Photo by {link:https://www.flickr.com/photos/billdpix/15502554341/}Bill Devlin{/link}

Photo by Bill Devlin

Among the many spots that must be shot, I think many people will agree that the “Aurora” is number one! I am here to share the shooting skills of the Aurora so that students can prepare a little more before shooting!

This session will with three aspects: equipment preparation, camera settings, and composition and framing.

 

(1) Equipment Preparation

Most of the Aurora photos are taken at night, so the equipment requirements for Aurora photos are very similar to those of night scenes. Basically you need the following equipment:

[table class =”table-striped table-bordered”th =”1″width=”50%”colalign=”center|center”]
“Equipment”,”Quantity”
“Camera”,”1 or 2″
“Tripod”,”1 or 2″
“Shutter release”,”1″
“Battery”,”2+”
“Lens”,”Wide angle x 1~~Telephoto x 1~~Fisheye x 1″
“Filter”,”No ”
“Black Card”,”Not used or 1″
[/table]

Camera

  • Of course, you need a camera to take pictures, sometimes you need to use a high ISO, so full-frame has advantages.
  • It is recommended to have a camera with manual mode (M-mode) or shutter priority (S/Tv-mode)

Tripod

  • A stable tripod is very important in windy conditions. If your tripod is unstable your photo might be blurred.
  • It is recommended to have enough height to avoid lifting the center axis and affecting stability
  • The gimbal and quick release plate must be stable and lockable

Suggested Reading: [Novice Must Learn] 9 Tips to Use Your Tripod’s Maximum Potential

A solid tripod is important for shooting the Northern Lights.

A solid tripod is important for shooting the Northern Lights.

Some tripods can be equipped with spikes, suitable for use on ice. (Online picture)

Some tripods can be equipped with spikes, suitable for use on ice.

Shutter Release

  • To avoid vibration when pressing the shutter button, it is recommended to use the shutter cable.
  • If you want to shoot Time-lapse or continuous shooting at the same location, please use the shutter release.

Battery

  • The battery will run out faster in cold places, so you must bring multiple backup batteries.

Lens

  • It is recommended to bring a lens with three focal lengths because the aurora changes frequently, a little more focal length is more convenient
  • Wide-angle lens (eg 11-24mm): shooting great scenes
  • Medium focal length (eg 50-70mm): shooting a subject with the Aurora
  • Telephoto (eg 200-300mm): large close-up of the shooting environment
  • Fisheye lens: You can also bring it if you want to have fun changes in the photo.
Although it is said that the lens to be taken for travel photography is casual, it is best to bring the long, medium and short focal lengths when shooting the Northern Lights. (Web picture)

Although it is said that the lenses to take for travel photography is casual, it is best to bring along, medium and short focal lengths when shooting the Northern Lights.

Filter

  • No filter is used, and I removed the UV/protective lens when shooting to avoid affecting the image.

Black Card

  • Use according to the situation, if there is no light source.
Fisheye can shoot a wide range of aurora!

Fisheye lens can shoot a wide range of aurora-Photo by Ahpo Ho
(Nikon D610.16mm fisheye.f / 2.8.ISO800.10s)

(2) Camera Settings

Shooting aurora is very similar to shooting night scenes. You will also use “M-Mode” (learn to use manual mode to shoot). The aperture is usually set to the maximum (eg f/2.8, f/4), and The ISO and shutter are set:

To Shoot Darker or want to Shoot a Flowing Aurora: low ISO (ISO320, 640, etc.) + slow shutter (20 seconds) to
shoot Lighter or want to shoot moving Aurora: High ISO (such as ISO1600, 3200) + Faster shutter speed (4 seconds, 8 seconds)

If you use a slow shutter, you will be shooting aurora as flowing water. (f / 2.8.100mm.ISO400.20s)

If you use a slow shutter, you will be shooting aurora as flowing water.
(Nikon D810.f/2.8.100mm. ISO400.20s)

If you use a faster shutter speed, combined with a higher ISO, you can be afraid of "a jumping" aurora shape. (Nikon D810.30mm.f / 4.ISO3200.8s)

If you use faster shutter speed, combined with a higher ISO, you can be afraid of a “lightning” aurora shape.
(Nikon D810.30mm.f / 4.ISO3200.8s)

Of course, the focus should be set to infinity, and the anti-shake and auto ISO functions are turned off. Remember to not turn on the “long exposure denoising” function, to not waste time during shooting.

White balance can be set to auto or directly to daylight/5000K.

It is recommended to save photos to RAW + JPG for easy post-production.

(3) Framing

Even on the same night, the time and direction of the aurora’s appearance often change. Because the composition of some aurora shots can vary, students can refer to the following tips:

(A) Find something like a “foreground”

It ’s not impossible to only take the aurora, but it will make the photo monotonous, so if you can, please find a matching foil for the Aurora. It can be an ice block, a mountain, a forest, or even a log cabin. 

DSC_4915

Adding the right foreground can make the photo more rich overall. (Photo by {link: https: //www.flickr.com/photos/greenzowie/15430226702} greenzowie {/ link})

Adding the right foreground can make the photo more rich overall.
Photo by greenzowie

(B) Shooting Lines/Diagonal Lines of the Aurora

There are many changes in the shape of the aurora, it is difficult to predict, but if the Aurora is long or curved, you may want to shoot the Aurora diagonally to bring out the full dynamics.

DSC_4768_1

(C) Decide on the Sky or the Ground as the Subject

Sometimes you don’t have to make the aurora the subject, use the aurora as the background, and make the surrounding environment the subject to shoot.

Shooting hut with northern lights. (Photo by {link: https: //www.flickr.com/photos/emilkepko/8755449672/} Emil Kepko {/ link})

Shoot the cabin with the northern lights.
Photo by Emil Kepko

Light in the Foreground

If you have seen Aurora photos, you will see that the foreground of some photos is clear and bright and some are darker. This is because of the moon: the foreground is illuminated when the moon is full, and the foreground is not visible when there is no moon, so the final arrangements before the trip are to look at the moon.

How to Set the Focus to “Infinity” in the Dark?

There is a good chance that the camera’s autofocus will fail in the dark. At this time, we have two methods to set the lens to “infinity”:

(Method 1) Set to Manual Focus mode first, and then use the focusing ruler on the lens to adjust the lens to “∞” (infinity);

(Method 2) First set to Autofocus, then hold the camera and press halfway to focus on light-emitting objects far away (such as the moon, distant lights, houses), then set to manual focus mode.

It is recommended that students use Method 2 to set, because the infinity of the focus ruler may not be accurate!

The Most Important Element of Shooting Aurora?

You would want to say that shooting the Aurora is not about equipment or skills, but luck! Because the Aurora is a magical phenomenon in nature, the place, frequency and range of its appearance are also random. Of course, you can also use some websites or apps that predict the strength of the Aurora. It is difficult to “predict” the appearance of the appearance, sometimes the prediction is weak but it is brilliant when it appears; of course, there are also weather factors: cloudy, rain (snow), etc. will also affect watching the aurora, so it is strongly recommended that students stay for more time, And pray for the coming of luck!

Postscript

Whether it is in the North Pole or the South Pole, it is also worthy of appreciation and shooting. You have to go there once in your lifetime? I hope that after reading this, you can prepare to chase the Aurora!

 

More: Journey to the Aurora: Yellowknife, Canada | [Video] Amazing! Watch the Aurora Journey from Space

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Author: Alex Tam