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Here's How You Take Photos of the Northern Lights

Where: Lofoton, Norway
January 21, 2014 at 2:05 PM | by | ()

We’ve said our piece about how we think you shouldn’t even attempt to take photos of the Northern Lights until your second time around, but as travel writers, we do understand the urge to capture the moment. Below, we’ve put together a few tips on how to increase your chances of taking a good shot.

For those of you who either a) don’t have a sophisticated enough camera or b) agree that a camera should not get in the way of experiencing the moment, we have an alternative idea for you: Let someone else take the photo.

Sounds like basic advice, but no, really, there are people you can hire to do it. The Polar Lights Center, for example, offers several services to those tracking down the Aurora Borealis, including professional photographs of you in front of the lights (real examples shown in the photos of this post).

But if you'd prefer to give it a shot yourself, here are a few rules of thumb:

· First and foremost, you need a camera that allows for manual adjustments of shutter-speed, aperture, ISO and focus. The lens should have a minimum f4.0 aperture. As an example, your settings could be: ISO 400 - 800, aperture 2.8 to 4.0 (minimum) and a shutter speed between 10 and 30 seconds.

· Shooting in RAW is preferred, but high quality .jpeg can also work. Because of the slow shutter-speed, a tripod is essential to prevent a blurry photo.

· Be sure your batteries are fully charged. You won't be using a flash, but it will be chilly outside (to say the least), and the cold has a knack for freezing up your battery life. Bring one or two extra and keep them in your pocket so they stay warm. Last thing you want is to run out of juice when the lights are dancing.

· Going along with that, make sure you have plenty of available memory. You don't want to have to delete photos to clear space in the middle of the performance.

· Use a cable releaser or the delay function on your camera. Pressing the shutter directly with your finger may causes distortion and movement, especially if you're shivering from the cold or have gloves on.

· Consider a headlamp with a red light. You'll want to find a dark place to photograph the sky, but you'll also want to see what you're doing.

See, and you thought we were kidding when we said it was a process and a potential distraction. This post concludes our coverage of the Northern Lights. We hope that, regardless of your position on photography, you are inspired to track them down yourselves. It was, without question, an experience definitely worth waiting for.

[Photos: Therese, Polar Light Center]

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