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

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

In case your dream is to {photograph} the northern lights, then you definately’ll should be in the suitable place, have the suitable digicam tools, and be ready together with your digicam settings. And also you’ll need to be sure that you keep heat when you are working in your good {photograph}.

I’ve spent plenty 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 amassed an in depth record of ideas for guaranteeing your aurora pictures seems nice, you keep heat, and have enjoyable. I’m excited to share the following tips for taking pictures 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 environment. If you would like an in-depth rationalization, take a look at this Northern Lights Outlined article.

Indigenous Explanations of the Northern Lights

Along with the scientific rationalization, there are additionally Indigenous explanations too. The Alaskan Native individuals and Inuit imagine that the Northern Lights are the spirits of their ancestors looking within the evening sky, and that’s why they’re energetic and shifting.

One other model is the spirits of the ancestors watching over their family members on earth. The spirits are so pleasant, it’s mentioned you’ll be able to invite them for a ‘dance’. If you dance, they’ll be a part of you dancing and you may basically ‘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! A minimum of for those who 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 normally, you’ll discover the aurora oval across the Earth’s geomagnetic poles. You’ll additionally want clear skies so as to see the northern lights. Which means that among the finest 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 implies extra clear skies and a higher likelihood 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 percentages are a lot decrease. I want to go to locations beneath the aurora oval the place I’ve a good aurora forecast more often than not, and good odds of clear skies for one of the best pictures. That’s Alaska for me.

northern lights photography alaska
Alaska is my favourite place to {photograph} the aurora

Digicam Gear You’ll Want for Photographing the Northern Lights

There are a number of additional issues that you just’ll want for evening pictures, and particularly northern lights photos, which can be completely different from a typical pictures gear record.


I by no means usually journey with a tripod, however within the case of evening pictures, it’s a should. You’ll desire a good sturdy one that may take care of wind. Plus – ensure that it isn’t metallic. Metallic tripods can get extremely chilly, and also you don’t need to contact freezing-cold metallic, 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 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 additionally they have carbon fiber (2.8 lbs). A journey tripod that packs right down to the diameter of a water bottle—with out compromising peak, stability, or options. Plus, it is really easy and quick to setup and take down!

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Vast Angle Quick Lens

Any lens will work, however the wider the lens, the higher. Northern Lights can take up a giant space of sky and also you need to seize as a lot of the present as doable along with the foreground. In actual fact, if you’re doing northern lights pictures beneath the aurora oval, the aurora will usually present up arcing throughout the sky like a rainbow. To seize that complete shot, you’ll need 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 it’s best to intention for. Fairbanks is generally straight beneath the aurora oval, so it’s good to have the ability to get a giant huge view of how excessive within the sky the lights climb. Nonetheless, a 24 mm additionally works, however you’ll probably 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 photography

As well as, the quickest (lowest F cease quantity corresponding to f1.8 or f2.8) lens you need to use the higher. This lets you work with extra gentle – one thing that’s in brief provide throughout evening pictures. And not using a quick lens, exposures will should be longer, and that may are inclined to blur the aurora extra. My quickest, widest lens solely went to f4, and I may nonetheless shoot at shutters of 10 seconds with out an excessive amount of of an issue. Use what you might have after all – as a result of something is best than nothing!

Hire a Lens for Aurora Images

In the event you don’t have a large angle, quick lens, don’t concern – you don’t have to exit and spend hundreds of {dollars} on a lens only for northern lights pictures. As an alternative, you’ll be able to hire an incredible lens for Aurora pictures.

I’ve rented from each Borrow Lenses up to now. I rented the Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2 for Sony E-mount for ten days costing aproximately $120. This contains delivery. I didn’t get the insurance coverage although as I’ve different journey insurance coverage that may cowl it. Aspect notice – I all the time really feel just like the insurance coverage is a sham on this stuff. Earlier than buying the insurance coverage out of concern, first verify to see if any of your different insurance coverage (dwelling, journey, bank card) will cowl the lens.

This was an incredible lens with high-quality glass for capturing the northern lights. You’ll be able to clearly get one thing even higher just like the Sigma 14mm f/1.8 Artwork E Mount. That’s the wonderful thing about Borrow Lenses – you’ll be able to check out a lens before you purchase it.


I take advantage of a Sony A7iii mirrorless digicam. Not too way back I switched to mirrorless from my Canon DSLR system. The primary 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 vital, which is important for the lengthy and chilly nights beneath the Northern Lights.

camera gear for northern lights

A digicam with guide mode is required for northern lights pictures. You should be capable 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 kind of gentle to gentle up the digicam controls and modify your digicam, however you’ll additionally desire a highly effective gentle that can assist you gentle up the foreground, verify your focus, and make your Northern Lights pictures much more picturesque.

It takes about 20-Half-hour to your eyes to totally darkish adapt when doing pictures at evening. A purple gentle is non-glaring, so it will probably make it easier to see higher at evening. Activate a white gentle and smash the darkish adaptation of you and everybody round you. Due to that white flashlights and mobile phone lights are discouraged at northern lights viewing.

Black Diamond Storm 400 Headlamp, Azul

The Storm 400 additionally has three completely different coloured evening imaginative and prescient modes and peripheral white lighting for close-range actions like fastidiously re-racking for the ultimate summit pitch at the hours of darkness. The headlamp has our Brightness Reminiscence function, which lets you flip the sunshine on and off at a selected brightness with out reverting again to the default, full energy setting.

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Distant Shutter Launch

This isn’t required, however many individuals use distant shutter releases for evening pictures to cut back any risk of digicam shake once you bodily hit the shutter button. Some distant releases have further 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 all the time have additional batteries if you end up chasing the northern lights. Take greater than you assume you’ll want! In Fairbanks, I used to be typically taking pictures in -10 to -20, and our digicam battery life was minimal.

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

northern lights photography tips batteries
Hand heaters are your batteries’ finest associates!

Hand Heaters

Sure – these are nice to should preserve your arms heat – however much more importantly they’re nice to maintain your additional digicam batteries heat. The chilly will sap your batteries even when they aren’t in your digicam – so hand heaters are actually useful once 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 preserve your arms toasty heat within the chilly temps. These are ultra gentle 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.

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Northern Lights Images Suggestions

You’ve acquired 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 Digicam is Exterior, Go away It Exterior

That is the very first thing to know and comply with religiously. Your physique can go out and in of the chilly with little dire impression apart from 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 normally.

Set your digicam up on the tripod, situate it outdoors within the space the place you need to shoot, after which depart it there till you might be achieved taking pictures utterly for the evening. You’ll should acclimate once you come again outdoors, however your digicam received’t, and that may guarantee you will get the Northern Lights pictures you might be hoping for.

Professional Tip: “In the event you 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 stuffed with the identical chilly air that surrounds your digicam outdoors till you return outdoors. This may stop condensation. In the event you keep inside for a protracted time frame, ultimately, it can heat up progressively, and all the pieces shall be wonderful.  In the event you do expertise condensation, your solely treatment is to maintain the digicam in a comparatively heat, dry room till it utterly dries out. Solely then can you’re taking it outdoors once more.” – Dan Bailey Alaska Photographer

northern lights photography tips frozen camera
Northern Lights pictures is a cold enterprise…

Take Your Batteries Out of Your Digicam

However wait! Earlier than you simply depart your digicam sitting outdoors on the tripod, take the batteries out of it and take them inside with you. In the event you depart them within the digicam outdoors – they’ll most undoubtedly drain and be of no use to you.

Batteries Can Come Again to Life

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

Chasing Fall – The place to Discover Autumn Coloration in Alaska

Level the Lens Downward

Maintain on! I do know I do know, you might 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 another key factor to do earlier than you go have that sizzling toddy inside. Modify your tripod head and level the lens down in 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 Images Workshop. On the coldest evening we had been taking pictures (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! Nonetheless, the lens pointing on the floor was not. This fashion when the aurora did come out all of a sudden – I used to be prepared! I simply popped the battery again in, readjusted the tripod head, and acquired my photographs although my digicam was utterly frosty!

Take away Your Filters

Frank at Aurora Bear additionally taught me to take away the filters on my lenses as they will produce a sequence of darkish concentric circles within the heart of your picture. Plus, some filters can even cut back your out there gentle. You might be already challenged with low gentle situations when taking pictures the Northern Lights; don’t make it worse!

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

Shield Your Gear from the Subzero Temperature

At -15F, you don’t need any naked pores and skin to the touch the metallic lens – the lens is means too chilly to deal with. I take advantage of LensCoat LensCovers for my lenses. LensCovers are product of 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 outdoors! This made them good for northern lights pictures.

You can too get tripod leg covers that are really helpful for chilly climate; nobody desires to seize onto a below-freezing tripod leg!

LensCoat LegCoat Tripod Leg Covers

LegCoat® Wraps are comprised of tender 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 comfy to deal with in sizzling or chilly situations.

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Tips on how to Keep Heat Whereas Photographing Northern Lights

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

Fairbanks 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 plenty of time standing and sitting nonetheless waiting- which is the recipe for getting chilly actually quick. I do plenty of snowshoeing, and snowmobiling as out of doors winter actions and I’m seldom chilly as a result of my physique is producing warmth and utilizing power. Due to this fact listed here are the gadgets I like to recommend for staying heat whereas ready for the Northern Lights to look!

Heat Images Mittens

For me one of the difficult issues about northern lights pictures is holding my arms heat whereas altering digicam settings. There’s typically plenty of trial and error concerned in capturing the northern lights, you might be all the time fidgeting with the buttons and settings. And meaning chilly fingers. I take advantage of the Warmth Firm Gloves for chilly climate pictures. 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 rapidly fold the highest of the mitten again in your fingers to attenuate warmth loss.

Warmth Firm Gloves – Heat Shell

Mitten flap with magnetic closure; merely pull the flap again and use the liner as an alternative for optimum dexterity. Nice for winter pictures and winter sports activities.

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

I also can advocate heated gloves too. In actual fact, top-of-the-line in the marketplace is the Gordini Heated Gloves. They’re fairly good gloves – they will thermoregulate themselves! You’ll be able to set the temperature you need them to keep up by way of a telephone app!

Chilly Climate Jacket

A heavy parka is really helpful for aurora pictures. Or you’ll be able to layer wind jacket with a puffy jacket. I want longer coats although like parkas for being out in the course of the evening. You can too attempt a heated underlayer. Heated merchandise have actually come a great distance up to now few years. They’re much extra reasonably priced and the warmth performance is all the time bettering every year.

The North Face Girls’s Down Parka

The North FaceWomen’s Bounce Down Parka supplies 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!

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12/17/2023 02:17 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

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12/18/2023 01:02 pm GMT

Socks and Boots

Standing out on the snow for lengthy intervals of time doing pictures 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

12 hours of Warmth | Battery and Charger Included

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12/15/2023 08:17 pm GMT


Oboz Bridger 7″ Insulated B-Dry Mountaineering Boot

Sooo – comfy 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 help whereas lowering warmth loss to maintain your toes blissful!


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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 tug down and flip again up. Breathable and heat!

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12/17/2023 02:17 am GMT

Nepal Hand Knit Ear Flaps Beanie

  • 100% Wool Hand Wash Solely
  • 100 % New Zealand Wool Fleece Lining. (Itch free)
  • ❤ Truthful Commerce and handmade in Nepal. Hand knit one by one, not mass produced so there could also be minor variations in shade and imperfections.

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12/18/2023 07:47 am GMT

See my full record of substances for excessive climate right here

Enhance the Total Expertise of Your Northern Lights Images Outing

Have a Place to Wait Inside

The Northern Lights are unpredictable, and heat is important in Fairbanks as you wait. If you are able to do a Northern Lights journey that has an indoor possibility 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 fuel and preserve the automotive operating and the warmth on!

northern lights alaska

Convey Some Scorching Drinks

There’s nothing higher than a piping sizzling mug of sizzling chocolate whilst you look forward to the aurora forecast to enhance! Many Northern Lights excursions may have issues like sizzling chocolate, tea, espresso, and prompt ramen to maintain your insides heat. Or for those who go by yourself, be sure you carry a thermos of sizzling drinks.

Embrace a Full Moon

Opposite to well-liked opinion, the total moon can gentle up your northern lights scene completely.

It’s vital to notice a full moon doesn’t obscure the sunshine of the aurora, in reality, the intense moon typically enhances the distinction between the surroundings, snow, and the aurora offering a pleasant pure gentle within the foreground.

northern lights photography tips
The complete moon can gentle 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 somewhat data, you’ll be able to have a greater expertise. Peter recommended realizing your instructions (N/S/E/W) and realizing the place the aurora oval is so you’re looking in the suitable course. In Fairbanks, the aurora oval usually sits simply to the north. So once you get to your taking pictures 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 workshop
Frank serving to me with my settings. Take a photograph workshop the primary evening!

After all, the quickest and simplest way to enhance your Northern Lights pictures is to take a workshop the primary evening you exit! We went to Aurora Bear Images Workshop and had a one-on-one expertise with Frank Stelges who set us up for our future nights of aurora chasing!

Finest Digicam Settings for Northern Lights Images

I’ve somewhat guidelines I carry on my Evernote telephone app so I can all the time seek advice from it. All you must do is ensure you have all digicam gear I discussed above, and simply comply with these steps to nice aurora pictures!

1. Activate Handbook Mode

That’s proper…Northern Lights pictures 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 pictures and you’ll have to perceive guide settings.

In case you are at the moment questioning what guide settings are, then I counsel you’re taking a category BEFORE your Northern Lights journey so you know the way to make use of your digicam’s guide settings, tips on how to modify 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 way in which child!

3. Set Focus to Infinity

In the event you don’t have an infinity setting, then you definately’ll need 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 depart it on the market and don’t contact it. However truthfully, most DSLRs and lenses have infinite settings lately. They aren’t all good although so it nonetheless could also be somewhat trial and error.

4. Flip Off Auto ISO

Begin with a setting round 1600 and modify from there. Dn’t be discouraged if you must change it quite a bit earlier than you might be pleased with it.

photographing nothern lights in alaska

5. Activate Your Digicam Timer

In the event you don’t have a distant shutter launch, then activate the timer. I usually have a 10-second timer set for evening sky pictures. This fashion 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 gentle sources are round you, together with moonlight. Longer exposures will lead to brighter photos, however stars will streak, and the aurora will soften. Quick exposures might have sharper particulars, however dimmer photos require extra post-processing. Begin at 15 seconds and modify. If you would like tremendous sharp stars although, then it would be best to mess around together 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 stunning show within the sky.

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

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