Northern Lights are indeed a dramatic moment in the sky during the solar activity and flares of the sun. Therefore, seeing these astonishing phenomena is a bewildering experience. But wouldn´t you just love it if you could also capture it on film or take pictures of these magical lights? It is rather difficult and tricky for some, especially for first timers who just happened to bring with them their camera. The color will not be the same as what you really see personally. Just like when taking shots of the moon in your local area, you see it very clear, round and beautiful but when you take some pictures to post it on your Instagram, the photos are blurred or not concise even though you are using your ever reliable DLSR. Same with the Northern Lights, there are just some parts of it that cannot be captured well. So what are the things to consider in taking photographs of the sky’s amazing stage show?
Nr. 1 – Choose the spot wisely
Plan well where you can enjoy the Northern Lights. This is important and is the very critical step in chasing and catching the show up in the sky. There are several places in the most North part of the globe. In Iceland there are many great spots to hunt for the lights. For instance Snaefellsnes Peninsula. It is located in Iceland’s west coast on the 65th parallel. Budir, an area in that location, is a perfect place to see the excellent show of Northern Lights. The south coast is also very popular and there are many sites up in the north that are ideal. The Glacial Lagoon is located on the south/east corner and is a perfect location for aurora photography and catch the perfect moment.
Nr. 2 – Work with the locals
When you are having trouble capturing the night sky, you should look for professional photographers that can help you. Who are the best people to call? Well, the locals. They can find the perfect spot for you since they know the best places very well. In Iceland, there are many professional photographers that you can work alongside with. They are well equipped with cameras that can capture the beauty of the scene. Search them online and ask them to assist you, they will be glad to book you for the trip and can even give you tips and techniques.
Nr. 3 – Schedule your trip well
2013 is NASA’s prediction of the occurrence of the Sun’s maximum solar activity and flares. This happens only every 11th year of the sun’s cycle. So this is the best time to plan your trip. The Northern Lights last from a few minutes to all night long and this can be visible for several days. The most dramatic showcase of lights happens within 2 days where the Sun’s solar activity is at its climax. Schedule three days before the solar activity. Check on Space Weather Prediction Center’s Aurora Activity monitor online to better plan your trip. We also recommend you check daily the Icelandic Northern lights forecast.
Nr. 4- Play with Your Camera’s Manual Settings
The camera to be used is your key in capturing the best photo of the Northern Lights. Because you would be capturing photos in the dark, you might want to set your ISO, aperture and shutter speed settings into their finest. The ISO should be between 200-800, the aperture settings on 1.4 to 4.0 and the shutter speed of 10-30 seconds. Ask a professional photographer on how to do that.
Nr. 5- Buy Wide Angle Lens and Remove Filters
The Northern Lights would be all around you so there isn’t any possible way where you can step back to get a wide angle range. Plus you need to capture as much light and color as possible so take those filters off for excellent pictures.
Nr. 6- Manual focus
Though most cameras have auto focusing, you might want to turn it off so you can capture the entire scene. Auto-focus’ job is to focus on the closest subject and since your subject is way up in the sky, the camera would be focusing on something near and not the sky which will blur out your images.
Nr. 7- Buy a Tripod with a Remote Release
You don’t want your images to be blurry. So instead of holding them, use a sturdy and long tripod which will be mounted on the snow. The Remote Release will avoid shakes and will make your images concise.
Nr. 8- Dress Warm
You will be shooting images from cold regions for a long period of time and chances are you will freeze if you don’t bring your thickest winter jackets with you. Don´t forget gloves, scarf and a warm hat. Wrap yourself well to enjoy the fantastic show in the sky without feeling very cold.
Nr. 9 – Pack all your needs
Because you will be chasing and catching the Northern Lights for hours or even days, make sure you have complete accessories with you like extra batteries, lenses, memory cards, waterproof cases, flashlights and of course food.
Nr. 10- Picture it with foreground subjects
Not because you just want to take photos of the Northern Lights doesn’t mean you are just to photograph the sky all night long. Adding the whole scenery on where you stand is the most dramatic way to take photos. Plus it would remind you of the place where you have experienced the breathtaking phenomena.