Learn how to {Photograph} the Northern Lights and Preserve Heat Doing It

Northern Lights images isn’t like different night time images; it has challenges that go means past regular night time images challenges – particularly…the chilly! You solely get Northern Lights within the winter when you may have these attractive darkish skies. As well as, the aurora oval revolves across the geomagnetic north pole putting you in a few of the coldest environments on earth. All of this implies you’re going to be ready out within the chilly for the proper {photograph} of the northern lights.

In case your dream is to {photograph} the northern lights, then you definitely’ll must be in the fitting place, have the fitting digicam tools, and be ready along with your digicam settings. And also you’ll wish to be sure that you keep heat when you are working in your excellent {photograph}.

I’ve spent quite a 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 checklist 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 ambiance. If you need an in-depth clarification, try this Northern Lights Outlined article.

Indigenous Explanations of the Northern Lights

Along with the scientific clarification, there are additionally Indigenous explanations too. The Alaskan Native individuals and Inuit consider that the Northern Lights are the spirits of their ancestors looking within the night time 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 stated you’ll be able to invite them for a ‘dance’. While you dance, they are going to be part of you dancing and you’ll primarily ‘dance them out’.

After I was advised this, I questioned if the Hokie Pokie dance would work – it’s the one dance I do know! No less than in the event you select to ‘dance them out’, it’s additionally a good way to remain heat concurrently!

The place to Discover the Northern Lights

You discover the northern lights beneath the aurora oval. The oval thickness modifications periodically, however on the whole, you’ll discover the aurora oval across the Earth’s geomagnetic poles. You’ll additionally want clear skies with a view to see the northern lights. Because of this a few of the greatest 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 favor to go to locations beneath the aurora oval the place I’ve a positive 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 Tools You’ll Want for Photographing the Northern Lights

There are just a few further issues that you just’ll want for night time images, and particularly northern lights footage, which can be completely different from a typical images gear checklist.


I by no means usually journey with a tripod, however within the case of night time images, it’s a should. You’ll need a good sturdy one that may take care of wind. Plus – ensure that it isn’t steel. Steel tripods can get extremely chilly, and also you don’t wish to contact freezing-cold steel, 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 in the marketplace. That is an aluminum model (3.4 lbs) – however in addition they have carbon fiber (2.8 lbs). A journey tripod that packs all the way 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!

Purchase Now

I earn a fee in the event you click on this hyperlink and make a purchase order, at no extra value to you.

Large Angle Quick Lens

Any lens will work, however the wider the lens, the higher. Northern Lights can take up an enormous space of sky and also you wish to seize as a lot of the present as potential along with the foreground. In truth, if you’re 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 have 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 need to purpose for. Fairbanks is often straight beneath the aurora oval, so it’s good to have the ability to get an enormous broad view of how excessive within the sky the lights climb. Nevertheless, 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 utilize the higher. This lets you work with extra mild – one thing that’s in brief provide throughout night time images. With no quick lens, exposures will must 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 may have after all – as a result of something is best than nothing!

Hire a Lens for Aurora Pictures

If you happen to 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 an alternative, you’ll be able to hire an awesome lens for Aurora images.

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

This was an awesome lens with high-quality glass for capturing the northern lights. You may 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’ll be able to check out a lens before you purchase it.

Digital camera

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

camera gear for northern lightscamera gear for northern lights

A digicam with guide mode is required for northern lights images. You will need to have the ability to management f-stop, shutter speeds, and ISO, every manually – extra on the settings for northern lights under. Full-frame cameras can even produce a better-quality picture.

Crimson Gentle Head Lamp

Not solely will you want some form of mild to mild up the digicam controls and regulate your digicam, however you’ll additionally need a highly effective mild that can assist you mild up the foreground, examine 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 night time. A purple mild is non-glaring, so it may make it easier to see higher at night time. Activate a white mild and spoil 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 night time imaginative and prescient modes and peripheral white lighting for close-range actions like rigorously re-racking for the ultimate summit pitch at the hours of darkness. 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.

Purchase Now

Distant Shutter Launch

This isn’t required, however many individuals use distant shutter releases for night time images to scale back any risk of digicam shake if you bodily hit the shutter button. Some distant releases have extra choices like an intervalometer, lightning set off, and distant management of digicam settings.

Additional Batteries

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

My rule is to deliver double the batteries than what you suppose it’s possible you’ll want. I had 5 with me and there have been nights the place I virtually went via all of them.

northern lights photography tips batteriesnorthern lights photography tips batteries
Hand heaters are your batteries’ greatest buddies!

Hand Heaters

Sure – these are nice to need to maintain your palms heat – however much more importantly they’re nice to maintain your further digicam batteries heat. The chilly will sap your batteries even when they aren’t in your digicam – so hand heaters are actually useful if 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 again and again.

Magnetic Rechargeable Hand Heaters

Electrical Pocket-Sized Handwarmers with 3 warmth settings will maintain your palms 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.

Purchase Now

Northern Lights Pictures Ideas

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

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

That is the very first thing to know and observe religiously. Your physique can go out and in of the chilly with little dire affect moreover being uncomfortable; nevertheless, your digicam can’t. Don’t topic it to the huge temperature swings inside and outside, because it results in condensation inside your digicam, to not point out it’s simply rattling robust on the digicam on the whole.

Set your digicam up on the tripod, situate it exterior within the space the place you wish to shoot, after which go away it there till you might be executed capturing fully for the night time. You’ll need to acclimate if you come again exterior, however your digicam received’t, and that may guarantee you will get the Northern Lights images you might be hoping for.

Professional Tip: “If you happen to should take your digicam inside from the chilly, place it again in your digicam bag or backpack earlier than you return onto the nice and cozy space. Preserve it within the closed bag, which is full of the identical chilly air that surrounds your digicam exterior till you return exterior. This may forestall condensation. If you happen to keep inside for a protracted time frame, finally, it should heat up steadily, and all the pieces will likely be effective.  If you happen to do expertise condensation, your solely treatment is to maintain the digicam in a comparatively heat, dry room till it fully dries out. Solely then can you are taking it exterior 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 go away your digicam sitting exterior on the tripod, take the batteries out of it and take them inside with you. If you happen to go away them within the digicam exterior – they are going to most positively drain and be of no use to you.

Batteries Can Come Again to Life

Typically chilly batteries are only a large 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. Instantly you’ll discover that they arrive again to life. While you put them again in your digicam it should present they aren’t empty. See…a large battery tease.

Chasing Fall – The place to Discover Autumn Shade in Alaska

Level the Lens Downward

Maintain on! I do know I do know, you may have left your digicam 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 scorching toddy inside. Alter your tripod head and level the lens down in the direction of the bottom. This may 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 night time we have been capturing (round -15F), I left my digicam pointing down towards the snow on my tripod as I waited in a yurt making an attempt to heat up. After I returned to search for Aurora periodically, I seen my complete digicam was frosted over! Nevertheless, the lens pointing on the floor was not. This manner when the aurora did come out immediately – I used to be prepared! I simply popped the battery again in, readjusted the tripod head, and received my photographs although my digicam was fully 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 can even cut back your out there mild. You’re already challenged with low mild situations when capturing the Northern Lights; don’t make it worse!

Professional tip: “Additionally, watch naked noses on ice-cold steel and plastic digicam our bodies. If it’s chilly sufficient, you’ll be able to simply frost-nip the top of your nostril if you press your withstand the digicam to take photographs. I do know as a result of I’ve executed it. Both attempt to maintain your face barely away from the again of the digicam or else use some sort of nostril protect or face masks. Your pores and skin will thanks.” Alaska photographer Dan Bailey

Defend Your Tools from the Subzero Temperature

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

You can even get tripod leg covers that are beneficial for chilly climate; nobody needs 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 constituted of 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 snug to deal with in scorching or chilly situations.

Purchase Now

I earn a fee in the event you click on this hyperlink and make a purchase order, at no extra value to you.

Learn how to Keep Heat Whereas Photographing Northern Lights

You must be ready for chilly climate images else you may be depressing AND it’s possible you’ll lose your alternative to get photographs of this spectacular occasion.

Fairbanks northern lights toursFairbanks northern lights tours
Photograph 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 quite a lot of time standing and sitting nonetheless waiting- which is the recipe for getting chilly actually quick. I do quite a lot of snowshoeing, and snowmobiling as outside 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 objects I like to recommend for staying heat whereas ready for the Northern Lights to seem!

Heat Pictures Mittens

For me probably the most difficult issues about northern lights images is retaining my palms heat whereas altering digicam settings. There’s usually a number of trial and error concerned in capturing the northern lights, you might be at all times twiddling 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’ll be able to simply fold again the highest of the mitten to get to the digicam 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

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

I can even suggest heated gloves too. In truth, top-of-the-line in the marketplace is the Gordini Heated Gloves. They’re fairly sensible gloves – they’ll thermoregulate themselves! You may set the temperature you need them to take care of through a cellphone app!

Chilly Climate Jacket

A heavy parka is beneficial for aurora images. Or you’ll be able to layer wind jacket with a puffy jacket. I favor longer coats although like parkas for being out in the midst of the night time. You can even attempt a heated underlayer. Heated merchandise have actually come a great distance previously few years. They’re much extra inexpensive and the warmth performance is at all times bettering annually.

The North Face Girls’s Down Parka

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

Purchase Now

I earn a fee in the event you click on this hyperlink and make a purchase order, at no extra value to you.

03/07/2024 09:47 pm GMT

Sahara Girls’s Heated Jacket

Nice for a layer beneath your favourite winter coat.

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

Purchase Now

I earn a fee in the event you click on this hyperlink and make a purchase order, at no extra value to you.

04/09/2024 10:47 pm GMT

Socks and Boots

Standing out on the snow for lengthy durations of time doing images means inevitable chilly toes. You should utilize the disposable toe heaters – nevertheless I’ve discovered that the electrical socks are actually nice 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 pleased with them.

Gobi Warmth – Heated Socks

Out of the entire 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 snug instantly!

12 hours of Warmth | Battery and Charger Included

Purchase Now

I earn a fee in the event you click on this hyperlink and make a purchase order, at no extra value to you.

03/06/2024 11:47 am GMT


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

Oboz Bridger 7″ Insulated B-Dry Climbing Boot

Sooo – snug 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 lowering warmth loss to maintain your toes joyful!



I earn a fee in the event you click on this hyperlink and make a purchase order, at no extra value to you.

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 drag down and flip again up. Breathable and heat!

Purchase Now

I earn a fee in the event you click on this hyperlink and make a purchase order, at no extra value to you.

03/07/2024 10:32 am GMT

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 separately, not mass produced so there could also be minor variations in coloration and imperfections.

Purchase Now

I earn a fee in the event you click on this hyperlink and make a purchase order, at no extra value to you.

03/06/2024 01:47 pm GMT

See my full checklist 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’ll be able to wait inside – that is a lot most popular. And if it has food and drinks…even higher! In case you are merely ready in a automotive – simply ensure you have sufficient gasoline and maintain the automotive operating and the warmth on!

northern lights alaskanorthern lights alaska

Carry Some Sizzling Drinks

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

Embrace a Full Moon

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

It’s essential to notice a full moon doesn’t obscure the sunshine of the aurora, in truth, the intense moon usually 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 total moon can mild up your scene completely

Know Your Instructions

After speaking with physicist Peter Delemere on the Geophysical Institute in Fairbanks, we realized if you end up armed with a little bit information, you’ll be able to 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 fitting course. In Fairbanks, the aurora oval usually sits simply to the north. So if 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 Photograph Workshop

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

After all, the quickest and simplest way to enhance your Northern Lights images is to take a workshop the primary night time 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 a little bit guidelines I carry on my Evernote cellphone app so I can at all times confer with it. All it’s important to do is ensure you have all digicam gear I discussed above, and simply observe these steps to nice aurora images!

1. Activate Handbook Mode

That’s proper…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 highway in images and you’ll have to perceive guide settings.

In case you are at the moment questioning what guide 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 digicam’s guide settings, the way to regulate them, and why.

2. Activate Handbook Focus

Sadly, your digicam, regardless of how fancy it’s, can’t auto-focus at the hours of darkness. It’s guide all the best way child!

3. Set Focus to Infinity

If you happen to don’t have an infinity setting, then you definitely’ll wish to probably take your digicam out within the daylight and focus it on essentially the most distant object you’ll be able to see and make a mark in your digicam as to what that focus spot is. Or go away it on the market and don’t contact it. However truthfully, most DSLRs and lenses have infinite settings nowadays. They aren’t all excellent although so it nonetheless could also be a little bit trial and error.

4. Flip Off Auto ISO

Begin with a setting round 1600 and regulate from there. Dn’t be discouraged if it’s important to change it loads earlier than you might be pleased with it.

photographing nothern lights in alaskaphotographing nothern lights in alaska

5. Activate Your Digital camera Timer

If you happen to don’t have a distant shutter launch, then activate the timer. I usually have a 10-second timer set for night time sky images. This manner you’ll be able to press the shutter and watch the countdown whereas your digicam is totally nonetheless.

6. Set Aperture

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

7. Shutter Velocity

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 photos, however stars will streak, and the aurora will soften. Brief exposures could have sharper particulars, however dimmer photos require extra post-processing. Begin at 15 seconds and regulate. If you need tremendous sharp stars although, then you’ll want to mess around along with your different settings (like ISO) to have a slower shutter – like 8 seconds.

8. Focal Size

Zoom out to the widest you’ll be able to in your lens – this ensures you’ll seize all of that lovely show within the sky.

You and your digicam are actually ready to seize the northern lights! Nevertheless, the final ingredient you want for aurora viewing is persistence. Northern lights are by no means assured, however you’ll be able to at all times select to ‘dance them out’. Work in your greatest hokie pokie and look ahead to the northern lights to seem and dance with you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *