It appears that 2015 and 2016 are the stage for maximum solar activity leading to a peak in number and intensity of polar auroras, these marvellous light exhibits that Nature displays in the night sky under high latitudes.
If you travel to Canada, Scandinavia or Russia this Winter (long nights!), you may be tempted to capture it on your camera sensor. But will you know how to make these pictures pop? It may be the only trip you’ll have the occasion to catch these Northern Lights. I doubt it and I tried to summon several experts and the articles they posted about photographing northern lights.
They are long (but you should read them from top to bottom anyway). So, I’ll try to give you a summary or key items to remember, before you read them to correct my approximations or bad interpretations.
- It’s easier with a camera fitted with a sensitive sensor (a Full-Frame sensor D-SLR would be great), a lens with a large aperture (f/2.8 or better, if possible) with a short focal length (14 to 50mm, to get a wide field of the sky).
- Don’t be afraid experimenting, or trying again and again with various camera settings.
- Start with ISO 1600, f/2.8 and 15 seconds shutter (tripod is compulsory).
- Check your tests with the histogram and shoot everything in RAW.
- Picture composition is important and framing something else than the sky may be critical (think reflections in a lake, framing a rock, a house or a tree).
And, stay as warm as possible (nights can be cold).
The blog posts I referenced:
- Secrets to Shooting the Northern Lights by Grant Collier
- Northern Lights chasing in Iceland with the Nikon D810 by Jonathan Zdziarski (You can appreciate it, even without a Nikon DSLR)
- How To Photograph The Northern Lights by Chris Brinlee Jr