"Too Much Headroom!" The Joy of "Unconventional" Compositions by Art Adams - ProVideo Coalition (2022)

I’m a huge fan of the TV series Mr. Robot.Not only does it have one of the deepest and most intricate storylines I’ve ever seen on TV, but the photography is wonderful. I’ve been analyzing the compositions and trying to figure out why they work, and doing some of my own experimenting on Instagram. In this article I’m going to look critically at a scene from Mr. Robot, and then show some images from my Instagram feed that try to replicate this style.

Here’s the scene I’m going to look at. (I tried to embed it, but Youtube embeds the wrong video.) Go take a look, and then come back.

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This is a style of framing that I love, and I see it a lot in David Fincher’s work: the camera is a passive observer, almost too cool to be involved, and sometimes the people within the frame seem the least important thing in it—but that only draws more attention to them. I feel some of that here: the symmetrical composition emphasizes the space, and the foreshortening of the pool leads the eye back to where the actors are… but somehow the people aren’t that important. Being humans, though, they are the most important objects within the frame to other human beings, and that dichotomy—that we want to see the actors, but they are not important to the composition—is what makes the frame interesting.

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I love this frame. Peopleare nearly always framed “wrong side” on this show, but I love the look. It’s so much more interesting than the same old thing. Leaving space for the “look” is standard to the point where it has become formulaic, and such frames often require an opposing angle to complete them: they aren’t full frames in themselves, they are meant to cut with another frame with an actor on the opposite side of the composition, and the two frames together balance each other out.

This is a completely self-contained shot. It’s a still photo. The warm/cool contrast divides the two spaces scene in the wide shot, and all the lines in the composition lead us to the actress: the line of the steps, the greenish-blue foreshortened side of the steps, and the strong verticals push us toward this actress.

Painters use a lot of tricks to move the viewer’s eye around aframe, and many of them are seen here: the actress is framed by verticals, and she sits at the intersection of a number of different shapes and hues. One of my favorite books, “The Simple Secret to Better Painting,” talks about several “secrets,” but the one that comes to mind is the mantra “Never make any two intervals the same.” Placing a subject the same distance from the side and the top of frame is boring. Centering a subject can work, but otherwise repeating distances from the sides of the frame, or within the frame, can be dull. She doesn’t sit directly between two verticals, she’s slightly offset. She’s not in the middle of the horizontal frame, but slightly offset. She’s low in the frame, not quite halfway between top and bottom.

Her look, towards the short side of the frame, almost draws me in to the story more than a standard frame would, because I feel as if she’s uncomfortably close to the person speaking to her. The action feels as if it is happening just beyond the frame edge, and there’s not a lot of distance between her and that edge. We’re used to seeing some space in front of the person who is talking, so when that space is shortened it can feel as if they don’t quite have enough room to breath.

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In this case, this actress’s eye is almost exactly in the center of the frame. The center of frame is a position of power, and as she’s the kidnapper and the other woman the kidnappee, this makes complete sense. My eye moves in a line across the frame, from the shiny wall to her left, through her face and to the light fixture in the background. The combination of this line, and her vertical body placed dead center of frame, creates a powerful, static frame full of tension. The side view controlindicates that she’s feeling detached, even though she’s incontrol.

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This frame harkens back to the first frame we saw. We could take the actress out of the frame and it would still be complete. The fact that she’s in there is important, but she’s clearly the one object that could be eliminated from this image if need be. The fact that the frame is so symmetrical otherwise, and she isplaced on the very edge of frame, just makes us look at her more. The camera almost doesn’t care that she’s there.

This is an interesting example of vertical balance. Left-right balance is often taught in schools, but vertical balance plays a large part in both painting and still photography. Thewarmlibrary in the background is balanced by the coolness of the steps. The light fixtures could almost be silent uncaring observers. The actress is balanced diagonally by the desk at the upper left. If I let my eye roam through the frame, it starts in the center—after the edit—and then moves to her. Then it moves down the steps, up to the desk, across the lights, down the painting on the wall, and back to her. That’s considered to be the perfect painting composition: when elements within the frame draw the eye around the painting in a circle and keep your gaze from leaving the frame. This is harder to do when a painting sits on a wall, surrounded by other beckoning paintings, so painters work very hard at keeping your attention focused on and moving around their image for as long as they possibly can, as that’s very pleasing to the eye and helps to sell paintings.

The difference is that, in paintings, corners are sometimes called “eye drains” as they lead the eye out of a painting unless there’s something to keep your attention contained. I don’t find that to be the same with motion pictures. The edges and the corners of the frame are often the most interesting places. I’m not sure why, but it could be because two strong edges—one horizontal and one vertical—come together, and objects placed there are emphasized by the complementing edge. In this case, the actress’s proximity to that right vertical edge, and her vertical posture, combine to make this a very compelling frame. Her vertical posture would still be interesting at the center of the frame, but her close proximity to the vertical edge adds something striking to this composition.

The shots bounce back and forth a bit between numbers 2, 3 and 4 above… varying size and composition on the seated woman but not on the standing woman, who at this point is in control. Then we get to…

"Too Much Headroom!" The Joy of "Unconventional" Compositions by Art Adams - ProVideo Coalition (5)This is an odd but interesting frame. One thing that I’ve noticed about shots with a lot of headroom is that it makes us feel taller, as if we’re looking down on the action. Framing downwards can feel a bit too literal, but framing so that our natural horizon—where our head is level, ourheight is just taller than anyone else in the shot, and we’re looking horizontally into the distance—is just above the subject makes us feel a bit higher than if we’d simply raised the camera and tilted down. This also retains the verticalness of that support post, which would be keystoned if the camera was tilted down more. A keystoned shape would be less powerful compositionally than the perfect vertical edges seen here. Those vertical edges complement, and add strength to this actress’s vertical posture, even though we are looking down on her.

Once again, the composition only grudgingly makes room for the actress.

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This next sequence is wonderful:

"Too Much Headroom!" The Joy of "Unconventional" Compositions by Art Adams - ProVideo Coalition (6)"Too Much Headroom!" The Joy of "Unconventional" Compositions by Art Adams - ProVideo Coalition (7)"Too Much Headroom!" The Joy of "Unconventional" Compositions by Art Adams - ProVideo Coalition (8)

That top frame seems almost normal… but it’s only purpose is to set the stage for that last frame. The editor cut out to the wide shot for the middle of the walk, either because the shot died (became less powerful) or to shorten or lengthen the timing of the actress’s move, but that first and last shot are the same frame. The only thing that changed was the position of the actress, but her movement completely changed the composition of the frame. That’s hugely powerful.

Shaky-cam has been the rage for a long time, but I think the only reason it’s stuck around is because people who aren’t terribly visually sophisticated feel that it makes dialog and action more interesting. (I have worked with a director who, on more than one occasion, has walked over to the dolly in the middle of the day and said, “Let’s start shaking the camera. This material is really boring.”)Mr. Robotemploys long, lingering takes, unconventional framing, and a static camera to create mood and stir emotions in ways that a constantly vibrating camera could never do. It’s almost as if they’re saying, “You, the viewer, are powerless to affect the events you are seeing… no matter how much you may want to. You are detached, and yet you are placed helplessly in the middle of the action.”

The diagonal line of the handrail guides us right to the actress, and the negative space and vertical post at the left push us right into her.

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This shot confirms the uncomfortable closeness of the previous shot. The handrail now seems to frame their corner, but still… the camera feels detached and the composition seems as if it could care less whether there were people in it. That makes it much more compelling.

It’s interesting that the seated actress is accentuated by all the vertical lines in the frame, while the kneeling actress is accentuated by the diagonals (the stair and the top of the railing).

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There’s so much free space on the right of frame, and yet our characters are crammed into the left corner. There’s a part of me that wants this woman to flee frame right. It’s as if freedom is just on the right of frame… but she’s trapped, and danger is only a short distance away. All that space is pushing her left, exactly where she doesn’t want to be.

If this action had been framed to the right, in a more traditional manner, then most of the frame would have been the body of the person on the left, and I think that would have been less powerful. One character would be pushing the other to the right edge of frame, whereas herethe camera shows one character dominating another in a frame where there’s plenty of room for both, but it’s not being used.

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Things have suddenly changed. The kidnappee is now nearly in the center of frame—a position of power—and has a lot more space around her, while the kidnapper is pushed uncomfortably close to the edge of frame, and is partly cut off.

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We’ve jumped the 180-degree line, but it works because we can see the geography: both characters are in frame in both shots and we can see their spatial relationship. If they’d been two disembodied heads in closeup then this would have been a much more jarring cut.

Notice that the frame basically puts us at the kidnappee’s head height. When we look at objects or people we put them in the center of our vision, so in a way it’s as if we’re standing right there, at her eye level, helplessly observing.

This power relationship doesn’t last long.

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Once again, the shot is all about the geometry of the pool. The fact that there’s a person floating in it is completely incidental… and that’s what makes the composition so interesting. Creating such a strong, and symmetrical frame brings more attention to the one thing within the frame that breaks that symmetry.

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I love that this emotional moment is played entirely off the character’s hand and body movement. This shot finally allows us to participate by imagining what her emotions are, rather than explicitly showing us. This shot would have been boring if she were framed to the right. It’s almost as if space in front of the character can be interpreted as moving forward in time, because there’s room for forward movement and, in theory, time and space for other characters—and perhaps the viewer—to react to sudden actions. Putting the character against the frame edge like this, where forward motion would take her out of the frame, builds tension as it’s much easier for them to move quickly and vanish outside of the frame.

Also, as our eye moves around the frame, it is forced behind her and back again, while her attention is directed the opposite direction. If she had some lead room we could almost “see” what she’s seeing, but without the lead room there’s a bit more tension. It’s as if she’s looking out a window, but we’re too far around the side to see through it as well.

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"Too Much Headroom!" The Joy of "Unconventional" Compositions by Art Adams - ProVideo Coalition (16)

This show very rarely puts people toward the top of the frame, and the fact that she steps into this says something about how she feels about what she’s done. I’m guessing she’s shocked, but okay with it.

Once again, the camera doesn’t move and the background is fairly symmetrical. The one object that doesn’t fit in the frame is the character, and that only makes us look harder. Somehow her placement on the right side of frame, with her look going off the same direction, makes whatever is outside the frame feel just a little bit closer than it should. And when it came time to change the composition, the camera didn’t move—the actress did.

I strongly recommend you watch this series for its wonderful cinematography and its exceptionally intricate and thoughtful storytelling. Until then, though, I’m going to regale you with a few Instagram photos where I’ve been experimenting with the same kind of framing.

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I took this late at night after flying in to San Jose Airport after an out-of-town job. I love the texture and shape of the ceiling, the row of lights along the wall, and the shine on the floor… all of which leads me to the vanishing point at the end of the terminal. In a way I’ve simply framed for the most interesting part of the view, but there’s something powerful about all those leading lines being “above” me at the top of the frame. Everything draws my eye to the end of the terminal, but there’s enough foreground contrast, shapes and people in the frame to make my eye move around the image repeatedly.

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"Too Much Headroom!" The Joy of "Unconventional" Compositions by Art Adams - ProVideo Coalition (19)

I photographed this dog twice: once on a tech scout, and once on a shoot day. I’m not sure what I like about the top picture, but I think it’s the juxtaposition of the dog at the bottom right, doing something in the very corner of the frame, and the leading lines either expanding, to bring my eye to the dog, or contracting, to lead them away. There’s a dichotomy here that works for my brain. My eye moves back and forth along those diagonals, and there’s satisfaction in landing on the dog.

The top picture just feels right. I like the diagonal lines that lead me to the dog, I like the curve of the leash running from the corner of the frame along the left edge, and the dog at the bottom left is diagonally balanced against the door at the top right.

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I saw this while walking my dogs after a rainstorm. I start looking at the speed bump at the bottom of the the frame and then follow the vertical center line of the road up to the highlight, before changing course and returning to the speed bump, which stops my eye from wandering out the bottom of the frame. There’s some competition between the speed bump, which is a strong compositional element, and the diagonal shafts of sunlight raking across the leaves, which create interest due to contrast and texture.

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I hate antique stores, but I get dragged into them occasionally. I do my best to find interesting photographs while I’m inside. I very much like this shot: in a way, this is how I saw the scene, standing at roughly the same height as the woman in the foreground and staring straight at her. The line of heads leads me to the right, the lamps lead me to those beautiful overhead diagonal lines raking into the distance, and then I circle back down the verticals at the left of frame and return to the center of the image, which is a very strong position within the frame. The tabletop in the foreground directs my attention back into the middle of the frame and frames the bottom of the image nicely. In a way, this frame is just the right size to capture my field of view while balancing out perfectly."Too Much Headroom!" The Joy of "Unconventional" Compositions by Art Adams - ProVideo Coalition (22)

This feels very much like a painting to me. And, indeed, this is how landscape or classical painters paint: they paintfrom their standing or sitting height, and their gaze extends horizontally to the horizon. A lot of the action falls below the horizon and the sky falls above. (I might have been standing on something when I took this photo.) I like how the bottom edge of the frame brings out the horizontal lines of the surfboards, and the (nearly) vertical sign post in the (almost) center of frame adds some interest, and keeps attracting my eye to the center of the frame. Vertical lines are very powerful, and that sign is the only strong vertical in the frame.

I feel like there’s an oval that runs from the surfer on the right, across the surfboards and surfers, up the blue umbrellas to the lifeguard station, across to the sign and then back to the surfer on the right.

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The only things that interested me in this shot where the bright red chairs, so I excluded everything else as best I could. My eye goes to the chairs, down the street to the trees, up and across the negative space at the top and back to the chairs. It’s as if the negative space is pushing my eye down toward the bottom of the frame.

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Once again, this is framed as if I put a square box around my vision as I stared directly ahead. I like the symmetry and the feeling of detachment, while catching an interesting slice of life that feels perfectly balanced. I especially like the street lamp in the center of the shot. Rather than work around it, I used it—and the result feels as if the image is visually pivoting off that strong center. I love that it falls directly between the man and the surfboard, with the dog joining the two.

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I love that the chair is level and centered, and theshapes on the back wall and the floor frame the subject perfectly. Once again, this image feels as if I captured my field of view as I looked directly ahead from my normal height… which is exactly what happened.

I feel as if the space at the top of frame is pushing my eye downwards, or at least containing it at the bottom of the frame.

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This works, but I’m not sure why. Going back to the painting analogy,there’s almost always more landscaping than sky in a painting because that’s how we see the world: when you’re close to the ground you see a lot of it but it’s flat and without a lot of dimension, while the sky is distant and all surrounding. Framing objects at the top of a frame almost seems artificial when I think of things in thisway.

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I’m not sure why I like thisshot. It’s another bored still from an antique store, but the high contrast and the diagonal line that leads me to the fan really appeal to me. I like that there’s a focal point, but it’s not completely contained within the frame. There’s action happening outside of the frame that I can’t see, but somehow I can feel it.

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Once again, taking a picture from head height and framing for a level horizon resulted in an image whose architecture frames the subjects beautifully.Shots dominated by architecture can yield stunning results when the composition frames a human subject or two. Extra points for the architecture being the focus of the composition, with the human subjectsbreaking its symmetry.

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This is a composition that is all the stronger for having a square frame. It’s easier to perform a compositional balancing act between left and right in 16:9 frames, as there’s more horizontal space to work in than vertical. Top to bottom balance is harder in such a wide format as there’s not much vertical space to balance. A square format is easier to balance in both axes, but vertical balance is still possible in wide formats.

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My guess is that “traditional” headroom exists because it is easier to simply fill a wide format top to bottom than to carefully balance elements vertically in such a narrow space.

In this case, I like the way the post on the left and the bush on the right combine with the ground to create a triangle that frames the dog. I like that the dog is centered, but therest of the composition feels a bit off center.

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I take a lot of pictures in airports, as they can be geometrically interesting to a bored person waiting for a late night flight. Here I like the blue monitors as a focal point, surrounded by strong lines that lead my eye around the frame and back again. For example, if I start at the monitors, my eye drifts right along that wide overhead barrier until it hits the post at right, which pushes me up toward the ceiling lights. The lights and the pattern on the ceiling push me back toward the blue monitors. This kind of composition, where the eye has a path it can follow repeatedly around the frame, tend to be the most interesting and pleasing. (This kind of guidance will become more important in a 4K world, where there’s so much detail in the frame that we must tell viewers where to look or they’ll become frustrated.)

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I find myself balancing images in square photographs by placing objects in opposite corners. As we saw above in the Mr. Robot samples, this is also possible in wider formats like 16:9. (It might be a bit more challenging in 2.4:1.)

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I saw this painting in an antique store and decided I liked the way it hung against that bright red wall. There’s some competition between the red border and the little girl that keeps my eye moving diagonally between the two corners. The bright red background almost pushes my eye into the little girl, and the fact that she’s also wearing a red shirt creates a sense of unity between the elements.

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I shot this in a hotel room in Boston. I like that the window takes up the entire left side of frame, and the left edge of the window and the left edge of the frame complement each other. The black on the right of the frame balances the composition somehow.“Negative space” is when the shape of the space around an object becomes interesting in itself, but in this case the black is a tangible thing. It doesn’t feel like space to me.

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Another airport shot. This composition draws attention tothe people because they break the otherwise perfect symmetry of the train car.

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I’m not sure why I like this photo of one of my dogs so much. Once again, the shape of the space pushes my eye to her, andI like that her eyes are centered left-to-right but the rest of her bodyextends into the corner in line with the top edge. The vignette also helps to contain my eye within the frame and define the shape of the space.

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And, lastly, a very odd-but-interesting pseudo self portrait, taken in a restaurant in Santa Cruz. The screen is balanced diagonally by the brightly-lit column in the background, and the diagonal edge of the booth connects those two elements nicely. I really like this image, but when I shot it I didn’t have a sense of what I was creating. I framed the screen, and used some architectural elements to round out the frame top-to-bottom. I had no idea how interesting this would be until I looked at it later.

For most of my career I’ve focused on framing objects. I think what I’m learning from Mr. Robot, and from playing around on Instagram, is to let go a little and compose for space as well. I now look for opportunities to balance objects top-to-bottom and diagonally in addition toleft-to-right, or use space to push my eye into a subject at the corner of a frame. I like to move my eye around the frame and see if it is comfortable sweeping around continually, or if there’s nothing to stop it from drifting away—in which case I might adjust the shot slightly to push my gaze back into the image.

In a way, this is a very left-brained way to compose, and I quite like it. I hope to do more of it. The problem is finding clients who are visually aware enough to let me. As a director of photography I tend to be a bit more advanced in that regard, which makes it hard to sell advanced or unusual concepts to clients who have a lot of money on the line and need to know that what I shoot for them will work as needed. Hopefully Mr. Robotshows that this kind of work has a place in the mainstream. It’s different (for moving images, but quite common in still images), it’s interesting, and it’s compelling. And it’s fascinating that, right now, the best storytelling—and some of the best cinematography—is on TV instead of in the cinema.

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Art Adams
Director of Photography

FAQs

What is the best time to see the northern lights in Iceland? ›

September through March is the peak season for northern lights viewing because the nights are longest. Just make sure you're on the lookout between dusk and dawn because they can occur at any time.

Can you see the northern lights in Norway? ›

Norway is well known as a 'Northern Lights' hotspot and there is good reason. Above the Arctic Circle, many cities in Norway offer terrific chances to see the lights between mid-September to early April.

Where are the northern lights most visible? ›

Where is the best place to see the northern lights? The northern lights most commonly occur within the geographic area beneath the auroral oval. It encompasses latitudes between 60 and 75 degrees and takes in Iceland, northern parts of Sweden, Finland, Norway, Russia, Canada and Alaska as well as southern Greenland.

When to see northern lights in Norway? ›

Northern Lights season in Norway

November through February is the absolute peak season for Northern Lights viewing because the nights are the longest, but a visit anytime between September and March should give you a good chance to see them, with March offering the best chance of clear skies.

Is 2022 a good year for northern lights? ›

"There will continue to be aurora viewing opportunities in 2022," Steenburgh said. "The solar cycle is indeed ramping up and as solar activity increases, so do the chances for Earth-directed blobs of plasma, the coronal mass ejections, which drive the geomagnetic storms and aurora."

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The cheapest time to visit Iceland

There are far fewer tourists and crowds from January through May, which means flights, car rentals, and accommodation are at their cheapest.

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The vast majority of Norwegians speak English in addition to Norwegian – and generally on a very high level. Many university degree programmes and courses are taught in English.

Is Norway or Iceland better for Northern Lights? ›

If you're set on seeing the lights, this might tip the balance in favour of Iceland, depending on what else you want to see and do on your trip. The northern lights can often be seen from the center of Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland.

Where is the best place in Canada to see the Northern Lights? ›

The very best place to see aurora borealis in Canada — if not the world — is the Northwest Territories, where they're generally visible 240 nights a year. The optimal timeframe is either fall or winter (though summer is pretty good, too).

How long do Northern Lights last? ›

How long do the northern lights last? Anywhere from 10 minutes to all night long, depending on the magnitude of the incoming solar wind. "Coronal holes" consistently produce nice auroras but big solar flares and CMEs-coronal mass ejections are responsible for global-wide aurora displays…the BIG shows!

What time of year is best to see Northern Lights in Michigan? ›

A. Late summer through early spring are the best times to see the Northern Lights. Your chances are especially good during the months of April, October, and November. The farther north you are in Michigan, the better your chances of seeing the Northern Lights dance across the sky in a rainbow of color.

Can you see Northern Lights with naked eyes? ›

Auroras appear to the naked eye as a very faint, white glow in the night sky to the magnetic north. Many auroras are totally invisible to the naked eye or can only be seen by looking at them indirectly, i.e. out of the corner of your eye. It is extremely rare to see them in colour with the naked eye.

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Some of the major cities that may be able to view the Northern Lights include Seattle, New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and Boston – though NOAA advises that clear skies free of light pollution offer the best chance to view the aurora.

How cold is Norway in September? ›

September is an especially wonderful time to visit Norway, as the last bits of summer transition into the golden hues of early fall. Temperatures in southern Norway are in the 60s Fahrenheit during the day, 50s in the evening.

Are there southern lights in Antarctica? ›

Called the southern lights, or aurora australis, it's the southern cousin to the aurora borealis and can best be seen from the most southern of landmasses, such as Tasmania, New Zealand and Antarctica.

Are the Northern Lights Going Away? ›

“During Solar Minimum, there are typically fewer CMEs to cause geomagnetic storms and big Aurora. However, there are recurrent high-speed solar wind streams that typically cause minor to moderate geomagnetic storms, so the Northern Lights will still be around.

Which month is best to see Northern Lights? ›

Thanks to longer hours of darkness and clear night skies, December through March is usually the best time to observe this elusive natural phenomenon (though you can sometimes see the northern lights starting as early as August).

Do the Northern Lights happen every night? ›

Auroras happen in every month but because they're impossible to see against the super-light late night summer skies far up north, our trips to see them tend to take place when the night skies are properly dark.

What is the cheapest time of year to fly to Hawaii? ›

The cheapest time to fly to Hawaii is during February and March. The most expensive month to fly is December when the holiday period falls, with January being very expensive as well. The peak travel months of June and July are surprisingly not the most expensive months for flights, with middle figure prices.

How can I drink cheap in Iceland? ›

But there are ways to stretch that beer money. For a start, Icelandic off-licenses (AKA liquor stores) sell alcohol much cheaper than pubs and restaurants do. Even better: Buy the alcohol duty-free, either upon departure or arrival. (If possible, go for the latter – Icelandic beer is world-class.)

What is the temperature of Iceland by month? ›

Average Monthly Temperature, Rainfall, and Daylight Hours
MonthAvg. HighAvg. Sunlight
August55 F (13 C)16 hours
September50 F (10 C)13 hours
October44 F (7 C)9 hours
November39 F (4 C)6 hours
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16 Sept 2022

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Although more than 80 percent of people in Sweden do speak English, you might still come across people who don't, so it's best to learn some basic Swedish phrases for common niceties.

Do Germans speak English? ›

Yes, Germans do speak English! However, most expats experience a high language barrier that is created around them as a result of limited German language skills. For expats, Germany acts as a platform to boost their careers.

Is Norway a nice place to live? ›

In recent years, Norway has repeatedly been ranked as 'the best country to live in' by the United Nations Human Development Report. This annual ranking is based largely on average levels of education and income, combined with life expectancy, but also factors such as human rights and cultural freedom.

Is Norway or Iceland nicer? ›

So, if you are more of an adventure person, wanting to explore nature in its best possible ways, Iceland is the best for you. On the other hand, like Iceland, Norway is a hub for scenic beauty, hiking or a taste of a variety of culture. You must opt for Norway if you are looking vibrancy in places and a colorful aura.

Which is better Finland or Iceland? ›

Iceland is better for scenery and activeties. Tromso will have little if any sunrise, just blue light for a part of the day, Iceland will have short days. So factor this in to your plans. Finland is very different to Norway, it's generally flattish the scenery is not as interesting as Tromso or Iceland.

Which Nordic country should I visit? ›

Denmark. One of the 3 Scandinavian countries – along with Sweden and Norway – Denmark is a cultural hotspot. Of all the places to visit here, you shouldn't miss Copenhagen, the capital and largest city in Denmark.

Can you see the northern lights in Banff National Park? ›

Yes, you can see the northern lights in Banff. The Aurora Borealis make an appearance several times throughout the year. Visitors have the best chance to spot the lights during the winter months from October to May.

When can you see northern lights in USA? ›

Winter (December to February) – The long winter season is understandably the best opportunity to see the northern lights. From the long nights of December through February, you might be able to see the northern lights as long as you have a good northern view.

Can you see the northern lights in USA? ›

Minnesota

The northern lights can be seen in parts of the Midwest, like northern Minnesota, when the conditions are just right. Cook County is actually one of the best places to spot the phenomenon in the lower 48 states.

Is 2025 a good year to see Northern Lights? ›

Solar scientists now predict that, due to an 11 year solar cycle, we could be witnessing some of the brightest display of lights till 2025. The Northern Lights, also called Aurora Borealis, is a curtain of light formed in the Earth's upper atmosphere.

How long do the Northern Lights last each night? ›

A good display may last for no longer than 15-30 minutes at a time, although if you're really lucky, it could extend to a couple of hours or longer. To see the Northern lights, the sky needs to be dark and clear of any clouds. Some people claim the aurora comes out when temperatures are colder.

Can Northern Lights be seen in daylight? ›

"Our own planet has auroras 24 hours a day," says Jim Spann of the Marshall Space Flight Center, "and we can see them even in broad daylight." The trick, he explains, is picking the right wavelength. "If we look at Earth from space using an ultraviolet (UV) filter, we see there are auroras underway at all times.

Can you see the Northern Lights on Mackinac Island? ›

A Kp of 5 or above will usually bring the lights to the Mackinaw area, but it's not out of the question to see the lights out when the Kp is at a 4. There are numerous additional factors that contribute to aurora visibility but knowing the Kp is a good place to start.

Can you see the Northern Lights in Munising MI? ›

Munising provides the perfect combination of spectacular scenery during the day and stunning northern lights after dark. This tiny town has few city lights to get in the way of the aurora borealis, which is at its best in the winter.

Can Michigan see the Northern Lights? ›

Can you see the Northern Lights in Michigan? Yes, you can! And the best place to see the Northern Lights in Michigan — and even in the 48 continental states — is Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

Why do Northern Lights look white? ›

[Aurora] only appear to us in shades of gray because the light is too faint to be sensed by our color-detecting cone cells." Thus, the human eye primarily views the Northern Lights in faint colors and shades of gray and white.

Can you see the Northern Lights through a window? ›

Yes. If the aurora is bright enough you can see it from your window in the city, however, it will always look best when there is less light pollution.

How do Northern Lights really look? ›

Simply put, most auroras are green. That would be the shortest and scientifically correct answer, (there are other colours of the aurora but green is the most commonly observed and relevant colour to this question). However, it doesn't always appear green to our eyes.

How far south can the Northern Lights be seen? ›

To observers at far-northern latitudes, the Lights are a frequent occurrence, but many who live in more temperate climates have never seen them, even though they are occasionally seen as far south as 35 degrees North latitude.

Can the Northern Lights be seen in California? ›

Northern lights might be seen in far Northern California | Aurora borealis

Can you see the Northern Lights in central Illinois? ›

The best viewing in the United States will be in northern areas towards the Canadian border. The “Lights” migrate east to west, so there's a chance central Illinois could get a glimpse on the horizon. But you'll have to be in an outlying and dark area away from city lights. Copyright 2022 WEEK.

Why is Norway so cold? ›

Air masses are determined by factors such as source, region and age, which are natural contributors to a country's temperature. Norway faces cold air masses that come from Greenland and Russia, which is what makes the country so cold.

How cold is Norway in winter? ›

Along the coast, temperatures usually stay around zero degrees Celsius. Inland, the temperatures are mostly lower and might sink down to 10-20 degrees below zero Celsius. Some places can even experience an bone chilling minus 40 degrees Celsius!

How cold is Norway in summer? ›

Summer temperatures range from 12–18°C (52–65°F) and frequently exceed 25°C (77°F) or more. You won't bake in the summertime but the temperatures are ideal for getting outdoors. The mountain trails are usually open by July but it varies from year to year.

Do people live in Antarctica? ›

Antarctica is the only continent with no permanent human habitation. There are, however, permanent human settlements, where scientists and support staff live for part of the year on a rotating basis. The continent of Antarctica makes up most of the Antarctic region.

Can you see the southern lights in South Africa? ›

Generally, it is not possible to see the southern lights from South Africa, despite it being the southernmost country on the African continent.

Can you go to Antarctica? ›

You can get to Antarctica by boat or plane. Sailing the Drake Passage from the tip of South America to the Antarctic Peninsula takes 48 hours. Flying to Antarctica takes 2 hours. Approximately 54,000 visitors make the journey each year, with around 50 expedition vessels sailing Antarctic waters each season.

When can you see the northern lights in Iceland 2022? ›

When Is the Best Time to See the Northern Lights in Iceland in 2022? The best time to see aurora borealis in Iceland is between September and April. It's when the nights are dark enough to see the aurora and also when the guided northern lights tours are available.

What is the best month to go to Iceland? ›

May and September are the best time of year to go to Iceland because they offer lower prices and fewer crowds but without the harsh weather conditions found in the winter. Many people worry about whether Iceland is expensive. The answer is yes, but travelling in the shoulder season helps to reduce the cost.

Do the northern lights happen every night? ›

No. Huge geomagnetic storms, the kind that can cause very intense displays of the northern lights, don't happen every night, even during solar maximum. During solar minimum, they still happen, just less frequently.

How often are the northern lights visible in Iceland? ›

It is one of the best places in the world to see the Auroras. Iceland is perfectly positioned in the Auroral Zone and offers the chance to see the Northern Lights 7 to 8 months per year!

How long do northern lights last? ›

How long do the northern lights last? Anywhere from 10 minutes to all night long, depending on the magnitude of the incoming solar wind. "Coronal holes" consistently produce nice auroras but big solar flares and CMEs-coronal mass ejections are responsible for global-wide aurora displays…the BIG shows!

Are the northern lights worth seeing? ›

They're definitely worth the time, expense, and cold to see them at least once in a lifetime. And if you want to see the aurora Norway is the place to go! That said, I know there can be a bit of confusion surrounding the northern lights and how to set off in search of them.

How long should I stay in Iceland? ›

A minimum of 1 week in Iceland is ideal, but visiting for up to 2 or even 3 weeks will allow you to see more of this beautiful country in the same trip. Staying for less than 7 days in Iceland is still doable, but there's no doubt you'll want to come back again to see and do more.

Is it very cold in Iceland? ›

The winters in Iceland usually have temperatures hovering around 0°c (32°F), which is really nothing compared to the temperatures in other northern countries. Still, the country is one of the absolute best places to see the northern lights in the world!

How warm does it get in Iceland? ›

Iceland's temperatures in summer can be as low as 41 F (5 C) but as warm as 77 F (25 C) during this time of year. On average, Iceland's weather in summer is between 50-59 F (10 to 15 C). Summers are not as wet as spring, but it does rain occasionally.

Is 2025 a good year to see Northern Lights? ›

Solar scientists now predict that, due to an 11 year solar cycle, we could be witnessing some of the brightest display of lights till 2025. The Northern Lights, also called Aurora Borealis, is a curtain of light formed in the Earth's upper atmosphere.

Are Northern Lights rare? ›

Fortunately, they occur frequently. "The northern lights are happening 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year," said photographer Chad Blakely, owner of the northern lights tour company Lights Over Lapland (opens in new tab).

Are the Northern Lights Going Away? ›

“During Solar Minimum, there are typically fewer CMEs to cause geomagnetic storms and big Aurora. However, there are recurrent high-speed solar wind streams that typically cause minor to moderate geomagnetic storms, so the Northern Lights will still be around.

How cold is Iceland in January? ›

As for the temperatures, you can expect the average low to be approximately -3 degrees Celsius (26.6 F) and the average high temperatures to be 3 degrees Celsius (37.4 F). Iceland's temperatures are mitigated by the gulf stream, which brings relatively warm water up from lower latitudes.

What do the Northern Lights look like in real life? ›

When you see them in real life, the Northern Lights aren't actually very colorful at all. They often appear milky white in color, "almost like a cloud," as one seasoned traveler puts it.

Is December a good time to go to Iceland? ›

Is December a Good Time to Visit Iceland? Absolutely! Iceland in December is one of the most festive times of the year, with Christmas and New Years' Eve in full swing. The winter solstice also means you get the longest hours of nighttime throughout the year, which is perfect for northern lights hunting.

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