How to shoot the gorgeous aurora scene?

The time is approaching September, and it is a good time to shoot aurora in the yearLandscape photographyTeachers and tourists will continue to flock to Norway and Iceland in northern Europe to witness one of the most beautiful natural landscapes on the planet. When we see that the whole night sky is covered by gorgeous light, and all kinds of green, blue, pink and even red light bands dance in the air, the feeling of shock will make you unforgettable for life.

Of course, the aurora is not a phenomenon that can be encountered all over the world. Whether you want to watch or shoot the aurora borealis, even if we really go to northern Norway and Iceland, there is no guarantee that we can see them.

How can I watch the aurora?

Go to the Northern Hemisphere

Unfortunately, the northern lights cannot be seen around the world. As its name implies, this natural phenomenon only occurs in the northern hemisphere. Currently, the most popular viewing sites include northern Norway, Iceland and Alaska in the United States.

Although we have the opportunity to witness aurora in the area slightly south when the solar storm is particularly strong, most of the aurora phenomenon is more obvious and strong in the north. To sum up, the first step to successfully watch the aurora is to travel north. In addition, we should also remember that aurora is a natural phenomenon suitable for viewing at night. Therefore, we need to plan our trip in autumn or winter. In summer, the area near the Arctic Circle will experience 24-hour aurora phenomenon. If you go there at this time, you will have to jump into the sky.

Keep away from light pollution areas

It is impossible to see the aurora when standing in the downtown area of the city, and the light pollution in the city will almost eliminate all the brilliance in the night sky, but there are also exceptions, that is, when the KP index is at the highest value, but this is only a few cases after all. In order to increase the probability of seeing the aurora, we should try to choose areas with less light pollution and can see the stars clearly for the sake of safety.

In order not to be too blind when choosing viewing and shooting locations, I recommend using some tools to help us locate. For example, the “Dark Sky” website is a good choice. We can find out which areas have less light pollution and which are most suitable for observing the night sky.

How to shoot the northern lights?

After selecting the location, the next film is to pick up the camera and prepare to shoot this rare scene in life.

Use tripod and remote shutter

Because the shooting environment is very dark, we will inevitably use the long-exposure technology, that is, shooting at a lower shutter speed. At this time, it is time for the tripod to show its talents. Whether your support system is awesome will directly determine the final quality of the early film.

At the same time, we can also consider adding a double insurance to use the remote control shutter when shooting the aurora, so as to eliminate any body vibration caused by manually releasing the shutter. If there is no remote control, the built-in delay shooting function will also be a good choice, but even a two-second delay will sometimes let us miss the wonderful moment.

Shoot with wide angle lens and large aperture

The shooting of aurora usually requires the use of wide-angle lens, which can not only integrate the sky and the ground, but also when the northern aurora phenomenon is strong, you will find that the aurora usually cuts through the whole sky. If you do not use wide-angle lens at this time, it is difficult to present the aurora completely.

In the photography circle, there is a so-called “starry mirror”. This kind of lens has two major characteristics, one is a wide angle of view, and the other is a large aperture. In order to meet the needs of shooting at night, we need to use a large aperture above f/2.8 to shoot, so that the camera sensor can receive more light.

Set shutter speed according to KP index

The shutter speed should be set according to the intensity of the aurora. I have experienced shooting aurora with the combination of ISO400 and 1 second shutter, but more often I need to use ISO3200 and an exposure time of 20 seconds to record them. However, it should also be remembered that the exposure should not be too long. You should know that the aurora is moving, and too long shutter time may cause the aurora to lose some details due to blurring. The best way to solve the problem is to increase ISO, and then speed up the shutter speed to keep all the details of the aurora.

It needs to be emphasized here that there are not only aurora but also stars that will move in the picture. If the shutter speed exceeds 25 seconds, we will find the star orbit in the picture. Sometimes the orbit can add interest to the picture, but if you want to present a sharp still picture, the shutter speed should not be higher than 25 seconds.

Set the white balance in the range of cool tones (3000-4000K)

From my personal experience, the white balance when shooting the aurora should be set in the range of 3000-4000K, which will give us a picture of the night sky with cool colors and a more natural look. If it exceeds 4000K, you will find that the green part of the aurora will become turbid. In addition, we should also avoid using automatic white balance and such as overcast white balance mode.

Remember to bring some hot drinks to warm up!

The last suggestion has nothing to do with photography, but it is also crucial. You know that we are shooting the aurora in late autumn or winter, which means that the temperature will drop rapidly after nightfall. At this time, if a cup of hot coffee can be used to warm up, then we believe that the time to wait for shooting the aurora should not be so difficult.