Bright

2021 Northern Lights Photographer of the Year Winners Feature Auroras Above Volcanoes, Frozen Forests, and Fjords

TIMEJanuary 12, 2022

In search of northern lights, photographer Marc Adamus delves into the Alaskan boreal forest, marching to the sound of ice crystals crunching beneath his snowshoes. Setting up his camera in the dying light of sunset, he has only to wait for adequate darkness to fall; aurora borealis, though omnipresent day or night, diminishes in sunlight and is most spectacular in the pitch dark—as his stunning photo attests to.

As twilight faded, Marc snapped this sublime winter wonderland, which he titled “Forest of the Lights” and submitted to Capture the Atlas’s 2021 Northern Lights Photographer of the Year:

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“Forest of the Lights” by Marc Adamus, Alaska, U.S.A. (Courtesy of Marc Adamus via Capture the Atlas)

“Wandering around these forests coated in rime ice is one of the most magical experiences, but also one of the most difficult to capture,” Marc told Capture the Atlas, a website for outdoor photography buffs. “Temperatures are often in the minus 30s and negotiating the easily broken, crusty snow on snowshoes with nothing but a headlamp makes for great challenges in hiking and composing.”

The aurora borealis phenomenon is caused by the cosmic collision of solar plasma, constantly being bombarded at us from the sun, and the Earth’s protective magnetic field deflecting those particles. The subsequent release of photons (light), seen most visibly near the Earth’s polar regions, illuminates gasses in the atmosphere, such as oxygen and nitrogen, giving off a sometimes greenish, reddish, or bluish glow.

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“When the stars align” by Joshua Snow, Tombstone Territorial Park, Yukon, Canada. (Courtesy of Joshua Snow via Capture the Atlas)

This wondrous effect of nature has inspired mythological legends across many cultures throughout the centuries—and was the impetus for Capture the Atlas’s Northern Lights Photographer of the Year competition, which invites sky watchers like Marc Adamus to submit the seemingly magical scenes they capture on camera. The contest features Arctic boreal forests, landscapes of the far southern hemisphere, erupting volcanoes, mountains, and beaches—all with northern lights dancing overhead.

This year’s competition presents 25 of the very best aurora images from among some 20,000 members across the globe.

So, as we say “farewell 2021,” and “hello 2022!” we invite you to enjoy fireworks—a light show in the sky, courtesy of Mother Nature:

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“Tranquil” by Larryn Rae, Lake Tekapo, New Zealand. (Courtesy of Larryn Rae via Capture the Atlas)
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“For the Northern Lights” by Aleksey R., Teriberka, Kolsky District of Murmansk Oblast, Russia. (Courtesy of Aleksey R., Teriberka via Capture the Atlas)
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“The Northern Lights Cathedral” by Frøydis Dalheim, Senja, Norway. (Courtesy of Frøydis Dalheim via Capture the Atlas)
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“Embracing the Green Lady” by Filip Hrebenda, Iceland. (Courtesy of Filip Hrebenda via Capture the Atlas)
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“Santa’s Cabin” by Olli Sorvari, Levi, Finland. (Courtesy of Olli Sorvari via Capture the Atlas)
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“Aurora Sherbet in the Apostles” by Marybeth Kiczenski, Bayfield, Wisconsin, U.S.A. (Courtesy of Marybeth Kiczenski via Capture the Atlas)
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“Keepers of the Lake” by Marshall Lipp, Lake Sakakawea, North Dakota, U.S.A. (Courtesy of Marshall Lipp via Capture the Atlas)
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“Volcanic Aurora Borealis” by Jeroen Van Nieuwenhove, Geldingadalir, Iceland. (Courtesy of Jeroen Van Nieuwenhove via Capture the Atlas)
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“Polar-Snow Monsters” by Sergey Korolev, Kola Peninsula, Russia. (Courtesy of Sergey Korolev via Capture the Atlas)
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“Whirlwind” by John Weatherby, Reykjanes Peninsula, Iceland. (Courtesy of John Weatherby via Capture the Atlas)
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“Norrsken Over Vintergatan” by Stefano Astorri, Swedish Lapland. (Courtesy of Stefano Astorri via Capture the Atlas)
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“Higher Prediction” by Virgil Reglioni, Norway. (Courtesy of Virgil Reglioni via Capture the Atlas)
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“Aurora Over Alaska” by Jacob Cohen, Sutton, Alaska, U.S.A. (Courtesy of Jacob Cohen via Capture the Atlas)
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“Aurora Australis” by David Oldenhof, Tasmania, Australia. (Courtesy of David Oldenhof via Capture the Atlas)
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“Narnia” by Amy J. Johnson, Alaska. (Courtesy of Amy J. Johnson via Capture the Atlas)
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“The Aurora Cave” by Giulio Cobianchi, Lofoten Islands, Norway. (Courtesy of Giulio Cobianchi via Capture the Atlas)
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“Reine Northern Lights” by Frank Olsen, Reine, Lofoten Islands, Norway. (Courtesy of Frank Olsen via Capture the Atlas)
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“Nobody Home” by Herry Himanshu, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. (Courtesy of Herry Himanshu via Capture the Atlas)
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“Dancing On Ice” by Mark Jinks, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Courtesy of Mark Jinks via Capture the Atlas)
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“Under the Malachite Rain” by Mike Karpov, Arkhangelsk Region, Russia. (Courtesy of Mike Karpov via Capture the Atlas)
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“Spectrum” by Stefan Liebermann, Vestrahorn, Iceland. (Courtesy of Stefan Liebermann via Capture the Atlas)
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“Nature & Landscape Photographer” by Agnieszka Mrowka, Iceland. (Courtesy of Agnieszka Mrowka via Capture the Atlas)

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Michael Wing
Editor and Writer
Michael Wing is a writer and editor based in Calgary, Canada, where he was born and educated in the arts. He writes mainly on culture, human interest, and trending news.