It is that time of the year, again! Travel photography blog Capture the Atlas has published the latest edition of the annual Northern Lights Photographer of the Year—a collection featuring the best 25 photos of the Northern Lights.

A compilation that is always published in December to coincide with the Northern Lights season, the aim is to inspire and share the beauty of this unique natural phenomenon. This year’s list includes images from around the world, taken from countries like the United States, Canada, Russia, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Australia, and New Zealand, by 25 photographers of 13 different nationalities.

Dan Zafra, the 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 talents and for new locations where the Northern Lights haven’t been photographed before. This 2021 edition includes unique images like the Northern Lights above the Iceland “Fagradalsfjall” volcano.

Scroll down to see some of the top picks from the 2021 Northern Lights Photographer of the Year compilation.


Aurora over Alaska—Jacob Cohen

Sutton, Alaska

Jacob Cohen   Sutton Alaska | Nature Infocus
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With the anticipation of a massive solar storm heading to the northern sky due to a Coronal Mass Ejection, excitement was setting in. Unfortunately for all the aurora watchers in Anchorage, the weather forecast was not looking promising, as it was 100 per cent cloudy everywhere in the immediate area. After hours of research and trying to find an area with clear skies, I set out with another photographer friend of mine, Travis Mathes, to our predetermined location, about 3 hours outside of town. We arrived at 9:30 PM local time, and the skies were already lighting up. We knew tonight was going to be special and, as it turned out, the show of a lifetime. We stayed in the area for the better part of the night and into the early morning hours, battling temps of around –10 degrees Celsius. Around 4 AM, after taking hundreds of exposures, we decided to head to a spot where I have always wanted to take a good aurora image. When we arrived, the cloud cover from Anchorage was still thick, and we waited for a clearing in the clouds for over an hour. We were treated to a few minutes of some of the most impressive light displays I have ever seen as the sky cleared, and that’s when this image was taken.

Tranquil—Larryn Rae

Lake Tekapo, New Zealand

Larryn Rae   Lake Tekapo New Zealand | Nature Infocus
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I was on a photography trip when aurora alerts began popping up on my phone, so we started searching for a unique place to shoot them from. We ended up at this lakeside location, and as soon as the sunset faded and dusk fell, we could already see the color and shape of the aurora happening. The next few hours, the sky was filled with incredible colors as the pillars danced across the sky in one of the best displays I have seen for years.

Embracing the Green Lady—Filip Hrebenda

Southeast Iceland

Filip Hrebenda Iceland | Nature Infocus
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The Northern Lights are one of the most interesting natural phenomena. This year was great for aurora visibility. Although the best time to see the aurora in Iceland is mainly from the fall to early spring, I took this photo in southeast Iceland during late spring. After three days of shooting volcanoes without sleeping, I was really tired, but when the KP index jumped to 4, I knew I would not be sleeping again that night. I found an interesting foreground with color reflections and waited for the aurora to appear. All of a sudden, she started dancing exactly where I wanted—right above the mountainside! It had been a long night, but the adrenaline gave me enough energy at that moment to keep me awake until morning.

Narnia—Amy J. Johnson

Interior Alaska

Amy J Johnson Alaska | Nature Infocus
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In March of 2021, a G1 solar storm was predicted when I ventured to this forest north of Fairbanks. For years, I’ve spent many nights in this region waiting for a beautiful aurora display only to be disappointed. This night, however, I reached my set location right in time for the start of an amazing show. The black spruce in this part of the boreal forest are caked with snow due to hoarfrost and the forces of wind. Finding a nice composition has become more challenging due to a forest fire that spread through the region in 2020. As I set out on snowshoes into this enchanted scene, temps hovered at –21 degrees Fahrenheit. At times, the aurora became so bright that 1–sec exposures were blown out. During times like that, I prefer to set my camera aside, dance for warmth, and just enjoy the show.

Reine Northern Lights—Frank Olsen

Reine, Lofoten Islands, Norway

Frank Olsen   Reine Lofoten Islands Norway | Nature Infocus
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I live a 4.5–hour drive from Reine, Lofoten where I took this photo. Although I’d been there many times, I had never succeeded in getting the right photos. This night, I got all my shots lined up of the aurora, the moonlight, and snow-covered mountains. When the Northern Lights started running, I got out of the car and started shooting a crazy show for the entire evening.

Forest of the Lights—Marc Adamus

Alaska, USA

Marc Adamus Alaska | Nature Infocus
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Wandering around these forests coated in rime ice is one of the most magical experiences, but also one of the most difficult to capture. 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. I used the last light of twilight to set up the shot you see here and returned to it hours later as the lights were dancing overhead.

Nobody Home—Herry Himanshu

Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada

Herry Himanshu   Saskatchewan Canada | Nature Infocus
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The night of November 3rd–4th produced the most incredible show I have ever experienced while seeing the Northern Lights in Canada. I had been keeping an eye on the forecast all day, and the data started looking juicy in the evening, so I got out early around 7 PM. The show began solidly around 7:30 PM. I shot at a few locations throughout the night, and from around 10 PM onwards, it just turned into a big green curtain that I slowly lost interest in shooting. With not much action happening, I packed up around midnight and headed home. On the way back, however, I could clearly see the lights growing higher in the sky, so I decided to stop again. And WOW! From about 12:30 AM onwards, it was absolutely spectacular. In all my years of aurora chasing in Saskatchewan, I had never seen such vivid, fast-moving, wild formations and incredible, purple, pulsating lights.

Aurora Australis—David Oldenhof

Tasmania, Australia

David Oldenhof   Tasmania | Nature Infocus
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Tasmania is the most southern state in Australia. As well as having beautiful coastlines, World Heritage rainforests, and national parks to photograph, we also have the added bonus of being able to witness the most intense auroras in the country because we are the furthest south. I have only witnessed three auroras and this one was the most beautiful and longest–lasting of them. On the other two occasions I photographed the aurora, most of the brilliance could only be seen through the back of the camera, but on this night, it could be seen without it. Nature showed off her brilliance and I stood there in amazement for many hours. I can’t wait for Lady Aurora’s next dance.

Whirlwind—John Weatherby

Reykjanes Peninsula, Iceland

John Weatherby   Iceland | Nature Infocus
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It was the night of Oct 30th, 2021. I had been in Iceland for just a couple of days when I got the alert that a massive solar flare had just occurred and that there would be a KP7 aurora in a day or two as a result. It just so happened I was co–leading a photography workshop and the show occurred on the first night. Needless to say, the participants lucked out. Not only because they got this massive aurora as a welcome, but also because we were still in Reykjavik (near the peninsula) and that was the only place in the entire country with completely clear skies. We patiently waited at the cliff for the fireworks as we watched a subtle, faint green glow low on the horizon. Within an hour, the show began and then all you heard were shouts and cries of excitement as the sky danced in every direction. It sounds cliché, but a good aurora show is still so special, even after seeing it many times. Each aurora is as unique as a fingerprint and forms different shapes at different paces.