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Thread: How to shoot Northern Lights

  1. #21
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    Default Re: How to shoot Northern Lights

    Just got back from Tromsų.
    Went with
    1) two FF bodies, mainly running on 16-35mm f2.8 and 24mm f1.4.
    2) one tripod and one gorillapod.

    The wind level would depend alot on where you're, some areas are almost windless while some are constant strong wind (on top of a mountain or similar). So far, my manfrotto and gorillapod has survived being in Snow and ice. The ball head would get a little loose even at the tightest point (the ball head and the housing shrinks at different rate in such condition(-10c to -15c, I stop bothering after a while but I was told it was -18c on one of the night).

    As for the settings, it depends on the strength of the Aurora and what do you aim to achieve.
    But assume its at level 3-- which is quite normal and would be visible to eyes but stronger in camera
    1) higher iso, shorter duration : more definition of the shape
    2) lower iso, longer duration: brighter colours but lose definition, lesser noise
    3) depending on the moon phase, it would light up the foreground (mountains, trees, or simple rocks)

    Sometimes, if its a very weak show--we would usually increase duration and iso to get it within the photo but that would also affect the surrouding (depending on the moon light). On my last night of hunting, I shot a very strong one over my head at 1sec at f3.5.

    Lens choice is subjective but if its your first time, I'd advice a UWA(14-24) lens then another slight longer maybe 35-50 (i think your 24-70 should do fine).

    Driving would be the last option especially if you're driving alone. As you'd be looking around and driving a on the other side of the road and not to mention a manual car. Getting automatic transmission would be as much as getting on a tour. Studded tyres would help if the ice on the road are frozen hard (average temp of -5 and below). If you're driving nearer to the coast and nearer to the sea, temperature could be about 1c to -1c which would mean the ice are not solid hard but might be a little fluid--this is the dangerous part. Not a very good experience I would say. You would need to know how to judge where you could stop your car and where you couldn't (you would be spending more time looking for a spot to stop than to enjoy the surroundings or the northern light). Advice would be to go for the smaller tours of 4 to o8 (means either 1 guide and 1 car or 2 guide and 2 car). The independent guys would have more flexibility. If you're keen, you could PM me to contact my guide. He's a photographer as well and he'd be able to give you some guidance.

    Note: not all tours are equal, some are in minivan, some in bus, while some in private cars. some provides outdoor/winter gears while some don't. Mine didn't and I didn't mind cause I had brought my own.
    Outfit advice:
    1)insulated gloves (preferably with flexibility of your fingers able to do adjustments), it is crucial! also, if your tripod is stainless steel or metal, do not hold it with bare hands. you'll get frost burn or similar.
    2)insulated waterproof boots, knee high recommended as you would be IN snow just to get some good shots or composition.
    3)water proof + wind proof outer shell (top and bottom). so that snow don't get into your boots/shoes or so you could sit/lay or roll in snow.
    4)head lamps (don't skim too much, get a good one with a good accessible switch else you'll be fumbling with your thick gloves).
    5)everything inside should be as much wool as you could with a good base layer.
    - a)base layer, b)knitted top/long sleeve thick layer, c)down jacket/fleece jacket d)outer shell
    *but it boils down to how much cold you could take.
    6)wool socks! never cotton! two layers and maybe hand warmers+feet warmers.


    Weather and the aurora has been kind to me thus far. Clear skies and fantastic light show for me. I managed to get 3 version of the lights on 3 nights I was out looking for it, was there total of 5 nights and only one of it had no aurora. Some say I'm lucky some say it has been good weather for the past week. Preferred moon phase would be quarter to half moon for me.

    Generally, I only went on 1 chase. One night I stayed out at one of the Fjords and another night I was out hiking. If you're lucky, you might even catch it in the city (Tromso).

    If you're spending a month in Norway, you'll be able to do a lot more things. The days are getting longer when I'm there so by Feb, you should have plenty of light throughout the day. For northern light, northern norway is your best bet--level 1 aurora would be visible to you as well while the lower part of Norway would need level 3 and if you're further south maybe level4 and above.

    Now I wish i spent more time in Norway, beautiful country.

  2. #22

    Default Re: How to shoot Northern Lights

    Just a suggestion to an alternative location for northern lights. Iceland! I recently went there for travelling. I personally think there's very much more to see there, especially if you are a nature lover. Not to mention, no need camp out in the wild or wait in the open area. Of the 7 nights I went, I could see the lights on three days. If you have a good lodging/hotel, you can request the people to wake you up when the lights are sighted Can't get more comfortable than waiting in your own warm bed ;x

  3. #23
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    Default Re: How to shoot Northern Lights

    Quote Originally Posted by seriallain85 View Post
    Just a suggestion to an alternative location for northern lights. Iceland! I recently went there for travelling. I personally think there's very much more to see there, especially if you are a nature lover. Not to mention, no need camp out in the wild or wait in the open area. Of the 7 nights I went, I could see the lights on three days. If you have a good lodging/hotel, you can request the people to wake you up when the lights are sighted Can't get more comfortable than waiting in your own warm bed ;x
    the thing about Iceland is that weather plays a bigger role in the sightings. a friend of mine just came back. 5 nights and nothing. overhead clouds are frequent. In other parts of the world, having a lodging or accommodation out of town would almost give you an added advantage. Out of the 5nights I was in Tromso, I'd 3 awesome show--one better than the other and one night with less intensity while I was in the city.

    another drawback about staying at the same location for a few nights--if you have it on the first or second night, the rest of the stay--it would look about the same and you will lose that enthusiasm.

  4. #24

    Default Re: How to shoot Northern Lights

    Quote Originally Posted by unclejosh View Post
    the thing about Iceland is that weather plays a bigger role in the sightings. a friend of mine just came back. 5 nights and nothing. overhead clouds are frequent. In other parts of the world, having a lodging or accommodation out of town would almost give you an added advantage. Out of the 5nights I was in Tromso, I'd 3 awesome show--one better than the other and one night with less intensity while I was in the city.

    another drawback about staying at the same location for a few nights--if you have it on the first or second night, the rest of the stay--it would look about the same and you will lose that enthusiasm.
    Well, unless the strength is the same, if not, it would be different for each night show... I have 3 different show in my last trip - the best and most intensive was 2nd night. 3rd night was more wash-out as there were fair bit of clouds, but that changes the look of it. 1st night was good earlier on and I would have got more shots if not for that fall! By the time I got back to some place to shoot, it was a little wash-out again due to clouds (not as bad as 3rd night). Thanks goodness for night 2 - still fretting about it.

    It makes me think of another aurora trip again... Sound like I caught a bug - aurora hunting bug, which is a little hard on my wallet! LOL!

  5. #25
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    Default Re: How to shoot Northern Lights

    the thing is that, the strength varies. for purely viewing purpose. having the same landscape with similar light show would definitely make you lose a little enthusiasm. I one better than the other each night. 3 nights of awesome shows at three different places, on the 4th night... I didn't bother taking out my camera anymore, just sat there and enjoy it.

    I have to say, I was spoil with all the awesome shows. 2nd night was going on all night from about 8pm till 6am. I was shooting till the point I was tired and had to go sleep--I was hiking around the surrounding area to get different foreground for the shots. It wasn't easy trying to hike with two tripods, two camera and some miscellaneous things (water, iPad, phone and batteries). With my own winter gear, I survived the cold out in the wild till about 4am and hiked back to my tent. Woke up at about 6ish and saw fainted lights still dancing above my head.

    p/s: i fell straight into a ditch, went straight through the snow and it reached my chest. somehow, my built in reflex kept my equipments above my head. had to use the tripod to help myself out of the ditch. LoL. Should've put on snowshoes.

    with the given opportunity, i would say--spend some time at different parts of the artic circle and you would find the framing and foreground to make your viewing and photography more worthwhile.



    *** once you've gotten enough shots, sit down and enjoy it... it would not be the same in photos... the best show I had was when i was at this mountain pass and the lights felt soo close that I could touch it... with my naked eyes i could see pink, purple and red (usually captured in camera with the right setting, even if your eyes can't see it).

  6. #26
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    Northern Lights appear at very dark area or places that far from city light. I was in arctic circle northern finland last month, I manage to capture some interesting photo of it.

    Gears that I used :
    1. Canon DSLR EOS500D
    2. SLIK Tripod
    3. Tamron 17-50mm

    Parameters that I set :
    1. Shutter Priority
    2. Shutter Speed set in between 3-5 sec

    Trick :
    1. Set camera to timer mode
    2. Compose the image that fill 3/4 of sky
    3. Focus the lens at nearby bright object
    4. You can use both auto or manual focus, personally I prefer auto focus

    Notes:
    1. very cold, make sure you have enough winter wear, especially ear, head, and hand cover.
    2. snap as many shots as you can, northern light will only appear for a moment only
    BLOMQVIST

  7. #27
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    Default Re: How to shoot Northern Lights

    Quote Originally Posted by blomqvist View Post
    Northern Lights appear at very dark area or places that far from city light. I was in arctic circle northern finland last month, I manage to capture some interesting photo of it.

    Gears that I used :
    1. Canon DSLR EOS500D
    2. SLIK Tripod
    3. Tamron 17-50mm

    Parameters that I set :
    1. Shutter Priority
    2. Shutter Speed set in between 3-5 sec

    Trick :
    1. Set camera to timer mode
    2. Compose the image that fill 3/4 of sky
    3. Focus the lens at nearby bright object
    4. You can use both auto or manual focus, personally I prefer auto focus

    Notes:
    1. very cold, make sure you have enough winter wear, especially ear, head, and hand cover.
    2. snap as many shots as you can, northern light will only appear for a moment only
    I'm sorry but I would like to just double check on this, Northern Lights do not only appear in dark areas and places far from the City. I've personally seen very bright ones in the city itself--it depends on the activity level.

  8. #28
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    Default Re: How to shoot Northern Lights

    Quote Originally Posted by JacePhoto View Post
    Aurora settings based on Nikon D800

    ISO 1600
    20 - 25 seconds
    F2.8
    Normally you don't need 20-25 seconds. Been lately to Iceland. Usually bright enough for 2-4 seconds. At one point we had a burst that was so bright that ISO 400 for 1 second was enough. You could even have used your iPhone. But it only lasted for 1 minute. Then it went back to 'normal'.

    So - test what works. And read your histogram.

    http://bertholdtrenkel.com/2015/04/1...is-pure-magic/
    Spring cleaning sale - see: http://www.trenkel.com/clubsnap.pdf

  9. #29

    Default Re: How to shoot Northern Lights

    any photo to see for those who came back from the trip?

  10. #30

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    Quote Originally Posted by happychai View Post
    any photo to see for those who came back from the trip?
    Well, i have my 2012 trip in the landscape and travel section - search for Switzerland/Finland (can't create link via the app). I have not upload my oct 2014 Norway trip yet.

  11. #31
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    Default Re: How to shoot Northern Lights

    Name:  NIX_4106.jpg
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    a random shot that I happen to have in my computer laptop~ hahaha....

  12. #32
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    Default Re: How to shoot Northern Lights

    dapier, aurora season starts in ~5mths time...i am planning either abisko or back to tromso, want to go?

    taken feb 2015 in tromso



    canon, nikon, sony, panasonic, olympus cameras

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