Tips to help shoot the Northern Lights

I’d like to offer some guidance for shooting the phenomenon which is the Aurora Borealis. 

The appearance of the Aurora is unpredictable, reliant on the natural course of Mother Nature and favorable weather conditions such as limited cloud cover. There is no set time it will show up, you just have to let nature do its thing and watch out for alerts or read the correct charts etc if you know how too.

Great apps include the Glendale app which is my favoured as it is so simple to use and does not require a lot of phone signal to operate, something that can be limited out on location.

To increase your chances of witnessing this phenomenon, move away from city lights and other bright light sources to minimize light pollution between you and the North Pole region. This will enhance your chance of experiencing the best light display on earth. 

If you’re heading to a location mentioned by the press or on forums, please be considerate to fellow observers who may have traveled considerable distances, I personally know of people who travel 6-7 hours to shoot the night sky, and yes it is everybody’s space, but the less you flash your torches, the more you will see. Avoid sitting there with full-beam headlights and brake lights, as this can disrupt the experience for others. Being thoughtful in these situations often results in a more collaborative atmosphere, with experienced photographers willing to offer assistance and tips. When using a torch, opt for one with a red light to preserve your night vision and that of others, while keeping its use to a minimum. For phone cameras, turn down the screen brightness and stabilize your device on a wall, fencepost, hat, or just something stable. Then enable night mode or long exposure mode, and utilize a 2 or 10-second timer for sharper photos. A tripod is an even better option too as this helps a lot. Try the PRO mode if it has one, set iso to about iso 800, and then try a 10-15 sec exposure using the 2 or 10 sec timer and see what happens.

For those with cameras, ensure your camera doesn’t heat up during the journey, dim the screen brightness, and employ a 2-second timer or shutter remote. Set the aperture to its widest (e.g., f2.8, 3.5, or 4), adjust the white balance to around 3500k, set the exposure to approximately 20 seconds, and experiment with ISO settings between 400-2000 until achieving optimal photo quality. Using a tripod is crucial for stability.

Best of luck and stay safe out there!