Over three days I I have been posting information on how to better capture the northern lights… where to go, when to go and what gear to use.
The past few days we discussed when is the best time to photograph the northern lights and how best to prepare to photograph the northern lights. Today I want to discuss how to photograph the northern lights.
First, here are some tips:
1.Batteries don't last as long in cold nights. Bring spare batteries.
2.Try lots of different exposure settings; night photography is challenging. Test your setup first.
3.Include a part of the landscape to make the photos more attractive and as a visual reference for size.
4.Do not use any filters, as they tend to distort the beauty of the Northern Lights and degrade the image.
5.Turn on "noise reduction".
Here are some shooting techniques
The moon can work against you. If you are planning a trip to an Aurora zone, try to book it as I do when there is a new moon, or you can hide the moon behind a mountain.
Get your camera set up so that it is easy to handle. Using a flash light make sure your cable is connected, your lens is set just short of infinity and the camera is level to the ground. Then turn off the flash light and let your eyes adjust to the darkness.
You can use the waiting time constructively. You can practice with your bulb and find a good composition. Set your camera to f/2.8 (or as wide as possible) iso 800 and take some test shots for 30 seconds. Do this in all directions but mainly due north (Aurora Borealis). You may start to see a green hue on your pictures near the horizon. This is a good sign and this is the part of the sky you need to watch.
As the aurora starts to get brighter you need to start adjusting your settings accordingly. Start by bringing down your iso and then adjust your shutter times down if the aurora is still too bright.
Important note… Always check the brightness of your image on the histogram and never rely on the camera preview screen. Your eyes have adjusted to the dark so an underexposed image will look fine – until you get it home! Speaking from experience… the back lit LCD screen in the dark makes photos look brighter than they actually are.
If the whole sky explodes and the Aurora casts a shadow, you need to be quick to adjust your exposure times. The best Aurora shots occur during these brief moments. A faster shutter of 8-20 seconds will preserve some of the details of the display.
If you want to come with us on one of our tours to photograph the northern lights, please visit our Canadian Workshop and Tour page here. We visit the Yukon quite often, http://northof49photography.com/photo-workshops