Photographing the Northern Lights
On a recent trip to Iceland, I saw the Northern Lights. Like all low-light photography, taking a picture involves patience, even in the freezing midnight cold.
The Aurora borealis in Iceland © Caroline Morley
There are plenty of online guides for photographing the Northern Lights and I think much of their advice is transferable to photographing other night scenes like cityscapes.
Here is how I got my photo:
- Wrapped up warm.
- A Tripod. I used a gorilla-pod which is light and hardy.
- Set camera to Manual.
- Set ISO to 1600.
- Set shutter speed to 5 seconds.
- Set aperture as wide as it will go. Mine camera was mostly at 3.5.
- Frame the shot to include some foreground.
- Use the self-timer and move away from the set up after pressing the shutter to remove any handshake.
My extra tips/notes are:
- We had a full moon and snow so there was a lot of additional light. A darker night would need even more exposure.
- Check your histograms on the playback view. This will give you a better idea on the spread of exposure than what you see on the camera’s preview screen. Many of my photos were underexposed because I did not do this.
- Use manual focus. My camera’s manual focus is fiddly but I think Manual is the way to go.
- Don’t spend all your time looking at a tiny screen on the camera and fussing about the perfect photo. Take time to look at the sky with your naked eyes. It is a majestic view.
It was a dark and cold night but the drama in the sky was amazing. I hope this helps you take better night photos.