Tips for Northern Lights Photography

Discussion in 'Nature' started by quatchi, Jan 18, 2014.

  1. quatchi

    quatchi Mu-43 Veteran

    May 17, 2012
    Munich, Germany

    in the end of February I am going to Tromsø, Norway for a couple of days. On that occasion I would like to try to snap a couple of pictures of northern lights (weather permitting).

    Since I have next to non experience with night sky photography (even haven't seen a northern light personally, yet), I am looking for a good tutorial or tips. I already googled and found some. Various pages, however, have contradicting information on them (high vs. low f-stop, using higher ISO vs. lowest, ...).

    Does any of you can recommend a good tutorial?

    I know, it is a bit much to ask, but I give it a shot anyway: Has anyone of you been to the Tromsø area and can give tips for nice spots to see and photograph the northern lights (I will have a car)?
  2. tflovik

    tflovik Mu-43 Regular

    May 19, 2012
    Finnsnes, Norway
    Tom Eirik
    Hi there, i live not far from Tromsø and we have plenty of Nothern Lights here.
    I have taken some shots with my Panasonic G-5 and 14mm f/2,5.

    So here is what to do to get a good Nothern Lights shot:

    - you need a tripod
    - Set the camera to M modus
    - Set the camera to manual focus and infinity, i use to first set it to auto focus and lock focus to a source of light more than 30 meters away, then switch back to manual.
    - The shutter count depends on the activity of the Northern lights, i recommend setting it faster then 10 sec.
    - The aperture must allways be set wide open.
    - ISO depends on how dark or light it is, but a good start should be ISO 1600.
    - Use a remote or set the camera to 2 sec delay before taking the shot.
    - Night NR should be on, you have to wait double time but it's worth it.

    So if you have a lens like my 14mm, start out with ISO 1600, f/2,5 and shutter 8 sec.
    Then you look at the picture after, if it is too dark you have to increase the shutter or set a higher ISO. Or both if needed.
    If the picture is to light, that can happen when it is a full moon, you have to decrease the shutter or set a lower ISO or both.

    It takes a little practise but it's not hard to do :) 
    • Like Like x 4
  3. aremesal

    aremesal Mu-43 Regular

    Jan 21, 2013
    Zamora, Spain
    Very valuable advices from a local!

    What about battery drain in cold weather? Is it worth to maintain camera and remote shutter batteries inside your clothes?
  4. quatchi

    quatchi Mu-43 Veteran

    May 17, 2012
    Munich, Germany
    Thank you very much for your tips, tflovik!

    I will have the Olympus 12-40 (f2.8) and Pana 20 (f1.7) with me. I also have the Oly 9-18, but I guess that f3.5 will be too dark even on the E-M5 with higher ISO.

    If I may ask: Why do you recommend a shutter speed below 10sec (with relative high ISO)? Are there significant star-trails or mush polar/northern lights with a longer shutter speed and lower ISO?
  5. tflovik

    tflovik Mu-43 Regular

    May 19, 2012
    Finnsnes, Norway
    Tom Eirik
    armesal: unless you plan to take several hundred pictures there is no need to have extra battery or have it in the pocket.

    quatchi: The reason for setting the shutter less than 10 sec is to capture the movements in the Nothern light. I would use the 12-40 at f/2,8 and at 12mm if i where you :) 

    One last thing to remember, use proper clothes for cold weather :) 
    • Like Like x 1
  6. hazwing

    hazwing Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Nov 25, 2012
    • Like Like x 1
  7. Catz

    Catz Mu-43 Regular

    Aug 8, 2013
    Tromsø, Norway
    tflovik has some good advice!
    I'm also from Tromsø, and here are some photos from this arctic paradise:
    I would also try to take advantage of the "live-bulb" mode, just open your lens to its widest and fastest setting and put the iso to 1600 or thereabouts. Hold the shutter and look at the magic unfolding on your screen. My best aurora-photos has been captured when it has been full, or near full moon, because it illuminates your surroundings so the difference between the aurora and the landscape is smaller, and thus allowing a shorter shutter speed.
    And remember to be patient, there is nothing more frustrating to drive home and seeing an amazing aurora-outbreak when you are walking inside.
    • Like Like x 1
  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.