How to View & Photograph the Northern Lights then Edit Your Pictures in Lightroom / Photoshop

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.


In 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 eBook
Below 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 Shoot

The 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 Skies
The 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 Skies 
Next 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 Activity
The 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.
Horses grazing in a field beneath a wonderful display of the aurora borealis in Iceland.
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.

On Sale Now! Dave's Star Photography Photoshop Actions, Luminosity Channels & Bonus Video Tutorial

I'm excited to introduce my Star Photography Photoshop Actions & Luminosity Channels plus a bonus video tutorial showing you exactly how to use them in your own post processing workflow.

Watch Dave Edit Two Photos Using the Actions in the Video Below

Using 100+ Star Photography Photoshop Actions & Luminosity Channels you can quickly and easily get great results, and learn the adjustments and tools used to get these results. I personally use these actions to edit each one of my star photos & can't wait for you to try them as well!

As an added bonus you'll also receive an in depth video tutorial showing you exactly how to use the actions, some of my favorite post processing tricks, a copy of my Under the Stars Lightroom 4 & 5 Presets, + much more. Complete details below!
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Watch Dave Edit this Photo Using the Actions in the Video Below!

Enough talk, let's edit some photos! Check out the video below to see the star photography actions in use while I edit 2 different photos! Please watch full screen in 720 or 1080P.

What You'll Receive with Your Actions Download

There are 3 different package options provided below containing some great offers!

If you have any other questions please reference the FAQ Section provided below.

All purchases can be made using credit / debit card, or PayPal after selecting your package of choice below.

Upon purchasing all items will be instantly delivered to your email inbox!

Twilight Voodoo - Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

Interested in learning about 10 of my favorite photography planning applications, websites, tools, and computer programs? Just click the link below you'll receive my latest eBook Dave's Top 10 Photography Planning Tools delivered to your inbox:) I use these every time I go out to shoot!

I recently spent 6 days backpacking in Montana's Glacier National Park. We started up near the Canadian border on the East side of the park and hiked 36 miles South through Glacier's wild back country. There wasn't any close contact with bears so that's a plus!

Here are a few Behind the Scenes Photos from the trip. I'm currently working on editing some portfolio images from Glacier, let's just say, the skies are nice and dark in that part of the country! Milky Way galore.
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My Brother Lee & I Hiking in Glacier National Park, Montana
The landscape of Glacier are some of the best I've ever scene. This was taken on a 5 day backpacking trip in Glacier's back country.We stayed out late and captured the Milky Way rising over the massive peaks in the distance which are just a few miles south of the Canadian Border.
Looking North Towards Canada from the Top of Red Gap Pass

The Shot
Anyone that's been to Mount Rainier probably knows this location. Back in 2013 I was driving past Reflection Lakes on the way home from a night of milky way photography and stumbled across near perfect conditions for a twilight shoot.

This shot was taken well before sunrise, but the camera still picked up a nice little glow out of the South East which can be seen in this composition. It comes from single RAW file which was lightly processed in both Lightroom & Photoshop using the following techniques. The total processing time took about 20 minutes.

  • Provide "cool" feel to the photo using Temperature & Tint Sliders
  • Recover Shadows & Blacks
  • Minimal Vibrance Boost
  • Lens Profile Correction & Remove Chromatic Aberration
  • Export to full size TIFF file
  • Apply Tony Kuypers Luminosity Masking Actions & Techniques to bring out the "mid-tones" and darker shadows in the photo. I also added slight global contrast. 
  • Minimal selective color balance adjustments to give the photo a "cool" feel. 
  • Selective adjustments on the "foggy" parts of the photo to bring up the brightness.
  • Final Web Sharpening once again using the TK Actions noted above.
  • Save for web as JPEG in sRGB color space. Good video tutorial on that topic HERE
It's somewhat hard to see on the web size version of this photo, but full size the water droplets on the grass in the foreground really sparkle and add depth to the photo:)

As always click the photo to see it full size on a black background
A misty twilight @ Mount Rainier National Park.

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