We are still very much newbies, having seen the Aurora twice, but we have learned there is a process we can follow to help us capture images. The caveat is that we have yet to use a film camera, my preferred type of camera-but it is on my list!
This is a very minimal list, not exhaustive, of things you need or can use, but it should give you enough to get you started. There are a lot of web sites containing good advice. Foggy Lens Photography got us started by giving us an evening class and lab where we captured our first images.
First, some basic equipment. I found having everything in one place really helps so I made a boogie bag with the cameras, and stuff, and a second one with chairs, so I can just grab and go. In my boogie bag I keep:
- Camera – You need a digital camera, with low noise at high ISO and either a timer functions or cable release (remote), and white balance control. Practice to feel comfortable working it on manual. At a minimum you need to become familiar enough with your dSLR to understand and manipulate:
- Shutter speed
- White balance\
- Setting your camera to RAW
- Lenses – You can use what you have of course, but in general the wider the better. (Don’t forget to remove all filters),
- Tripod – Sturdy tripod that won’t wobble during long exposures is a must.
- Extra batteries – Always have backup batteries. And a backup for the backup. In cold weather, like we have here in Alaska, you will find batteries can drain quickly, sometimes without warning. Warming them against your body can sometimes get the power up.
- Extra memory cards or film, you never know what can happen.
- Cable release or remote – This will help you trigger the shutter while not touching the camera and tripod which causes shaking. An alternative I use is the timer function, so when I click the shutter, it will wait X amount of seconds before the shutter opens.
Second, Your camera will perform best on manual. Shoot RAW for the greatest flexibility. We left white balance in auto, but others liked how Tungsten came out. To start I,
- Set my lens to its widest (lowest number) and focus to infinity.
- Set my ISO to 1600
- Set my time to 15 seconds
- Set timer to 2-5 seconds.
Now you set up your feedback system. Look at the results you are getting and start adjusting the settings as you need. If you dark, increase your ISO and/or time. If too bright decrease.
Third you need to find aurora. Even during the best time, the Northern Lights are fickle and will display when in the mood. You can ask around and look at local web sites for information on best place to hunting. There are sites you can visit or sign up for that will give you notification when something is about to happen.
- University of Alaska, Geophysical Institute
- Aurora Notify
- Alaska Aurora Cam
- Aurora Borealis Notifications
Final Thoughts, My next step is to try and photograph aurora with a 35mm film camera
- Foggy Lens Photography
- Ed Gold, Documentary Photographer
- Tom McMurtrey, always ready to hit the road
Tags: @Nikon @Canon @Hummer #EOS #EklutnaTailRace #Hummer #H3