Northern lights photography – what a highlight in my “photo career” so far. In this article I would like to tell you what you need to photograph the Northern Lights.
It’s actually pretty easy to answer:
Happiness is really the most important prerequisite for seeing the Northern Lights. The weather is simply unpredictable and as long as this is the case, one is simply dependent on luck. But I don’t want to fob you off here, because you can consider many other factors to increase the chance of seeing the Northern Lights.
Unfortunately, it is not always possible to fly to Iceland or other polar regions at short notice, because the weather forecast has just announced a clear night … the case that you have a memory full of money is excluded at this point.
Most of the time you book the flight a little earlier and the weather forecasts often do not go far enough and are too imprecise to predict the weather in your holiday week (s). But there are actually some regions where, statistically speaking, the weather allows clear skies more frequently and the probability of precipitation is lower. There are some tables for the individual regions on the Internet and so we come to the first point: simply plan a station for your stay in such a region.
As far as I know, the Myvatn region in Iceland is particularly known for little rainfall. In Norway, for example, the coastal regions are more volatile in terms of weather and inland it is statistically drier.
During my penultimate stay in Iceland it was mostly rainy and the sky was full of clouds. Only in the Myvatn region did the sky clear and at night it was clear with stars.
For the travel period, it should be noted that you go on the hunt for the northern lights in the months between September and March. At this time the nights are dark enough to see the Northern Lights at all.
3. phases of the moon
Second point , look at the phases of the moon! I keep it that way that I always prefer the new moon phases for nocturnal recordings. Without the moon, it’s just darker at night and the stars come out better. However, this point is worth discussing and opinions differ at this point.
Information about northern intensity
When you are there, and that brings us to point three , find out about the intensity of the northern lights in your hostel or guesthouse. If you have internet on site, you can of course do it yourself. I recommend two pages to you:
I particularly like the second page because you can also see how the cloudy sky is developing at what time of day. So if you don’t have such a fixed travel plan, you can spontaneously decide differently 🙂 The second page offers information about the northern lights intensity and the current moon phase at the same time.
You are now well prepared in theory, so let’s move on to practice.
I’ve been to Iceland twice now. The first time with a Sony Alpha 500 and the last time with my Nikon D600. My attempts to take night shots with the Sony failed miserably because the noise was so loud that you couldn’t see any stars. So we come to point four , the equipment
Today’s cameras have improved significantly in terms of noise sensitivity. Nevertheless, differences between full format and APS-C cameras are clear, especially in the ISO behavior . So if you are really busy photographing phenomena in the night sky, in my opinion it is worth investing in a full-frame camera.
Another important component is your lens. The basic rule here is: the brighter and the less focal length (between 14 and 24 mm focal length for full format), the better. The smaller the focal length, the longer you can expose without the stars leaving any traces on the photo. The stronger the lens, the lower you can leave the ISO value. This just makes the photos clearer.
Another important part is a good tripod. You don’t believe how the wind can blow on Iceland. I was traveling with a Cullmann Magnesit 528Q , which is really bombproof and I can only recommend it!
You should also think of a headlamp, so you have your hands free to set up the tripod and the camera and don’t have to hold a flashlight.
5. Place of admission
We come to the last point of your preparation and thus to point five . When you are there, think about what can serve as a suitable foreground for a great northern shot and look out in daylight. At night, there is a high probability that you will not find anything, because everything outside of your headlights will disappear into the darkness. I also had to make this experience and so once I stood in front of an empty field and the other time in front of a place full of gravel and therefore three photos as it should not be:
Oh, and I almost forgot something: If you are so lucky and see the northern lights, put your camera aside and enjoy the natural spectacle. What you see then is unique and beautiful memories are at least as important as a great photo (!), Right?