THERE are few sights as spectacular as aurorae, and they are used to dazzling effect in the Northern Lights Photographer of the Year contest, run by travel photography blog Capture the Atlas.
This year, 25 breathtaking shots from around the world have made the final cut, a selection of which are shown here. Each brings a special dimension to this extraordinary phenomenon, which is caused by charged particles from the sun colliding with atmospheric gases.
With the next peak of the sun’s activity (known as its solar maximum) approaching in 2024, people are already catching a glimpse of aurorae – both northern and southern – in wider regions than usual. Next year’s displays are set to be even more spectacular.
Many of the shots in 2023’s competition were taken in locations where it is unusual to see the northern lights, such as south Wales, captured in Mathew Browne’s Goleuadau’r Gogledd (main image). The name is a loose Welsh translation of “northern lights”, and the image shows local landmark Paxton’s Tower illuminated. “Witnessing the aurora borealis this far south is a rare occurrence,” said Browne. “For over an hour, the horizon beyond the clouds emitted hues of green and pink. However, for a brief yet magical moment, the sky came alive with impressive pink pillars, visible to the naked eye.”
Also shown are Marc Marco Ripoll’s Kirkjufell Explosion (pictured above), taken near Iceland’s Mount Kirkjufell; and Alex Wides’s Waning Sun, shot on Senja Island, Norway.