Aurora Borealis....Northern lights! what a treat being able to see this in Alaska! who said winters suck in Alaska? I love winters here...not only because I love skiing, but also other nature miracles like Northern Lights. It's pretty serious here, you can find some avid Aurora Borealis hunters here, who know where to go to get the best shot at these lights! I met up with my fellow photographer Scott Simpson to go hunting for lights! had tons of fun, which also reminded why I love photography!
Here are some links where you can learn to understand Aurora forecasts:
Also, here are some tips and tricks how to take photos of Northern Lights: basic camera settings and personal advice:
- Have a sturdy, solid tripod! very important, to know is learn to use it before you go out in the field to take photographs:)
- Have a wide lens, with great aperture such as at least 2.8f ! original lenses could be expensive, but Tamron and Tokina have some good choices half a cost of original Nikon or Canon lenses. Open the Aperture to its widest setting (meaning, lowest number, like 1.8, 2.8 or 4.5)
- Shoot RAW! it is so much better to shoot RAW, because you can adjust white balance, noise reduction and other major or minor imperfection in post processing while with JPEGs can't do much, quality is just not the same, won't go into details about it.
- Shoot in Manual mode. I choose manual mode most of the time, especially when it comes to Northern lights. Sometimes for other shootings I use Aperture of Shutter speed priority.
- Depending on camera and sensor quality set your ISO starting with 800. I have Nikon D7000, which is DSLR, with Full Frame cameras you can start with 1000 or higher. Im pretty conservative when it comes to ISO settings. The higher the ISO number the more grain will be produced by camera. So, experiment with your own camera and see which ISO number fits best your needs and produces low grain and sharp images. Again, I go between 800 to 1250 ISO. I don't think I need a higher number.
- Depending on how bright and active Northern Lights are, adjust your shutter speed. I noticed, when they are just starting out, producing green colors or barely any color at all, I go anywhere from 30 to 20 seconds...When when they are starting to dance and change colors rapidly I set my camera shutter speed anywhere between 3 to 6 or 8 seconds.
- When I shoot Northern Lights I set my white balance to Daylight, but you can go with Auto if you are not sure and then adjust in Post Processing program like Adobe Lightroom.
- Another important tip is use a remote control so you won't need to touch your camera's shutter. Also, depending on camera you can adjust automatic shutter release in time intervals. So instead of touch your camera all the time which can cause a shake and blur, your camera takes set number of pictures between 1 second intervals...
To sum it up, be prepared ahead of time, have at least couple of charged batteries. Cold seems to drain batteries really quickly so make sure you have extra. Also plenty of memory on your SD cards (32gb or more). Dress really warm, have gloves, hats, warm boots, flash light that has red light, a thermos of hot coffee or whiskey (just don't drink and drive, have a DD with ya!). Have fun, it never gets old, such an amazing event to witness!