Northern Lights images will not be like different evening images; it has challenges that go manner past regular evening images challenges – namely…the chilly! You solely get Northern Lights within the winter when you’ve gotten these attractive darkish skies. As well as, the aurora oval revolves across the geomagnetic north pole putting you in a number of the coldest environments on earth. All of this implies you’re going to be ready out within the chilly for the right {photograph} of the northern lights.

In case your dream is to {photograph} the northern lights, then you definately’ll should be in the best place, have the best digital camera tools, and be ready together with your digital camera settings. And also you’ll wish to make sure that you keep heat while you’re working in your excellent {photograph}.

I’ve spent a whole lot of time photographing the northern lights in Alaska. I’ve even been fortunate sufficient to see the southern lights on a cruise to Antarctica! From these experiences I’ve accrued an intensive record of ideas for making certain your aurora images seems nice, you keep heat, and have enjoyable. I’m excited to share the following tips for capturing the Northern lights whereas staying cozy.

What are the Northern Lights?

I’m no scientist – however I can inform you aurora borealis is a recipe made up of the solar, photo voltaic bursts, photo voltaic wind, the earth’s magnetic fields, and our environment. In order for you an in-depth rationalization, try this Northern Lights Outlined article.

Indigenous Explanations of the Northern Lights

Along with the scientific rationalization, there are additionally Indigenous explanations too. The Alaskan Native folks and Inuit imagine that the Northern Lights are the spirits of their ancestors looking within the evening sky, and that’s why they’re lively and transferring.

One other model is the spirits of the ancestors watching over their family members on earth. The spirits are so pleasant, it’s mentioned you possibly can invite them for a ‘dance’. If you dance, they are going to be part of you dancing and you’ll primarily ‘dance them out’.

Once I was instructed this, I questioned if the Hokie Pokie dance would work – it’s the one dance I do know! A minimum of if you happen to select to ‘dance them out’, it’s additionally an effective way to remain heat concurrently!

The place to Discover the Northern Lights

You discover the northern lights below the aurora oval. The oval thickness modifications periodically, however generally, you’ll discover the aurora oval across the Earth’s geomagnetic poles. You’ll additionally want clear skies with the intention to see the northern lights. Because of this a number of the finest odds of seeing them are locations with clear skies.

My favourite place to {photograph} the aurora borealis is Fairbanks Alaska. It’s within the Alaskan inside, which suggests extra clear skies and a better probability of seeing them. Plus there are many nice issues to do in Fairbanks (canine sledding, snow mobiling, along with chasing aurora!

Another nice locations are:

  • Yellowknife Canada (Yukon)
  • Churchill Canada (Manitoba)
  • Northern Norway
  • Iceland
  • Northern Finland
  • Greenland
  • Northern Sweden

After all, you could possibly {photograph} them in Minnesota or Montana – nevertheless, the chances are a lot decrease. I want to go to locations below the aurora oval the place I’ve a good aurora forecast more often than not, and good odds of clear skies for the very best images. That’s Alaska for me.

northern lights photography alaska
Alaska is my favourite place to {photograph} the aurora

Digital camera Gear You’ll Want for Photographing the Northern Lights

There are a couple of further issues that you just’ll want for evening images, and particularly northern lights footage, which might be completely different from a typical images gear record.

Tripod

I by no means usually journey with a tripod, however within the case of evening images, it’s a should. You’ll need a good sturdy one that may take care of wind. Plus – be sure that it isn’t metallic. Steel tripods can get extremely chilly, and also you don’t wish to contact freezing-cold metallic, even with gloves. I take advantage of the Peak Design Journey Tripod which is extremely small however sturdy and quick to get into place!

Peak Design Travel TripodPeak Design Travel Tripod

Peak Design Journey Tripod

That is the smallest and sturdiest journey tripod I’ve discovered available on the market. That is an aluminum model (3.4 lbs) – however in addition they have carbon fiber (2.8 lbs). A journey tripod that packs right down to the diameter of a water bottle—with out compromising top, stability, or options. Plus, it is really easy and quick to setup and take down!

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Huge Angle Quick Lens

Any lens will work, however the wider the lens, the higher. Northern Lights can take up a giant space of sky and also you wish to seize as a lot of the present as potential along with the foreground. In reality, in case you are doing northern lights images beneath the aurora oval, the aurora will usually present up arcing throughout the sky like a rainbow. To seize that complete shot, you will want a wide-angle lens.

When in Fairbanks, Alaska, photographing the aurora borealis, I shot with a 10mm or 18 mm more often than not. Usually, a focal size of 14 to 30mm is what you must purpose for. Fairbanks is often immediately beneath the aurora oval, so it’s good to have the ability to get a giant extensive view of how excessive within the sky the lights climb. Nonetheless, a 24 mm additionally works, however you’ll doubtless not get the total arc of the northern lights. Simply bear in mind {that a} 10mm lens tends to distort issues within the foreground.

northern lights photographynorthern lights photography

As well as, the quickest (lowest F cease quantity corresponding to f1.8 or f2.8) lens you should use the higher. This lets you work with extra mild – one thing that’s briefly provide throughout evening images. With out a quick lens, exposures will should be longer, and that may are inclined to blur the aurora extra. My quickest, widest lens solely went to f4, and I might nonetheless shoot at shutters of 10 seconds with out an excessive amount of of an issue. Use what you’ve gotten after all – as a result of something is healthier than nothing!

Hire a Lens for Aurora Pictures

In case you don’t have a large angle, quick lens, don’t worry – you don’t must exit and spend 1000’s of {dollars} on a lens only for northern lights images. As a substitute, you possibly can hire a fantastic lens for Aurora images.

I’ve rented from each Borrow Lenses prior to now. I rented the Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2 for Sony E-mount for ten days costing aproximately $120. This consists of delivery. I didn’t get the insurance coverage although as I’ve different journey insurance coverage that may cowl it. Facet be aware – I at all times really feel just like the insurance coverage is a sham on this stuff. Earlier than buying the insurance coverage out of worry, first verify to see if any of your different insurance coverage (residence, journey, bank card) will cowl the lens.

This was a fantastic lens with high-quality glass for capturing the northern lights. You possibly can clearly get one thing even higher just like the Sigma 14mm f/1.8 Artwork E Mount. That’s the beauty of Borrow Lenses – you possibly can check out a lens before you purchase it.

Digital camera

I take advantage of a Sony A7iii mirrorless digital camera. Not too way back I switched to mirrorless from my Canon DSLR system. The principle factor to search for in a digital camera used to {photograph} the northern lights is low-light efficiency (increased ISO). ISO vary of 100-51200 is right. As well as, battery life and climate sealing are additionally necessary, which is crucial for the lengthy and chilly nights below the Northern Lights.

camera gear for northern lightscamera gear for northern lights

A digital camera with handbook mode is required for northern lights images. It’s essential to be capable of management f-stop, shutter speeds, and ISO, every manually – extra on the settings for northern lights beneath. Full-frame cameras may even produce a better-quality picture.

Pink Gentle Head Lamp

Not solely will you want some form of mild to mild up the digital camera controls and alter your digital camera, however you’ll additionally need a highly effective mild that will help you mild up the foreground, verify your focus, and make your Northern Lights images much more picturesque.

It takes about 20-Half-hour to your eyes to completely darkish adapt when doing images at evening. A crimson mild is non-glaring, so it might probably enable you see higher at evening. Activate a white mild and break the darkish adaptation of you and everybody round you. Due to that white flashlights and cellphone lights are discouraged at northern lights viewing.


Black Diamond Storm 400 Headlamp, Azul

The Storm 400 additionally has three completely different coloured evening imaginative and prescient modes and peripheral white lighting for close-range actions like fastidiously re-racking for the ultimate summit pitch at nighttime. The headlamp has our Brightness Reminiscence characteristic, which lets you flip the sunshine on and off at a selected brightness with out reverting again to the default, full energy setting.


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Distant Shutter Launch

This isn’t required, however many individuals use distant shutter releases for evening images to scale back any chance of digital camera shake whenever you bodily hit the shutter button. Some distant releases have further choices like an intervalometer, lightning set off, and distant management of digital camera settings.

Additional Batteries

In chilly climate, battery life goes quick. Be sure you at all times have further batteries when you’re chasing the northern lights. Take greater than you suppose you’ll want! In Fairbanks, I used to be typically capturing in -10 to -20, and our digital camera battery life was minimal.

My rule is to convey double the batteries than what you suppose chances are you’ll want. I had 5 with me and there have been nights the place I virtually went by means of all of them.

northern lights photography tips batteriesnorthern lights photography tips batteries
Hand heaters are your batteries’ finest mates!

Hand Heaters

Sure – these are nice to need to hold your arms heat – however much more importantly they’re nice to maintain your further digital camera batteries heat. The chilly will sap your batteries even when they aren’t in your digital camera – so hand heaters are actually useful whenever you {photograph} the northern lights. I’ve used a budget little disposable handwarmers, however I’m actually loving the brand new electrical ones that may be merely recharged with USB and used over and over.


Magnetic Rechargeable Hand Heaters

Electrical Pocket-Sized Handwarmers with 3 warmth settings will hold your arms toasty heat within the chilly temps. These are ultra mild and skinny and can simply slot in your pockets. As well as they warmth up actually quick, and can final for aproximately 4 to eight hrs.


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Northern Lights Pictures Ideas

You’ve received all of your gear, however the following tips are important for the distinctive surroundings your digital camera gear will face when out within the freezing chilly!

As soon as Your Digital camera is Outdoors, Go away It Outdoors

That is the very first thing to know and comply with religiously. Your physique can go out and in of the chilly with little dire impression in addition to being uncomfortable; nevertheless, your digital camera can’t. Don’t topic it to the large temperature swings inside and outside, because it results in condensation inside your digital camera, to not point out it’s simply rattling powerful on the digital camera generally.

Set your digital camera up on the tripod, situate it outdoors within the space the place you wish to shoot, after which depart it there till you might be completed capturing utterly for the evening. You’ll need to acclimate whenever you come again outdoors, however your digital camera received’t, and that may guarantee you may get the Northern Lights images you might be hoping for.

Professional Tip: â€œIn case you should take your digital camera inside from the chilly, place it again in your digital camera bag or backpack earlier than you return onto the nice and cozy space. Maintain it within the closed bag, which is stuffed with the identical chilly air that surrounds your digital camera outdoors till you return outdoors. This can stop condensation. In case you keep inside for an extended time period, ultimately, it can heat up regularly, and the whole lot shall be nice.  In case you do expertise condensation, your solely treatment is to maintain the digital camera in a comparatively heat, dry room till it utterly dries out. Solely then can you are taking it outdoors once more.” – Dan Bailey Alaska Photographer

northern lights photography tips frozen cameranorthern lights photography tips frozen camera
Northern Lights images is a cold enterprise…

Take Your Batteries Out of Your Digital camera

However wait! Earlier than you simply depart your digital camera sitting outdoors on the tripod, take the batteries out of it and take them inside with you. In case you depart them within the digital camera outdoors – they are going to most undoubtedly drain and be of no use to you.

Batteries Can Come Again to Life

Usually chilly batteries are only a massive tease. They inform you they’re empty, however actually they aren’t. Simply heat them up once more in an inside pocket near your physique. Or higher but, put them in a pocket with hand heaters to get them good and toasty once more. Immediately you’ll discover that they arrive again to life. If you put them again in your digital camera it can present they aren’t empty. See…an enormous battery tease.

Chasing Fall – The place to Discover Autumn Colour in Alaska

Level the Lens Downward

Maintain on! I do know I do know, you’ve gotten left your digital camera sitting on the tripod with the batteries taken out and saved safely in your heat pocket – nice. However there may be yet another key factor to do earlier than you go have that sizzling toddy inside. Alter your tripod head and level the lens down in direction of the bottom. This can make sure the glass on the lens doesn’t get frosted over.

I realized this superior tip from Frank on the Aurora Bear Pictures Workshop. On the coldest evening we have been capturing (round -15F), I left my digital camera pointing down towards the snow on my tripod as I waited in a yurt making an attempt to heat up. Once I returned to search for Aurora periodically, I observed my entire digital camera was frosted over! Nonetheless, the lens pointing on the floor was not. This fashion when the aurora did come out all of the sudden – I used to be prepared! I simply popped the battery again in, readjusted the tripod head, and received my photographs though my digital camera was utterly frosty!

Take away Your Filters

Frank at Aurora Bear additionally taught me to take away the filters on my lenses as they’ll produce a sequence of darkish concentric circles within the heart of your photograph. Plus, some filters may even cut back your accessible mild. You’re already challenged with low mild situations when capturing the Northern Lights; don’t make it worse!

Professional tip: â€œAdditionally, watch naked noses on ice-cold metallic and plastic digital camera our bodies. If it’s chilly sufficient, you possibly can simply frost-nip the top of your nostril whenever you press your withstand the digital camera to take photographs. I do know as a result of I’ve completed it. Both attempt to maintain your face barely away from the again of the digital camera or else use some sort of nostril protect or face masks. Your pores and skin will thanks.” Alaska photographer Dan Bailey

Defend Your Gear from the Subzero Temperature

At -15F, you don’t need any naked pores and skin to the touch the metallic lens – the lens is manner too chilly to deal with. I take advantage of LensCoat LensCovers for my lenses. LensCovers are product of Neoprene, And match snuggly across the lens. They defend lenses from bumps and scratches, in addition to make them simpler to carry on to when it’s freezing outdoors! This made them excellent for northern lights images.

It’s also possible to get tripod leg covers that are beneficial for chilly climate; nobody desires to seize onto a below-freezing tripod leg!

LensCoat LegCoat Tripod Leg CoversLensCoat LegCoat Tripod Leg Covers

LensCoat LegCoat Tripod Leg Covers

LegCoat® Wraps are produced from gentle neoprene are designed to wrap across the higher leg of your tripod and are simply affixed with a Velcro closure. The Wraps backing is designed to tightly grip to your tripod legs so they won’t slide. The covers act as a thermal barrier making the tripod extra comfy to deal with in sizzling or chilly situations.

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Learn how to Keep Heat Whereas Photographing Northern Lights

It’s important to be ready for chilly climate images else you’ll be depressing AND chances are you’ll lose your alternative to get photographs of this spectacular occasion.

Fairbanks northern lights toursFairbanks northern lights tours
Picture by Final Frontier Mushing Coop

One of many coldest actions to do within the winter is photographing the aurora. That is primarily since you spend a whole lot of time standing and sitting nonetheless waiting- which is the recipe for getting chilly actually quick. I do a whole lot of snowshoeing, and snowmobiling as out of doors winter actions and I’m seldom chilly as a result of my physique is producing warmth and utilizing vitality. Due to this fact listed here are the gadgets I like to recommend for staying heat whereas ready for the Northern Lights to seem!

Heat Pictures Mittens

For me some of the difficult issues about northern lights images is maintaining my arms heat whereas altering digital camera settings. There may be typically plenty of trial and error concerned in capturing the northern lights, you might be at all times fidgeting with the buttons and settings. And which means chilly fingers. I take advantage of the Warmth Firm Gloves for chilly climate images. I like them as a result of you possibly can simply fold again the highest of the mitten to get to the digital camera buttons after which shortly fold the highest of the mitten again in your fingers to attenuate warmth loss.

Heat Company Gloves - layering systemHeat Company Gloves - layering system

Group these images gloves up with the electrical handwarmers I mentioned above and also you’ll keep heat!

I can even advocate heated gloves too. In reality, among the best available on the market is the Gordini Heated Gloves. They’re fairly sensible gloves – they’ll thermoregulate themselves! You possibly can set the temperature you need them to keep up through a telephone app!

Chilly Climate Jacket

A heavy parka is beneficial for aurora images. Or you possibly can layer wind jacket with a puffy jacket. I want longer coats although like parkas for being out in the midst of the evening. It’s also possible to attempt a heated underlayer. Heated merchandise have actually come a good distance prior to now few years. They’re much extra reasonably priced and the warmth performance is at all times enhancing every year.


The North Face Girls’s Down Parka

The North FaceWomen’s Bounce Down Parka supplies winter safety from the highest of your head to your knees. This cold-weather coat options waterproof DryVent cloth and 550-fill down insulation. Not as soon as was I chilly in Alaska on this parka!


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Sahara Women’s Heated Jacket

Nice for a layer below your favourite winter coat.

From Gobi Warmth – 10 hrs of Warmth | 3 Warmth Zones | with Battery & Charger | Machine Washable | All Day Heat


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Socks and Boots

Standing out on the snow for lengthy durations of time doing images means inevitable chilly toes. You should use the disposable toe heaters – nevertheless I’ve discovered that the electrical socks are actually nice alternate options too! Granted – they’re extra of an funding – however they’re nice for any chilly climate exercise like snowboarding or snowshoeing. I used the Gobi heated socks on my final journey and was actually proud of them.


Gobi Warmth – Heated Socks

Out of all the heated merchandise on the market – I discover the socks work the very best.

They use a metal fiber heating expertise and twin slim 2,400 mAh Lithium Polymer batteries permit for prolonged warmth throughout longer day journeys. They heat up inside 30 seconds so really feel extra comfy instantly!

12 hours of Warmth | Battery and Charger Included


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Favourite

Oboz Bridger 7" Insulated B-Dry Hiking BootOboz Bridger 7" Insulated B-Dry Hiking Boot

Oboz Bridger 7″ Insulated B-Dry Climbing Boot

Sooo – comfy and heat! These are my go-to winter insultated boot. I take advantage of them for snowshoeing and on a regular basis round city stuff when it is actually chilly. O Match Thermal insoles present stability and assist whereas decreasing warmth loss to maintain your toes joyful!

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Different Gear to Keep Heat Chasing Aurora


Seirus Magnemask Combo Clava

OMG – I really like this for actually chilly climate! The masks is secured by a magnet and it is easy to tug down and flip again up. Breathable and heat!


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Hand Knit Sherpa Hat with Micro Fleece Lining

  • 100% Wool Hand Wash Solely
  • 100 % New Zealand Wool Fleece Lining. (Itch free)
  • ❤ Truthful Commerce and handmade in Nepal. Hand knit one by one, not mass produced so there could also be minor variations in shade and imperfections.


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See my full record of drugs for excessive climate right here

Enhance the General Expertise of Your Northern Lights Pictures Outing

Have a Place to Wait Inside

The Northern Lights are unpredictable, and heat is crucial in Fairbanks as you wait. If you are able to do a Northern Lights journey that has an indoor choice the place you possibly can wait inside – that is a lot most well-liked. And if it has meals and drink…even higher! In case you are merely ready in a automobile – simply be sure you have sufficient gasoline and hold the automobile operating and the warmth on!

northern lights alaskanorthern lights alaska

Deliver Some Sizzling Drinks

There’s nothing higher than a piping sizzling mug of sizzling chocolate whilst you look ahead to the aurora forecast to enhance! Many Northern Lights excursions could have issues like sizzling chocolate, tea, espresso, and on the spot ramen to maintain your insides heat. Or if you happen to go by yourself, make sure you convey a thermos of sizzling drinks.

Embrace a Full Moon

Opposite to common opinion, the total moon can mild up your northern lights scene completely.

It’s necessary to notice a full moon doesn’t obscure the sunshine of the aurora, the truth is, the intense moon typically enhances the distinction between the surroundings, snow, and the aurora offering a pleasant pure mild within the foreground.

northern lights photography tipsnorthern lights photography tips
The complete moon can mild up your scene completely

Know Your Instructions

After speaking with physicist Peter Delemere on the Geophysical Institute in Fairbanks, we realized when you’re armed with somewhat data, you possibly can have a greater expertise. Peter recommended understanding your instructions (N/S/E/W) and understanding the place the aurora oval is so you’re looking in the best route. In Fairbanks, the aurora oval usually sits simply to the north. So whenever you get to your capturing location, arrange your gear pointing north and watch the northern horizon for the primary indicators of the aurora.

Take an Aurora Picture Workshop

northern lights photography workshopnorthern lights photography workshop
Frank serving to me with my settings. Take a photograph workshop the primary evening!

After all, the quickest and easiest method to enhance your Northern Lights images is to take a workshop the primary evening you exit! We went to Aurora Bear Pictures Workshop and had a one-on-one expertise with Frank Stelges who set us up for our future nights of aurora chasing!

Greatest Digital camera Settings for Northern Lights Pictures

I’ve somewhat guidelines I carry on my Evernote telephone app so I can at all times confer with it. All it’s important to do is be sure you have all digital camera gear I discussed above, and simply comply with these steps to nice aurora images!

1. Activate Handbook Mode

That’s right…Northern Lights images means it’s essential to get out of auto. No auto exposures, no autofocus, no auto ISO. That is the place the rubber hits the street in images and you’ll have to perceive handbook settings.

In case you are presently questioning what handbook settings are, then I recommend you are taking a category BEFORE your Northern Lights journey so you know the way to make use of your digital camera’s handbook settings, the best way to alter them, and why.

2. Activate Handbook Focus

Sadly, your digital camera, irrespective of how fancy it’s, can’t auto-focus at nighttime. It’s handbook all the best way child!

3. Set Focus to Infinity

In case you don’t have an infinity setting, then you definately’ll wish to probably take your digital camera out within the daylight and focus it on essentially the most distant object you possibly can see and make a mark in your digital camera as to what that focus spot is. Or depart it on the market and don’t contact it. However actually, most DSLRs and lenses have infinite settings nowadays. They aren’t all excellent although so it nonetheless could also be somewhat trial and error.

4. Flip Off Auto ISO

Begin with a setting round 1600 and alter from there. Dn’t be discouraged if it’s important to change it so much earlier than you might be proud of it.

photographing nothern lights in alaskaphotographing nothern lights in alaska

5. Activate Your Digital camera Timer

In case you don’t have a distant shutter launch, then activate the timer. I usually have a 10-second timer set for evening sky images. This fashion you possibly can press the shutter and watch the countdown whereas your digital camera is totally nonetheless.

6. Set Aperture

My rule of thumb is to set your aperture to the bottom f-stop quantity you may get to in your lens.

7. Shutter Pace

That is one to mess around with relying on what different mild sources are round you, together with moonlight. Longer exposures will end in brighter photographs, however stars will streak, and the aurora will soften. Brief exposures could have sharper particulars, however dimmer photographs require extra post-processing. Begin at 15 seconds and alter. In order for you tremendous sharp stars although, then it would be best to mess around together with your different settings (like ISO) to have a slower shutter – like 8 seconds.

8. Focal Size

Zoom out to the widest you possibly can in your lens – this ensures you’ll seize all of that stunning show within the sky.


You and your digital camera are actually ready to seize the northern lights! Nonetheless, the final ingredient you want for aurora viewing is endurance. Northern lights are by no means assured, however you possibly can at all times select to ‘dance them out’. Work in your finest hokie pokie and look ahead to the northern lights to seem and dance with you!

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