Photo Kjetil Skogli
"the trip is gloriously scenic"
Daily Telegraph
"It’s spell-binding stuff"
Mail on Sunday
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Joanna Lumley in the Land of the Northern Lights was shot on HD – on one of the most advanced and light-sensitive video cameras currently available. But even so the Lights are not bright enough to be seen with this camera. To capture the Lights we worked with specialist photographer and aurora expert Kjetil Skogli. The shots you see in the film were taken with two Digital Stills cameras and then turned into a time-lapse animation.
The same technique is used for the shots which show Joanna looking at the Lights. For these shots, Joanna had to stand very still for the time it took to expose each digital still, and then she would move very slightly before the next one was taken, so that we had an animation of her moving, as well as the lights. The exposure length varied depending on the speed and brightness of the Lights, but on average we exposed each frame for approximately five seconds. We then animated these frames in post-production and then slowed them right down with overlapping mixes - to try to make sure the end result was a speed approximating to real-time.
It’s important to note that no special effects, CGI or graphic enhancements have been used at all in the film and that no split screen was used.
The digital stills’ shots were intercut with shots of Joanna watching the Lights and giving us her reactions to them shot on the normal HD camera (with a small battery light providing just enough light to let us see her).
You might have seen photos of the Northern Lights looking much brighter green than they appear in the film. We took great care to make the Lights look as close as possible to how they appear to the naked eye – which is why the colour palette in the film is more muted than in many photos.
Although all our efforts were designed to try to capture in real-time Joanna’s experiences of seeing the lights and the exact display she saw, no camera will see the Lights exactly like the human eye does. So the sequences in the film are probably slightly more blurry than they would appear to the naked eye, especially when the Lights move very fast (as they sometimes do).
Another thing no camera can really communicate is the scale of the Northern Lights during a big display – in all directions.
So there is no real substitute for seeing them yourself! And above all Joanna and we were very lucky to witness such a good display. It was so good it was reported on the TV News as far south as Denmark.
Kjetil Skogli is a tour guide and photographer based in Tromso, Norway. He can be contacted through his website: