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How to photograph the Northern Lights - Part 5 of 5

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posted by Adam Bird alias Adam BStar on Tuesday 4th of December 2012 08:22:29 PM

In the last 4 instalment of my How to shoot the Aurora I have talked about: Background information, understanding forecasts, practising before you go and what to pack. This instalment is going to be my last for a while. If I remember any more tips I will add them at a later date. The night of the Aurora... So you have got to your destination of choice, you have checked the weather forecast and chosen a location that should have clear skies, the KP forecast is 2 or above... It's time to go aurora hunting! When I landed in Reykjavik I hadn't planned on going out Aurora hunting on the first night as we weren't picking our hire car up until later in the week. I checked the forecast and it was KP4, quite a strong activity prediction. We booked ourselves onto an Aurora Tour which cost about £25 each. The benefit of this is that you get an amusing guide that tells you fact and folk stories about the lights and they take you to a spot where they know it will be dark enough to see them. This is great it you aren't that confident at driving in dark/snowy/icy conditions. The downside to this is that every tom dick and harry with a torch on their phone keeps walking past your camera, spoiling your shots! The aurora starts by looking like a cloud in the distance, using your highest ISO a quick snap will confirm the colour green in the sky. When I noticed the Aurora 'cloud', it wasn’t for another 15 - 30 minutes or so before they properly started, this however may and probably will vary. In this time I was setting the camera up on the tripod and taking a few test shots to get the exposure right. Despite the thousands of photos I have taken over the last few years, getting excited over the Aurora made my composition and general technique suffer! I had to get into the habit of re-checking the focus/aperture/ISO after every few shots as it was far too easy to knock one of the settings and not notice for a couple of precious aurora minutes! Keep your spare batteries in your coat pocket as the freezing temperatures will deplete them quicker and try to keep your gloves on while shooting as changing lenses with cold hands can be dangerous for your equipment! Looking through the majority of my shots, I seem to have taken the majority at 11mm f2.8 ISO 1600 and anywhere between 5 seconds to 30 seconds depending on the aurora strength. I set my camera on the 2 seconds timer mode so that any vibrations due to me pressing the shutter should have stopped by then, a remote trigger or 10s timer are the best for this, however with the latter you will spend a lot of time waiting for the camera to take the shots rather than taking them. This might sound obvious, but make sure you look at them and enjoy them too. Don’t spend your whole time looking at the back of an LCD screen! The last piece of advice I can think of for now is to bring your gear back into the warmth slowly. If you bring it back into a hot room straight away condensation will find its way in everywhere, so instead put them in a cold part of your room first then gradually bring them in. Most of all have fun and good luck shooting them!

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