With all of the coverage in the newspapers in Ireland and the United Kingdom I thought I would post about how I photographed them last year in Iceland. The above picture was taken on an ocean capture trip while staying at Hotel Ranga, a great place to stay if your going on holidays to Iceland. If you don’t want to sit in the hot tub outside your room sipping a beer and watching the daylight slowly fade then stay away!
Anyway back to the photograph. How do you photograph the northern lights? Its dark after all. First off you need something stable to put the camera on. A tripod works best but if you don’t have one try a firm surface like a car roof, a table etc anything that doesn’t move. Without a tripod its hard to angle the camera to get the sky in the shot but you could try using a bean bag or a bag of peas, a beanie hat or something mailable. But not to labour the point a tripod works best, I just want to encourage you to think laterally for those times when you find yourself in need of one but you’ve left it behind.
I chose to deliberately include the building in the photograph to give the image some scale. Looking at the photograph you get a better sense of the wonder and magnificence of the light show by including something like a building in the foreground.
Now the camera settings; I shot this on a canon DSLR. I am sure you can get a photograph with a point and shoot image but a camera with a manual mode is more suitable to the task. I used a wide open aperture of f 2.8. At that aperture setting you have to watch your focusing and make sure its bang on. If you’re using auto focus at night it can be a fiddle so focus on a definite edge, in this case the building, and when you have it in focus turn off auto focus to stop it hunting.
I shot this in manual mode. With the aperture at f 2.8 I set the shutter speed to 30 seconds and as I had left my cable release in the room I used the self timer on the camera to trigger the shutter. I checked my histogram and bracket the ISO on the camera until I got what I wanted.
Have you been photographing the northern light? Where have you seen them? How did you do it? I’d love to hear about your experiences. Especially as I will be in the North west of Ireland next week. Drop me a line here or on my Facebook page.