Photographing an Aurora

Want to capture the grandeur of the Northern Lights with your camera?  Here are some pointers to get you started.

Carlso aurora
Courtesy Todd Carlson

The aurora borealis is one of nature’s most exciting sights. These shimmering lights appear when streams of charged particles from the Sun strike Earth’s upper atmosphere. Usually auroral displays appear with little advance warning, so if photographing the spectacle is something you’d like to attempt, it’s best to be prepared ahead of time and have your game plan all set to go.

  1. With your camera mounted on a sturdy tripod, use a wide-angle lens, such as a 24mm or 28mm (50mm will suffice if that is all you have). A zoom lens should be used at its widest setting.
  2. Set your camera to ISO 800.
  3. Set the f-stop at the lowest setting possible (f/3.5 or lower).
  4. Focus using the infinity mark on the lens.
  5. Add something to the foreground of the shot for depth: a tree, house, person, your telescope, etc.
  6. Use a cable release or remote to trip the shutter, take exposures of 20 to 30 seconds each.
  7. Submit your best shot to the SkyNews Photo of the Week contest!