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Northern Lights Photography tips

How to take images of northern lights

Updated 25.3.2020 10:48:16

You look at the deep sky above you, and the glow it tends to manifest. It is irresistibly beautiful, and falling in love with it is inevitable. Nothing beats the satisfaction that comes with drowning in the beauty that nature provides. 


But wait a minute. How about if you could capture all these? Undoubtedly, you will often want to have something to keep for future reference. Photography plays a vital role in memorability. Irresistible, right? Well, this is where aurora borealis photography steps in. 


But first, it would be best to start with the basics. It would be valuable to know what aurora borealis is, And perhaps what the northern lights photography entails. Maybe, it is from this that we will understand the essence these kind of photography. 


Well, an aurora is a product of the collision between the sun's electrically charged particles that get into the earth through the atmosphere. Usually, you will see these lights above the magnetic poles in the southern and northern hemispheres. 


But what is more interesting will always be the northern lights. They are often a result of collisions between charged particles in the atmosphere with those charged particles from the sun. They form different patters but with the yellowish-green color being the most predominant. 


Aurora borealis is an experience that you cannot afford to miss. It is in this regard that you will need to be ready for quality photography. Undeniably, you will not want just a picture. But an image that provides you with unmatched details will always come in handy. 


The big question will always be what you need the most during this period. And how you should do it. We explore some of the most remarkable tips that you will find worth considering at this point. Join us on this information trip. 


Your camera equipment


Have the right camera. Basic, right? No. 

Perhaps a full-frame camera will count better in this instance. It will guarantee better results despite the prevailing light conditions. This camera should also have a relatively wide-angle lens. It is through this that you will have no hassle in capturing vast landscapes. 


But usually, it will go beyond affording a topnotch and reliable camera. We have various accessories that you will find it valuable to have. 


In most cases, you will need a relatively sturdy tripod that will neither shake nor slip upon a 10 to 20-second exposure. With low-quality tripods, chances are that you will be exposed to too many movements, which will negatively affect your results. 


This camera should come with manual mode functionality. It is through this that you will have access to independent settings adjustments, including ISO, shutter speed and F-stop. 


Camera settings 

It will often be best for you to set both your camera and lens to manual mode. You will also need to turn off the Image Stabilisation feature as well as the Flash setting. With these settings in place, you will be sure of an improved focus despite the light conditions. 


You will also need to ensure that your ISO is at 1600. Remember, ISO is vital in controlling the light sensitivity of your film. With ISO 1600, you will be confident of getting the best images in the long run. 


And did you know that your F-stop will always matter? Take the time to find the lowest F-number on your camera. You might also want to opt for F-2.8 if it is there. With this aperture, there will be no doubt on how detailed the pictures will be in the long run. 


It will also be necessary for you to focus on the shutter speed. Often, it would be valuable for you to set a 20-second shutter speed. The shutter speed is usually equal to the exposure time. The speeds could vary as the evening progresses. For instance, you could set it to between 1 and 6 seconds if there are more reliable lights, and 15-30 when the lights become softer. 


Check your zoom settings. Usually, it would be recommended for you to aim at zooming out. Perhaps, you should adjust to the minimum mm settings on the camera. As you try to find the focus, it would be ideal to set it to infinity. And maybe you should preset it during the day. 


How to prepare for an aurora photography 

Usually, for any successful program, you will need to invest a lot in planning. But well, if you can follow the following, you will be good to go. 


•    You will first need to find dark skies. With these dark skies, you will be confident in getting minimal light pollution. Besides, they will come in handy in providing you with vivid colors as well as detailed images. Won't you fall in love with these results? 


•    You will also need to look for lighter skies. Shooting on partly cloudy nights will offer you an incredible experience in the long run. The cloud cover should be between 0 and 20%. 


•    Take the time to make yourself conversant with the aurora activities within that period. Going for nights that pride themselves on KP indices of 2 and above will be beneficial. It is only through this that you will be confident of seeing enough aurora. 


Above all, you will need to aim at sites where there are minimal obstructions to the north. Perhaps, it would be more suitable for you to go to elevated locations. In most cases, these auroras will be visible in upper magnetic latitudes. They tend to be much stronger when closer to poles. 


When to take the pictures

In most cases, it would be best for you to take these aurora photos between the beginning of the fall season and early spring. As such, you are likely to shoot these auroras in cold as well as icy conditions. It could be relatively challenging, but an experience worth embracing. Well, to be precise, you will shoot between September and March for the northern hemisphere. For the southern, it will be between March and September. 


In sum, aurora borealis photography is worth your time and resources. For as long as you understand what to do, you will be good to go.

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