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Photographing the northern lights

Few things to keep in mind when photographing the northern lights.

The Northern Lights, also known as the Aurora Borealis, is a natural phenomenon that has fascinated people for centuries. Seeing the dancing lights in the sky is a magical experience that many photographers aim to capture through their lenses. However, photographing the Northern Lights can be challenging, especially for those who are new to astrophotography. In this blog post, we'll share some tips on how to photograph Northern Lights.


I've been shooting the northern lights for more than 14 years now and I belive that, and I should have, learend a trick or two when it comes to chasing those elusive lights.

I want to share with you what I've learned along the way and also what to look out for when planning for a date night out with lady aurora. Before I go into photography aspects of things we need to start by plannig our outing, what we need to look for in terms of where and if they can be seen etc. I'll not be going into the science, more so what we, as a photographers need to look for and where, and also camera settings, equipment and some techniques. First things first, there is no point of going out if it's pissing rain. Forcasting for clouds is notoriously difficult so you need to keep that in mind when you look into the wearther forecast. It also depends on where you are located which weather sourch you should look into.

Here in Iceland I like to use a few websites such as: - great for general weatherforecast plus it has satellite and northern light forecast. - great for general weather forcast but has more detailed regions - clouds and satellite what I use mostly here. Aurora forecast: There are severl apps and websites but having too many to choose from it can get confusing so the 2 sources I use the most are:

Aurora pro app (paid version) I use several apps on my phone but this one is my favorite. However there is a website that has it all cramped into one (for Iceland) very visual and have all on one page such as cloud forecast broken up in low-mid and high clouds and total cloud cover, Choose the right location:

To capture the Northern Lights, you need to be in a location where they can be seen. The best places to see the Northern Lights are in the Arctic or Antarctic regions, although they can also be seen in other locations that are far from city lights and pollution. Look for areas with clear skies and minimal light pollution. Research the area beforehand to find the best spots for viewing and photographing the Northern Lights.

Time it right:

The Northern Lights are most visible during the winter months, from September to March. However, this does not mean that they are visible every night during this period. You can use various apps (see above) to track the Aurora forecast and determine the best time to photograph the Northern Lights.

Use a sturdy tripod:

When photographing the Northern Lights, you will need a long exposure time to capture the lights properly plus it might be windy. This means that you will need a tripod to keep your camera steady during the exposure. Use a sturdy tripod that can support the weight of your camera and lens, and make sure it is set up on stable ground. Use either 2 sec delay or a remote control to minimise camera shake.

Use a wide-angle lens:

A wide-angle lens is ideal for capturing the Northern Lights as it allows you to capture a wider area of the sky. A lens with a focal length between 14mm and 24mm is suitable for photographing the Northern Lights.



Now, some camera settings:

Aperture: Set your aperture to the lowest value possible on your lens, usually around f/2.8 or lower. This will allow as much light as possible to enter the camera and help to capture the Northern Lights more clearly.

ISO: Set your ISO to a high value, around 800-3200, depending on the level of ambient light. The higher the ISO, the more sensitive the camera is to light, which means that you can use a faster shutter speed and capture the Northern Lights more clearly.

Shutter Speed: Your shutter speed will depend on the intensity of the Northern Lights and the aperture and ISO settings that you are using. Generally, a shutter speed of around 10-30 seconds is suitable for capturing the Northern Lights. However, you can experiment with different shutter speeds to find the perfect balance between capturing enough light and avoiding overexposure. I like to shoot them as fast as I can so I prioritise shutter speed over ISO but this depends on your camera ISO performance - newer models should all be fine with using ISO of up to 2500/3200 plus with all the softwares available such as Topaz ISO is basically not an issue anymore.

White Balance: Use the Kelvin scale to set your white balance, rather than relying on automatic settings. Start with a value of around 4000K and adjust it as needed. This depends on the moon phase as the colour of the night is bluer as we have bigger moon.

Focus: Use manual focus to focus on a bright star or distant light, rather than relying on autofocus, which can struggle in low light conditions. You can also use the infinity symbol (∞) on your lens to ensure that your focus is accurate. Another methood I use is to have someone with you to walk 50-100m away with a headlamp and focus on that person, with wide angle lense that should ensure you have infinitly focuse.

RAW Format: Shooting in RAW format will allow you to capture more detail and give you more flexibility when editing your images later on.


In conclusion, photographing the Northern Lights can be challenging, but with the right location, timing, equipment, and technique, you can capture stunning images of this natural wonder. Remember to experiment with your settings, be patient, and enjoy the experience of witnessing one of the most beautiful phenomena in the world. Photographing the Northern Lights can be a waiting game.

Be patient and wait for the lights to appear. It's also a good idea to take breaks and warm up inside, especially in colder conditions.

Dress warm and have something hot to drink like hot chocolade in a thermo to keep you warm.

That's all for now and best of luck this season. #auroraborealis #northern_lights #night_photography #aurora #borealis

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