Light and Dark in Northern Norway in December
One of my biggest concerns about traveling to Tromso in December was the light. Would it be dark all the time? Would I get depressed from not seeing the sun for weeks? How much of the landscape would I be able to see?
I sought answers to these questions before the trip, but wasn’t satisfied by my answers. I knew that Tromso is above the arctic circle, which means the sun lurks below the horizon all day for a period of time in the winter.
Timeanddate.com has a lovely visualizer for seeing how long day/night are in a given location. I’ve played around with this a lot to get a feel for things.
I still wanted to know more, so I looked at my location in Stellarium to visualize the skies on my computer. Bonus: amazing astronomy software will give you moon phase/position and of course all the stars. Be warned, you might spend a lot of time playing with this software, as it is nifty!
Different types of Twilight:
Civil twilight is the light just before dawn, it is actually pretty bright and you can see colors easily. In locations with snow, remember that whatever light you have gets reflected off the white and it seems even brighter.
Nautical twilight is that blueish light that happens when the sun is kinda close to rising, but sunrise is a ways off yet. I’ve heard it referred to as “the blue hour.”
Astronomical twilight is darker than nautical twilight.
Now as I watch the sun rise, and the light changes over the course of minutes, I think back to my time in Norway when each kind of light could be savored over maybe an hour. That pink horizon, blue sky moment is not transient up in the north, but can last for an hour. Those clouds, limned by sunlight from below the horizon persist for your pleasure, far longer than you are accustomed. The sunrise that never comes is not a moment of sadness, but a chance to enjoy all of those subtle colors and changes.
The night landscape is not as dark as I thought it would be either. The stars shine brightly against the snow, and sometimes the Aurora light the sky enough to be reflected in the water. The moon, especially when full, seems extremely bright and can illuminate the landscape far more than one would expect. I have long exposure pictures where it looks like daytime (with northern lights in the sky).