Pictures which prove you don't have to go to Iceland to see the Northern Lights

The Northern Lights over St Mary's Lighthouse near Whitley Bay. Pic: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire.
The Northern Lights over St Mary's Lighthouse near Whitley Bay. Pic: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire.

Sky watchers seeking a Northern Lights display often think their best chance lies in Iceland.

But pictures taken by a North East photographer have showed otherwise.

The Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, shining over the Bathing House in Howick, Northumberland. Pic: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire.

The Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, shining over the Bathing House in Howick, Northumberland. Pic: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire.

Aurora borealis-chaser Owen Humphreys, 44, from Whitley Bay, North Tyneside, has a special interest in the Northern Lights and has taken spectacular photographs of the phenomenon.

The award-winning photographer, who has been at the Press Association for more than 20 years, said his interest is bordering on being a "small obsession".

Mr Humphreys began searching for thrilling light shows in the skies above the north of England around three years ago.

He has driven thousands of miles and sat waiting for hours on end in a bid to capture moments of natural wonder in the night sky.

The Northern Lights over Alnmouth in Northumberland at the St Cuthbert's Cross, which is said to be the location where St Cuthbert agreed to become Bishop of Lindisfarne. Pic: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire.

The Northern Lights over Alnmouth in Northumberland at the St Cuthbert's Cross, which is said to be the location where St Cuthbert agreed to become Bishop of Lindisfarne. Pic: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire.

Reflecting on his first night of sky watching with his camera back in February 2014, Mr Humphreys said: "Seeing the aurora and my results, which I have to say were not the best technically, I became very interested in the Northern Lights.

"I wanted to show people, in pictures, what was going on sometimes in the skies at night when most folk are asleep, and show that you could actually capture the Northern Lights without travelling to the far North such as Iceland.

"My aim was to get as many famous or interesting landmarks across the north of England stretching up into Northumberland and into Cumbria's Lake District.

"So far I have been lucky enough to see some amazing displays and capture them in pictures."

The Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, shining over Derwentwater, near Keswick in the Lake District. Pic: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire.

The Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, shining over Derwentwater, near Keswick in the Lake District. Pic: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire.

Mr Humphreys said the thrill of the aurora borealis chase can be addictive, adding that he has often sat waiting for five or seven hours at a time and seen nothing.

But he said perseverance pays off, and he has been lucky enough to witness "some of the strongest displays seen in the UK".

He said: "I think the not knowing how strong or what you're going to see makes it addictive.

"You can plan where you are going to a certain degree, but you can't plan the weather or power of the aurora. The not knowing is the catch."

Discussing whether the photographs are photoshopped, he said "yes and no", adding: "Not to the degree some people think."

Mr Humphreys said the camera picks up more than the naked eye, adding: "When I get my pictures back and on to the computer I only have to do what you would do normally to most images from a digital camera.

"I call it adjusting, ie, some contrast, a slight sharpen up, and darken or lighten the image. Be careful not to do too much to the pictures."

Among his favourite places to see the aurora borealis in the north of England are St Mary's Lighthouse in Whitley Bay, and Dunstanburgh Castle, Bamburgh Castle and Holy Island, all on the Northumberland coast.

He also likes Hadrian's Wall and Kielder Forest in Northumberland, and Derwentwater and Ullswater.

Mr Humphreys said there are so many aspects, including weather and space weather, that have to fall into place.

"Don't think for one minute you can just turn up and see them or you will be very disappointed.

"The best advice I can give is get out and give it a go - and stay safe, as some of these locations are coastal and fairly remote," he said.