From planning and scouting to shooting and post processing, provided below is your definitive guide to becoming a master of viewing & photographing of the Northern night skies.
Armed with this tutorial and my Free 39 Page eBook provided below, you'll be on your way to capturing and post processing some great photos of the Aurora in no time!
|The Northern Lights Dancing Through the Skies - 70 Degrees North, Norway|
Camera Settings: 20 Seconds, f/2.8, IS01200
Welcome Photographers & Explorers!As goes for all of my tutorials, this one is dynamic and will continue to change & grow over time as I learn new skills, tips, tricks and other pertinent information. This being said, feel free to stop back in from time to time, or join my mailing list provided below & get a free eBook.
IntroductionIn February (2014) travel photographer Conor MacNeill & I ventured to the Arctic ( Norway / Sweden ) during the winter months to photograph the Aurora. Much of our trip was spent constantly watching the weather for clear skies and strong aurora activity.
After 10 days of chasing and photographing the Northern Lights I've compiled all the tips & tricks I used into a definitive guide allowing you to capture some great shots of the night sky in the far North.
If you're just interested in viewing the Northern Lights, then the Planning Section is all you will need!
Download Your Free 39 Page eBookBelow I've provided a free 39 page, Night Sky Exploration & Adventure eBook Bundle, which will be sent directly to your email address as a PDF file. Included in the eBook is everything you will need to get started in Night Sky, Milky Way & Star Trail Photography + some great night sky hikes as well!
Included in the free eBook bundle are the following 5 eBooks
3 Tricks for Focusing at Night
5 Simple Steps to View & Photograph the Night Sky
Dave’s Top 10 Planning Tools for Photography & Hiking
Star / Night Photography Camera & Lens Recommendations
3 Great Hikes for Exploring the Night
Planning Your ShootThe most important and often overlooked step in all of photography is planning and scouting. You can greatly improve your chances of getting great photos of any kind by putting in some planning work prior to your next shoot or photography trip.
Step 1: Find Dark SkiesThe easiest way to find an area with dark skies is to check the Blue Marble Light Pollution Map which is a Google / NASA collaboration. The areas which are dark blue or black are free of light pollution, while areas of yellow or almost white have high light pollution. Your goal is to find an area which is completely dark, this will yield the best photos and viewing experience of the aurora.
Step 2: Find Clear SkiesNext it's time to find clear skies. You can photograph the aurora on partially cloudy nights, but the results won't be quite as good as nights with 100% clear skies. Check the local weather and find a night with cloud cover between 0 and 20%.
MeteoStar Weather Satellite Imagery Maps of the Northern Hemisphere work very well for showing cloud cover conditions on a macro level. You will need to use the IR ( Infrared ) setting on their website to view the cloud cover at night.
Unlike visual (VIS ) satellite images which can only be used to view cloud cover during the daylight hours, IR satellite uses cloud temperature readings to watch cloud movement and cover.
If you're not well versed in IR satellite imagery, the How to Read a Satellite Image Post will be very helpful! If you want to take your photography planning to the next level, learning this information is really going to help! It's also quite interesting.
NOAA's Geostationary Satellite Server also provides some great resources!
Step 3: Check the Aurora ActivityThe next thing you will want to do is check the aurora activity for the night of your shoot. There are many different resources for checking aurora activity, which all depend on your location.
|Wild Horses & The Aurora - West Fjords, Iceland || Photo by Conor MacNeill|
Camera Settings: 8 Seconds, f/2.8, ISO4000
The aurora activity index ( Kp-index ) ranges from 0-9 with 0 being the lowest amount of activity and 9 being the greatest. Kp-index ratings of 5 or great are considered a storm.
Usually it's best to aim for nights with KP-index of 2 or greater, otherwise you really won't see much aurora in the sky.