In order to catch a glimpse of the northern lights last winter, I joined a group of photographers on their hunt for the ever fleeting aurora borealis. Want to maximise your chances of seeing the northern lights in Greenland? Here’s 3 tips to consider, learnt from these hunters!

Tip 1: Always be on standby for the northern lights!

Unfortunately no-one can order the northern lights to come out and play. However, chances of seeing northern lights in Greenland are very high as the aurora belt spans across the country. Some places in Greenland are better than others though.

But why did I say to ‘be on standby’? Well, let me set the scene: I’m visiting the town of Ilulissat and dining with two friends, Mads and Nuka. These two guys are both excellent photographers (read fanatics) so it only takes a bit of time before northern lights enters the conversation. Mads tells Nuka that he heard that the best time to capture northern lights right was at 5 o’clock in the morning lately.

“Oh no,” I think to myself, “we’re going to have an early start”.

“Or set your alarm on at 2.30am tomorrow, and you’ll get a whole full moon that’s red!” responds Nuka in reply. Which is when the voice in my head tells me in panic, “Scratch that - we’re not going to sleep at all!”

Luckily, you can also see the northern lights at reasonable hours of the evening. I’m just saying that soldiers who are fully committed to the cause are prepared to wake up at any time of the night. Also, the great thing about Greenland is that even in the towns, you don’t have to go far to see the northern lights put on a show. Sometimes you can just look out your window...

“Or set your alarm on at 2.30am tomorrow, and you’ll get a whole full moon that’s red!” responds Nuka in reply. Which is when the voice in my head tells me in panic, “Scratch that - we’re not going to sleep at all!”

A little later in the night, Mads and Nuka receive a text from their friend Rino, who asked them if they want to go out and shoot photos that evening. That sparked a chain of events, and shortly afterwards, we were in a car discussing where the best place to go was.

Tip 2: Avoid the full moon

A little later in the night, Mads and Nuka receive a text from their friend Rino, who asked them if they wanted to go out and shoot photos that evening. That sparked a chain of events, and shortly afterwards, we were in a car discussing where the best place to go was.

We had to find a dark place far from town and artificial lights - so we chose the graveyard at Ilulissat. It was dark enough among the crosses, due to the absence of street lamps. Surprisingly though the night sky was not dark. The crescent-shaped moon was flaming like a torch, reflecting against the snow and lighting up the entire landscape. Due to the brightness of the moon, the chances of seeing northern lights were low.

Yes, moonlight really affects the visibility of stars and northern lights. I doubt that the average person thinks about this but of course it makes sense….and websites such as moonconnection.com will help you to find out if you will have a full moon or a dark moon.

Still, you can be lucky and against the odds the northern lights may appear anyway. Like it did on this night after only ten minutes of no action.

Tip 3: Keep warm, really warm

In the dead of winter in Greenland, you can experience temperatures between 5 - 35 degrees Celcius below. No matter how many layers of clothing you might put on, you’ll probably still feel some numbness in your fingers. I was freezing my pants off.

I asked my friends why they let themselves suffer night after night for photos. Rino replied,

“It is an amazing phenomenon. People come all over the world to see the northern lights. When I take photos of the view and put them on international websites, people go crazy over them.”

That said, it is in your best interest to keep as warm as possible. Like every basic Arctic handbook instructs, layer up and look silly - we all do it. Check out how Yahoo Travel’s Paula Froelich dresses for the arctic on this video.

Remember, you won’t be moving much, so anything to help you maintain warmth will help. Consider handwarmers or even bringing a thermoflask of coffee/tea!

“It is an amazing phenomenon. People come all over the world to see the northern lights. When I take photos of the view and put them on international websites, people go crazy over them.”