and the Milky Way, he said: ‘The aurora needs to be visible only to the north, it has to be a moonless night, and clear skies are essential. This ephemeral moment may last only seconds or minutes’