As the Northern lights season is upon us now, it is appropriate to talk a little bit about how to shoot the northern lights. This time of year when the nights are dark and sky is clear, the activity can be seen on few web pages, such as http://www.gult.is and http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/pmap/pmapN.html. This plot shows the current extent and position of the auroral oval in the northern hemisphere, extrapolated from measurements taken during the most recent polar pass of the NOAA POES satellite. Of course they can not always be seen, so you have to be prepared to try a few times.
You should bring warm clothes, flashlight, your camera with fully charged battery's and a tripod. If you have a lens with large aperture, (f/2.8 or f/2.0) and wide angle (14mm - 21mm) you should use it for getting best results. Be careful when focusing in the dark, it is best to focus manually on a distant light, a bright star or the moon for example, and then shut of the autofocus on the lens.
Set your camera to high ISO, (1200-3200) as most of the recent camera models can handle high ISO better than before. Switch to manual (M) for optimum control of aperture and shutter speed. Choose your largest aperture (lowest f-stop) and start with 5-10 sec exposure. Review your shot and adjust your settings accordingly. The shorter your exposure you get, the more details you will get in the lights, because they tend to move quite fast.
Choose your location carefully, because it is equally important to have a good foreground and other interests in your shots as in regular landscape photography, and having a lake or a pond close by adds to the interest with some reflections on the water.
If you are in Iceland, and would like to shoot some aurora, you can be in contact with me for a tour and guidance. Here are some examples of my Northern lights shots. Happy shooting:)
At the Glacier lagoon in mid September 2014.
Near the town of Selfoss in March 2013.
At the river Sogið in South Iceland in October 2013.
On the Ring road in Eyjafjöll in South Iceland. A truck passed over the bridge as I shot.
In South Iceland in October 2013.
At Hotel Vatnsholt in November 2013.
On the banks of Ölfusá river in Selfoss.
Seljalandsfoss auroraThis beautiful waterfall is in South Iceland, and is lit up at night.
And finally Seljalandsfoss waterfall under a ribbon of aurora on the night of January 2nd. 2014.