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Old 22nd October 2013, 13:40   #1
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Default Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora



Prologue
I am not a professional sprinter. Never really done a 100m sprint. Watching an athlete is like pure art in motion. Stance like a predator. Palm on the ground. Knee bent, ready to launch.
I am also in the same position today. However, there is nothing poetic or artistic about it. My palm hurts from the sharp pebbles. Unlike the athlete looking at the target, I am hunkered down. The hood of my jackets cover my face almost completely,
Its defence. I can feel the wind, the sharp impact of tiny pebbles as they bombard me. Every now and then one such tiny stone, or large sand if you can call it that finds exposed skin, and stings.
A few feet away is my wife, in the same position. But we cannot stay here like this for eternity. We have to move behind the big rock, but for now its impossible to fight with the wind. A few feet away a fibreglass oar flies and crashes into the rocks. It may well have been us. What missiles may come next is anybodies guess.

It is said, there is no bad weather in norway, only bad clothes. I guess they were right. We forgot to pack a hang glider.

Last edited by tsk1979 : 22nd November 2013 at 17:09.
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Old 22nd October 2013, 13:42   #2
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Default Re: Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora



We werent even going to Norway. The wild one of scandanavia never crossed our mind. Who in their right mind goes to Norway in October.. right?
But sometimes, life has other plans. And when that happenes, you embrace it, for the wildest rides are the ones you never expected.
All it took was a few pictures. And then everything was junked. The flight plans, the stay plans, the rental plans... of Finland that is. We were going to Norge. The wild lady of Scandanavia.
Expensive? Yes. Unpredictable? Yes. Wild? Yes.... The list can go on.

When we started, we did not know what she will be like. Will she be a struggle?
Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora-dsc_dsc_3007_lrxl.jpg

Or will she be a walk in the park
Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora-dsc_dsc01034_lrxl.jpg

Maybe she will be mysterious
Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora-dsc_dsc01039_lrxl.jpg

Maybe she will show us the mirror
Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora-dsc_dsc01049_lrxl.jpg

Maybe... we will be lost in her maze
Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora-dsc_dsc_3025_lrxl.jpg

To wonder, contemplate and interpret
Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora-dsc_dsc_3028_lrxl.jpg

Life can be a garden sometimes
Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora-dsc_dsc01053_lrxl.jpg

But every garden has an autumn.
Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora-dsc_dsc01062_lrxl.jpg

Last edited by tsk1979 : 22nd November 2013 at 17:08.
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Old 22nd October 2013, 16:09   #3
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Default Re: Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora

But, as they say, there is beauty in every season.
Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora-dsc_dsc_3067_lrxl.jpg

You just have to know where to look
Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora-dsc_dsc_3080_lrxl.jpg

Sometimes you have to travel roads which go to infinity
Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora-dsc_dsc_3082_lrxl.jpg

And sometimes, beyond
Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora-dsc_dsc01086_lrxl.jpg

For, smoke on the water can be real
Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora-dsc_dsc_3088_lrxl.jpg
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Old 22nd October 2013, 16:11   #4
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Default Re: Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora

Sometimes dreams are a short walk away
Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora-dsc_dsc01089_lrxl.jpg

As the glaciers call you.. .Come to me mortal. Come before I die, and be gone forever.
Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora-dsc_dsc01108_lrxl.jpg

Some die young, but for now, I am here, come rest in me, touch me, feel me. Tell everyone my story. Like thousands of travelers in the past have done, watching me slowly wither. Maybe its your generation who will save me, for you are the last salvation. After you there will be no more me.
Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora-dsc_dsc_3101_lrxl.jpg

Some of us are the lifeline of countries. You drink from us, you marvel at your beauty. Now we need you, so exist, and you need us, to exist
Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora-dsc_dsc01122_lrxl.jpg

For when we are gone, all that remains will be the barren mountainside, unforgiving, harsh.
Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora-dsc_dsc_3119_lrxl.jpg

For the Autumn is here, but when will the spring come.. its your choice
Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora-dsc_dsc_3172_lrxl.jpg
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Old 22nd October 2013, 16:13   #5
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Default Re: Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora

I am not all mountains, but you have to go over them
Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora-dsc_dsc_3180_lrxl.jpg

or Under them
Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora-dsc_dsc_3253_lrxl.jpg

To see my fjords
Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora-dsc_dsc_3189_lrxl.jpg

And lose yourself in my reflection
Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora-dsc_dsc_3204_lrxl.jpg

Curiosity may have killed her
Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora-dsc_dsc01221_lrxl.jpg

But you do not be afraid, for the curious are rewarded
Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora-dsc_dsc_3218_lrxl.jpg

And so are those brave enough for my cold
Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora-dsc_dsc_3265_lrxl.jpg
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Old 22nd October 2013, 16:15   #6
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Default Re: Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora

Come to my land, and I will welcome you
Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora-dsc_dsc01251_lrxl.jpg

And show you ancient wonders
Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora-dsc_dsc_3299_lrxl.jpg

And yes you can look at this gift horse in the mouth
Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora-dsc_dsc_3314_lrxl.jpg

But don't forget your RVM, cause objects in rear view mirror can like eating rear view mirrors
Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora-dsc_dsc01278_lrxl.jpg

They eat grass on the ground, but then I have grass above ground too
Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora-dsc_dsc_3494_lrxl.jpg

But don't be lulled by my beauty, because looks can kill, and there is no one deadlier than a glacier scorned
Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora-dsc_dsc_3502_lrxl.jpg

So make sure you carry your raincoats, because wet cameras sometimes shoot what you don't want them to
Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora-dsc_dsc_3543_lrxl.jpg

I have all the seasons in one day, and all of them will move you
Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora-dsc_dsc_3572_lrxl.jpg

My clouds do have a silver lining
Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora-dsc_dsc01314_lrxl.jpg

I have color even in grey
Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora-dsc_dsc_3586_lrxl.jpg
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Old 22nd October 2013, 16:17   #7
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Default Re: Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora

But I am not easy. The real me is hidden behind the glacial streams
Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora-dsc_dsc_3609_lrxl.jpg

So leave your steed behind
Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora-dsc_dsc01351_lrxl.jpg

And let me guide you across the mountains
Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora-dsc_dsc_3624_lrxl.jpg

As you lord above the clouds, do not forget the ground, for I am slippery and treacherous
Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora-dsc_dsc_3642_lrxl.jpg

But then, good things come to those who toil
Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora-dsc_dsc01380_lrxl.jpg

Patience will reward you, for when you race on the highways big and small
Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora-dsc_dsc01411_lrxl.jpg

I will force you stop again... and again
Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora-dsc_dsc_3691_lrxl.jpg

For I am the Fjord Norway.
And as they tell you, there is no bad weather, only bad clothes....
Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora-dsc_dsc01359_lrxl.jpg
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Old 22nd October 2013, 23:37   #8
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Default Re: Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora

But if you think you have seen it all...
You are naive.

For she has another side.
Wilder, lonelier and scarier....

Say hello to Nord Norge
Where the autumn is Brutal
Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora-dsc_dsc_3706_lrxl.jpg

Blades of grass stand, waiting to be embraced by snow, as everything turns grey and white
Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora-dsc_dsc_3712_lrxl.jpg

They sense it first. Waiting for the season, when they will race on the ice fields, to cries of hurr hurr
Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora-dsc_dsc01475_lrxl.jpg

They are born for ice, as for us mortals, the studds wil take us
Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora-dsc_dsc_4782_lrxl.jpg

To fjords cold and grey
Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora-dsc_dsc01546_lrxl.jpg

And to sheep black and white
Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora-dsc_dsc01676_lrxl.jpg

But if you wonder, where have the colors gone, do not fear, for the sunset is still orange
Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora-dsc_dsc_3882_lrxl.jpg

And the Taiga's still defiant with its majestic green
Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora-dsc_dsc_4784_lrxl.jpg

And when you think..thats all?
She will dazzle you
Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora-dsc_dsc_3719_lrxl.jpg

Move you standing still
Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora-dsc_dsc_3723_lrxl.jpg

Sometimes, bathe you in green
Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora-dsc_dsc01510_lrxl.jpg

And sometimes...
Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora-dsc_dsc01524_lrxl.jpg

Its an addiction, which will consume you, as you race on the ice roads, crossing boundaries
Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora-dsc_dsc_4788_lrxl.jpg

again...
Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora-dsc_dsc01575_lrxl.jpg

And yet again
Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora-dsc_dsc01590_lrxl.jpg

Only to be defeated, with just a teaser for a reward
Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora-dsc_dsc_4810_lrxl.jpg

As the reindeer asks you, was it worth it?
Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora-dsc_dsc01570_lrxl.jpg

You can only say "Yes", we chased Aurora till the astronomical twilight
Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora-dsc_dsc01671_lrxl.jpg

---------- The End ---------.. or is it?
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Old 23rd October 2013, 11:36   #9
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Default Re: Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora

A mobile phone was always a Nokia. Yes, there was that korean company that made a device with shiny lights and deep blue screen, but a mobile phone was always and Nokia.
And Scandanavia was always Finland.
For the 70s-80s born... at risk of sounding like a facebook meme, the above statement is quite true. Of course before you say MOTOROLAAAAA, let me tell you we are talking about phones, not bricks.

So we had decided, we will go to Nokia Land, the land of the Flying Finns. We were to go to see the Aurora. Or northern lights. There are some things which are very very facinating. Even more facinating than Ladakh, and part of it comes out of the fact that they are so far away, so unreachable, so unpredictable. Ladakh is a backyard. Cross a fence or two, and you are in Ladakh.

Here you cross an entire continent. Well almost.

As plans go forward, I decided to find out people in Finland. Being the home of Nokia and countless other tech companies, it was not hard to find a team-bhpian residing there.
A couple of conversations on the phone, and we had a fair idea what to do. Even he was willing to join us, if he has leaves.
We decided we will land up in Helsinki, and drive all the way to up north over 2-3 days, and set up base in north Finland, and then make day trips to even Norway.

So while researching Finland, I decided to see Norway, on the web of course. And suddenly we werent going to Finland.
A month of planning was flushed down the Shift+Delete button.
We were going to Norway.
Nothing else will do. But nothing is planned, nothing is done, only that we will be there in October.
+ Its cheap
- Its cheap because it keeps on raining

And so began the plan for the big gamble.

Norway... we were coming!
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Old 23rd October 2013, 11:36   #10
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Default Re: Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora

The first time we ever holidayed in Europe was in 2011. You can read the log. Its called "Sonata Europa". We wanted to "do Europe". The initial part of that log will tell you what we meant by that.
However, there was a lot of confusion, a ton of reasearch, sleepless nights and what not. And a major part of that research was how to extend our very very low value currency the longest. Places to stay, things to do, blah blah.

In norway, that part was fairly easy.There is no question of what is expensive, and what is not. It is the most expensive country in the world.

Yes, the most.
Not one of the most, or among the most or in top 10. Its number 1. Sitting there. Right at the top. The most expensive fuel in the world. 25% VAT. Expensive car rental. Expensive stay....
Well there are 70rs/KG (INR) onions, and 50rs/kg(INR) cabbage but thats another matter altogether. I did not research price of cabbage or onions at all. Promise!

And then the Rupee got Beemar. With every passing day 55,56,57,58,59,60,61...... all the way to 68.
Our VISA is applied, Rupee is depreciating.

What will a sensible person do?
Quickly buy Air tickets. Well I could not. For our visa was still "Processing". Norway had fallen asleep with our VISA.

So it was time for research. Research Research and more Research.
The first question of course, is... Where in norway. Well we had 2 weeks, and this meant we do justice to 2 regions. Of course you can do Norway in a nutshell kind of tours and do 5 regions in 1 week, but then, you do not get to experience the kiss of Nigerdalsbreen, or the fury of Briksdal, or the joy of a kayak ride on the Sogn Fjord. Do you?

And whats the point of spending so much, if all you do can be replicated by buying a UHD TV and watching Hi def videos from your living room?

So research. Research and more research.
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Old 23rd October 2013, 11:37   #11
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Default Re: Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora

Planning a foreign holiday always has the Following steps
1. Visa
Go to website, get all list of required documents, submit
2. Air tickets
Go to expedia,cleartrip whatevertrip etc., and book cheapest ticket to the capital city
3. Hotel in capital
Go to booking.com or hotels.com and book cheapest hotel in the capital city for the night of your flight or two nights for city darshan
4. Decide where to go, and make travel arragenements. Rental car if you are doing countryside nearby, and for things like going to other extreme of the country, book a domestic flight on website of the regional operator(never use expedia etc.,)

However here we had a dilemma. October will give us the cheapest fares and the cheapest hotels, however, if it keeps raining on all days, there will be no Aurora, and no kayaking, and no trekking to glaciers etc.,
So where we wanted to go had to be lovely. And it had to be dry.

So how do you find "dry"?
Well you cannot. All you can do is past history. Norway maintains records of past 100 years on Eklima.no
And so it started. Scouting locations all over west and north Norway, looking at 100 years of precipitation records, and then zeroing on destinations.

Visa came, tickets were done, and places were identified.
It was fairly easy to find accomodation in West norway. For 24000 INR we will get 6 nights. Not a bad deal? Eh?
North was tough and pricy and 7 nights cost a whoppong 42000 INR

What I put forward in 2 lines took 3 weeks of emailing tonnes of places. Many of them close for the season on 30th september.

For domestic flights I used their carrier Norwegian. Again 21K for two people return ticket for a 2 hour flight. Kind of like DEL-HYD-DEL in India. This includes the baggage charges. International travellers need baggage .
Flights were cheap here.
Hotels were.. well same as what we paid in western Europe if you adjust for currency fluctuations.

Car rental was... maybe 15% more.
So what was expensive?

Well air tickets to Oslo, thanks to the falling Rupee. And then food. Yes. Food. Food is expensive in norway. Even a McDonalds meal can set you back 30$. But we did not care, for we rented places with kitchen. Its a rule we follow. Never rent if it does not have a kitchen in the room, unless its a one night kind of stop for flight.

So it was done.

Reach Oslo
Drive to Luster
Fool around
Drive to Oslo
Sleep one night near Airport
Catch first flight to Tromso
Rent car and drive to countryside home
Chase Aurora no matter how far you have to chase
Return car, catch flight to Oslo and then to DEL. No need for a night stay in Oslo. Save money. Yippee

The plan was ready, the plan was born. We were going to Scandanavia. We will chase the Aurora.
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Old 23rd October 2013, 14:01   #12
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Default To Oslo!

A general rule of packing is, pack everything, and throw half out.
But what do I do here. Do I cut my jacket which weighs 3kg. Or throw out half the food stuff we have packed?
There is no throwing out.
Its just rearranging.

And after 5 hours of movement from one bag to the other, we have 1 checkin each, 1+1+1 carryons.
All stuffed.

Heck the tripod itself is 3.2kg. I know, I know, I need to buy a carbon fiber one, but in hindsight, this tripod saved the day.

22kg + 22kg. Slightly over limit, but then upto 23 was allowed earlier, and Aeroflot is not a fussy airline.
So 4 hours before departure, we are are at IGI.

The journey has begun. 12 hours later we will be in Oslo. Yippee.
There is just one quick change at Moscow. As can be expected from Aeroflot, our "entertainment" does not work. But the plane flies, nothing is falling off. Yes, some lights are not working, and my seat is about to break. But this thing flies.

Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora-20130928_122510xl.jpg

The plane to Oslo is smaller, after all its two and a half hour flight. Thankfully there is nothing wrong with the entertainment system, because there isn't any.
Food is now worse than what we had in the earlier flight. But then it would break the universe if airlines served good food. Thankfully the flight is empty, and I convert cattle class to business class, and get shuteye on a row of 3 empty seats.

Right on time we land at Oslo, and passing through immigration is a breeze.
Now comes the what next question.

Why even this question? Well its simple, if you have to save money, you have to save money on everything. There are multitude of ways to get to the city from the Airport. There is the regular train, flybussen, a fast train and a taxi.

We chose the public transport, buying a single ticket.
We did not buy the day pass because we were going to be in Oslo for 2 nights, and we will take 1 zone pass for tomorrow, and then on the way back, due to 1 zone being free, we will pay cheaper ticket for 3 zones only, instead of 4.

See this is how you plan.
Even then, its expensive, costing around 230NOK/person for the whole thing (Daypass tomorrow + City-Airport-City)
At 11rs/NOK its 2500INR for public transport.

Norway was expensive!

However, the train ride is brisk, but the changing of bus for our hotel is quite a workout. Trust me, dragging 2 airport class 22kg each suitcases on the streets of OSLO for half a km is no joke.
And then there was the matter of "Cell phone". I was looking for a specific plan which would cost 150NOK and serve us for the second week in Troms area, when we needed live weather and geomagnetic updates for Aurora hunting. However, every shop we went to were out of stock. Since sunday everything is closed(Today is saturday), we will have to tackle that monday morning.

For now, it was time to head to our hotel, or rather Apartment.
A very funny thing about Norway is that Bedlinen is for rent. You do not get any bedlinen in budget hotels. You pay 200NOK/person. Thats like 4500INR to your hotel cost. But 22kgs wasn't for nothing, was it!
We were carrying our bedlinen, and blankets they give anyways. The rooms are heated, so are the bathrooms, and internet access was free in this.
Two nights had cost us 1260 NOK, which translates to about 14000 ODD. Guess what, this was the cheapest accomodation with a kitchen we could find in Oslo. Anything without kitchen was about 500INR/night cheaper, but then, without kitchen, what do you do about this?

Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora-20130924_215003xl.jpg

20kgs of Food
Noodles, some MTR ready to eat, flour, rice, sugar, tea...
What you see here shaved off a minimum 60000 INR off our travel bill.

In the west, you can save money by not eating out, but buying stuff locally. However, in Norway, even local buying is not good enough. You need to carry as much as you can.

Our apartment had a local supermarket in the same complex, and we discovered, onions are really cheap(yipee) and so was cabbage. Meat was a whopping 1200-1300 INR/kg, and chicken was, well I could not find any chicken. Eggs? About 400INR/Dozen.

So today was our orientation day. We got a hang of the country, on whats its like, what costs what, what to do and what not to do.
First and foremost this was a very safe place. You could roam about in most parts of town(avoid shady anywhere in the world), without fear. Locals were dis-interested. You do your thing, we do ours. Bus service and tram service top notch.

There was also the question of what to see tomorrow. Unlike lower europe like Austria/Italy etc., you don't have a list of 100 statues and parks you must see. Sure OSlo has musuems, but there is an entry ticket, and guess what, on a countryside holiday you save all this money. There is also the Oslo pass, but it works out to quite a bit, and frankly speaking both of us cannot tell Picasso from Picaddily.

So today we could sleep in peace, and tomorrow, we could walk oslo at leasure, without worrying about missing this or missing that.

We were in Norway, the wild lady of scandanavia, and we were ready for the wild wild ride!
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Old 23rd October 2013, 14:45   #13
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Default Re: Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora

Thread moved from Assembly Line.

Thanks for Sharing this superb travelogue.
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Old 23rd October 2013, 15:28   #14
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Default Re: Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora

Wonderful TL , I am going to read it all over again . Thread voted 5 star .
Beautiful pictures . My office colleagues could not help but peep into my cubicle and read it with me.
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Old 23rd October 2013, 15:44   #15
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Default Re: Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora

Superb! Marvellous! A Masterpiece! Too good!
You're a photography masterclass Tanveer. "N" number of times I have gone through your thread "18 Passes, 15 lakes and 2 breakdowns : Ladakh and Lahaul call again", and simply drooled over the pictures. This one too, without an inch of doubt in mind, carries on the legacy, and in an even better way.

Did you use a graduated neutral density filter for your wide angles? If so, which grade? And are the sunstars because of small apertures, or did you use a star-filter? Would you mind sharing the EXIF data for some of your ultrawide shots?

Congratulations again! Hope to go on a photowalk with you someday

Last edited by RevvMusic : 23rd October 2013 at 15:46.
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