Photographing the Northern Lights – Take Two

Last night, we were pretty lucky with the lights. They were fairly low in the sky (apparently meaning they’re not that strong) but it was much easier to see them with bare eyes and appreciate that they were moving than it had been the previous night. The previous night they had just looked like a greenish tinge in the sky that could have been a cloud highlighted by light pollution. Anyway, here are the results:

IMG_1772DNG18 mm, 30 sec, f4.0, ISO 8000

So, my ISO was waaaay too high and I’ve had to reduce the noise on Lightroom afterwards. Part of that came with not knowing the limits of the camera, and part of it came with leaving the remote shutter clicker thing back at the cabin, so being limited to 30 sec exposures. On top of that, part of the problem may have stemmed from the fact that I turned the brightness down on the screen so much that I overcompensated when exposing my photos. OR, I could just have a lot to learn! Anyway, as a result, my photos are quite noisy, especially in the foreground. But, when you’ve just seen the Northern Lights, who cares?!

IMG_1774DNG15 mm, 30 sec, f4.0, ISO 8000

IMG_1775DNG 15 mm, 30 sec, f4.0, ISO 8000

Photographing the Northern Lights – Take One

Having been lucky enough to borrow someone else’s camera and tripod for my trip to the Lofoten Islands, inside Norwegian’s Arctic Circle, I was eager to start getting some results. About half way along our drive from the airport to where we were staying, we eventually came to the conclusion that the slightly bright cloud in the sky wasn’t just our eyes deceiving us (or seeing what we wanted them to see) but it probably was actually the northern lights! 

We parked up, and grabbed our cameras. Not having unpacked, we didn’t have tripods or many thermals available – a big mistake! We watched for a few teeth-chattering minutes and jumped back into the warmth of the car. Half an hour later, they were much more pronounced in the sky, so we pulled over again. This time I dug my tripod out and the results were (unsurprisingly) sooo much better. Unfortunately, though, all of my photos are so over-exposed that they could have been taken in day light (it was pretty much pitch black). The problem with borrowing someone else’s camera and not having played around with it until the second I need it (when it happens to be completely dark) is that I couldn’t find ANY of the settings! Eventually, I managed to change the shutter speed without removing my mittens and got results that look a little more like what I actually saw with my bare eyes (see the last photo!).


15mm, 30 sec, f.4.0, ISO 4000

Unfortunately, the rest of my family were also playing around with cameras, hence the lights!


15mm, 30 sec, f3.5, ISO 4000. A little post-processing went on here to lower the exposure!


15mm, 10 sec, f4.0, ISO 4000

10 seconds worked much better than 30. Having said that, now I’ve messed around with the camera in the light, I know where the ISO button is. Hopefully tonight’s photos (fingers crossed the Northern Lights will be on my side) will be better.




My first ever attempt at taking photographs of lightening certainly taught me one or two things. Firstly, I don’t really know how to use the manual mode on my camera, and I really should do by now! Secondly, sheet lightening doesn’t look like much more than a generic sunset on photographs. I was lucky that the only instance of fork lightening I saw all night happened to be when the camera’s shutter was open. And thirdly, even if the lightening itself looks quite dramatic, the foreground really does need to be interesting to make the photograph work. These are the only two photographs in the 15 I took that came out OK at all.