Northern Lights pictures just isn’t like different night time pictures; it has challenges that go approach past regular night time pictures challenges – specifically…the chilly! You solely get Northern Lights within the winter when you may have these beautiful darkish skies. As well as, the aurora oval revolves across the geomagnetic north pole inserting you in a number of the coldest environments on earth. All of this implies you will be ready out within the chilly for the right {photograph} of the northern lights.

In case your dream is to {photograph} the northern lights, then you definately’ll must be in the fitting place, have the fitting digital camera gear, and be ready together with your digital camera settings. And also you’ll need to make sure that you keep heat if you are working in your good {photograph}.

I’ve spent lots of time photographing the northern lights in Alaska. I’ve even been fortunate sufficient to see the southern lights on a cruise to Antarctica! From these experiences I’ve collected an in depth checklist of suggestions for guaranteeing your aurora pictures seems nice, you keep heat, and have enjoyable. I’m excited to share the following tips for capturing the Northern lights whereas staying cozy.

What are the Northern Lights?

I’m no scientist – however I can let you know aurora borealis is a recipe made up of the solar, photo voltaic bursts, photo voltaic wind, the earth’s magnetic fields, and our environment. If you would like an in-depth clarification, try this Northern Lights Outlined article.

Indigenous Explanations of the Northern Lights

Along with the scientific clarification, there are additionally Indigenous explanations too. The Alaskan Native folks and Inuit imagine that the Northern Lights are the spirits of their ancestors looking within the night time sky, and that’s why they’re lively and transferring.

One other model is the spirits of the ancestors watching over their family members on earth. The spirits are so pleasant, it’s stated you may invite them for a ‘dance’. If you dance, they may be part of you dancing and you may primarily ‘dance them out’.

After I was instructed this, I questioned if the Hokie Pokie dance would work – it’s the one dance I do know! At the very least in the event you select to ‘dance them out’, it’s additionally an effective way to remain heat concurrently!

The place to Discover the Northern Lights

You discover the northern lights underneath the aurora oval. The oval thickness modifications periodically, however generally, you’ll discover the aurora oval across the Earth’s geomagnetic poles. You’ll additionally want clear skies as a way to see the northern lights. Which means that a number of the greatest odds of seeing them are locations with clear skies.

My favourite place to {photograph} the aurora borealis is Fairbanks Alaska. It’s within the Alaskan inside, which suggests extra clear skies and a better likelihood of seeing them. Plus there are many nice issues to do in Fairbanks (canine sledding, snow mobiling, along with chasing aurora!

Another nice locations are:

  • Yellowknife Canada (Yukon)
  • Churchill Canada (Manitoba)
  • Northern Norway
  • Iceland
  • Northern Finland
  • Greenland
  • Northern Sweden

In fact, you could possibly {photograph} them in Minnesota or Montana – nonetheless, the percentages are a lot decrease. I favor to go to locations underneath the aurora oval the place I’ve a positive aurora forecast more often than not, and good odds of clear skies for the perfect pictures. That’s Alaska for me.

northern lights photography alaska
Alaska is my favourite place to {photograph} the aurora

Digital camera Gear You’ll Want for Photographing the Northern Lights

There are just a few further issues that you just’ll want for night time pictures, and particularly northern lights footage, which are totally different from a typical pictures gear checklist.


I by no means usually journey with a tripod, however within the case of night time pictures, it’s a should. You’ll desire a good sturdy one that may take care of wind. Plus – make it possible for it isn’t metallic. Metallic tripods can get extremely chilly, and also you don’t need to contact freezing-cold metallic, even with gloves. I exploit the Peak Design Journey Tripod which is extremely small however sturdy and quick to get into place!

Peak Design Travel Tripod

Peak Design Journey Tripod

That is the smallest and sturdiest journey tripod I’ve discovered in the marketplace. That is an aluminum model (3.4 lbs) – however additionally they have carbon fiber (2.8 lbs). A journey tripod that packs all the way down to the diameter of a water bottle—with out compromising peak, stability, or options. Plus, it is really easy and quick to setup and take down!

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Broad Angle Quick Lens

Any lens will work, however the wider the lens, the higher. Northern Lights can take up an enormous space of sky and also you need to seize as a lot of the present as potential along with the foreground. The truth is, if you’re doing northern lights pictures beneath the aurora oval, the aurora will usually present up arcing throughout the sky like a rainbow. To seize that whole shot, you’ll need a wide-angle lens.

When in Fairbanks, Alaska, photographing the aurora borealis, I shot with a 10mm or 18 mm more often than not. Usually, a focal size of 14 to 30mm is what you must goal for. Fairbanks is often instantly beneath the aurora oval, so it’s good to have the ability to get an enormous broad view of how excessive within the sky the lights climb. Nonetheless, a 24 mm additionally works, however you’ll seemingly not get the complete arc of the northern lights. Simply bear in mind {that a} 10mm lens tends to distort issues within the foreground.

northern lights photography

As well as, the quickest (lowest F cease quantity comparable to f1.8 or f2.8) lens you should use the higher. This lets you work with extra mild – one thing that’s in brief provide throughout night time pictures. And not using a quick lens, exposures will must be longer, and that may are likely to blur the aurora extra. My quickest, widest lens solely went to f4, and I might nonetheless shoot at shutters of 10 seconds with out an excessive amount of of an issue. Use what you may have in fact – as a result of something is healthier than nothing!

Hire a Lens for Aurora Images

When you don’t have a large angle, quick lens, don’t worry – you don’t have to exit and spend 1000’s of {dollars} on a lens only for northern lights pictures. As an alternative, you may hire a fantastic lens for Aurora pictures.

I’ve rented from each Borrow Lenses up to now. I rented the Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2 for Sony E-mount for ten days costing aproximately $120. This contains delivery. I didn’t get the insurance coverage although as I’ve different journey insurance coverage that may cowl it. Facet word – I all the time really feel just like the insurance coverage is a sham on these items. Earlier than buying the insurance coverage out of worry, first verify to see if any of your different insurance coverage (house, journey, bank card) will cowl the lens.

This was a fantastic lens with high-quality glass for capturing the northern lights. You may clearly get one thing even higher just like the Sigma 14mm f/1.8 Artwork E Mount. That’s the wonderful thing about Borrow Lenses – you may check out a lens before you purchase it.

Digital camera

I exploit a Sony A7iii mirrorless digital camera. Not too way back I switched to mirrorless from my Canon DSLR system. The primary factor to search for in a digital camera used to {photograph} the northern lights is low-light efficiency (larger ISO). ISO vary of 100-51200 is right. As well as, battery life and climate sealing are additionally essential, which is important for the lengthy and chilly nights underneath the Northern Lights.

camera gear for northern lights

A digital camera with guide mode is required for northern lights pictures. You could have the ability to management f-stop, shutter speeds, and ISO, every manually – extra on the settings for northern lights beneath. Full-frame cameras may also produce a better-quality picture.

Pink Gentle Head Lamp

Not solely will you want some kind of mild to mild up the digital camera controls and regulate your digital camera, however you’ll additionally desire a highly effective mild that can assist you mild up the foreground, verify your focus, and make your Northern Lights pictures much more picturesque.

It takes about 20-Half-hour in your eyes to completely darkish adapt when doing pictures at night time. A purple mild is non-glaring, so it could assist you see higher at night time. Activate a white mild and break the darkish adaptation of you and everybody round you. Due to that white flashlights and cellular phone lights are discouraged at northern lights viewing.

Black Diamond Storm 400 Headlamp, Azul

The Storm 400 additionally has three totally different coloured night time imaginative and prescient modes and peripheral white lighting for close-range actions like fastidiously re-racking for the ultimate summit pitch at the hours of darkness. The headlamp has our Brightness Reminiscence characteristic, which lets you flip the sunshine on and off at a selected brightness with out reverting again to the default, full energy setting.

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Distant Shutter Launch

This isn’t required, however many individuals use distant shutter releases for night time pictures to scale back any risk of digital camera shake whenever you bodily hit the shutter button. Some distant releases have extra choices like an intervalometer, lightning set off, and distant management of digital camera settings.

Additional Batteries

In chilly climate, battery life goes quick. Ensure you all the time have further batteries if you find yourself chasing the northern lights. Take greater than you assume you’ll want! In Fairbanks, I used to be usually capturing in -10 to -20, and our digital camera battery life was minimal.

My rule is to convey double the batteries than what you assume chances are you’ll want. I had 5 with me and there have been nights the place I virtually went by all of them.

northern lights photography tips batteries
Hand heaters are your batteries’ greatest buddies!

Hand Heaters

Sure – these are nice to need to maintain your fingers heat – however much more importantly they’re nice to maintain your further digital camera batteries heat. The chilly will sap your batteries even when they aren’t in your digital camera – so hand heaters are actually useful whenever you {photograph} the northern lights. I’ve used a budget little disposable handwarmers, however I’m actually loving the brand new electrical ones that may be merely recharged with USB and used again and again.

Magnetic Rechargeable Hand Heaters

Electrical Pocket-Sized Handwarmers with 3 warmth settings will maintain your fingers toasty heat within the chilly temps. These are ultra mild and skinny and can simply slot in your pockets. As well as they warmth up actually quick, and can final for aproximately 4 to eight hrs.

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Northern Lights Images Ideas

You’ve received all of your gear, however the following tips are important for the distinctive setting your digital camera gear will face when out within the freezing chilly!

As soon as Your Digital camera is Outdoors, Depart It Outdoors

That is the very first thing to know and observe religiously. Your physique can go out and in of the chilly with little dire affect in addition to being uncomfortable; nonetheless, your digital camera can not. Don’t topic it to the huge temperature swings inside and outside, because it results in condensation inside your digital camera, to not point out it’s simply rattling robust on the digital camera generally.

Set your digital camera up on the tripod, situate it outdoors within the space the place you need to shoot, after which go away it there till you might be carried out capturing utterly for the night time. You’ll need to acclimate whenever you come again outdoors, however your digital camera gained’t, and that may guarantee you may get the Northern Lights pictures you might be hoping for.

Professional Tip: “When you should take your digital camera inside from the chilly, place it again in your digital camera bag or backpack earlier than you return onto the nice and cozy space. Preserve it within the closed bag, which is full of the identical chilly air that surrounds your digital camera outdoors till you return outdoors. This may forestall condensation. When you keep inside for an extended time frame, ultimately, it would heat up steadily, and every thing might be fantastic.  When you do expertise condensation, your solely treatment is to maintain the digital camera in a comparatively heat, dry room till it utterly dries out. Solely then can you’re taking it outdoors once more.” – Dan Bailey Alaska Photographer

northern lights photography tips frozen camera
Northern Lights pictures is a cold enterprise…

Take Your Batteries Out of Your Digital camera

However wait! Earlier than you simply go away your digital camera sitting outdoors on the tripod, take the batteries out of it and take them inside with you. When you go away them within the digital camera outdoors – they may most positively drain and be of no use to you.

Batteries Can Come Again to Life

Usually chilly batteries are only a large tease. They let you know they’re empty, however actually they aren’t. Simply heat them up once more in an inside pocket near your physique. Or higher but, put them in a pocket with hand heaters to get them good and toasty once more. All of the sudden you’ll discover that they arrive again to life. If you put them again in your digital camera it would present they aren’t empty. See…an enormous battery tease.

Chasing Fall – The place to Discover Autumn Shade in Alaska

Level the Lens Downward

Maintain on! I do know I do know, you may have left your digital camera sitting on the tripod with the batteries taken out and saved safely in your heat pocket – nice. However there may be yet one more key factor to do earlier than you go have that sizzling toddy inside. Modify your tripod head and level the lens down in the direction of the bottom. This may make sure the glass on the lens doesn’t get frosted over.

I discovered this superior tip from Frank on the Aurora Bear Images Workshop. On the coldest night time we had been capturing (round -15F), I left my digital camera pointing down towards the snow on my tripod as I waited in a yurt attempting to heat up. After I returned to search for Aurora periodically, I seen my complete digital camera was frosted over! Nonetheless, the lens pointing on the floor was not. This fashion when the aurora did come out all of a sudden – I used to be prepared! I simply popped the battery again in, readjusted the tripod head, and received my photographs despite the fact that my digital camera was utterly frosty!

Take away Your Filters

Frank at Aurora Bear additionally taught me to take away the filters on my lenses as they’ll produce a sequence of darkish concentric circles within the heart of your photograph. Plus, some filters may also cut back your out there mild. You’re already challenged with low mild situations when capturing the Northern Lights; don’t make it worse!

Professional tip: “Additionally, watch naked noses on ice-cold metallic and plastic digital camera our bodies. If it’s chilly sufficient, you may simply frost-nip the top of your nostril whenever you press your resist the digital camera to take images. I do know as a result of I’ve carried out it. Both attempt to maintain your face barely away from the again of the digital camera or else use some type of nostril protect or face masks. Your pores and skin will thanks.” Alaska photographer Dan Bailey

Defend Your Gear from the Subzero Temperature

At -15F, you don’t need any naked pores and skin to the touch the metallic lens – the lens is approach too chilly to deal with. I exploit LensCoat LensCovers for my lenses. LensCovers are fabricated from Neoprene, And match snuggly across the lens. They shield lenses from bumps and scratches, in addition to make them simpler to carry on to when it’s freezing outdoors! This made them good for northern lights pictures.

You may as well get tripod leg covers that are advisable for chilly climate; nobody desires to seize onto a below-freezing tripod leg!

LensCoat LegCoat Tripod Leg Covers

LensCoat LegCoat Tripod Leg Covers

LegCoat® Wraps are created from smooth neoprene are designed to wrap across the higher leg of your tripod and are simply affixed with a Velcro closure. The Wraps backing is designed to tightly grip to your tripod legs so they won’t slide. The covers act as a thermal barrier making the tripod extra snug to deal with in sizzling or chilly situations.

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Easy methods to Keep Heat Whereas Photographing Northern Lights

You must be ready for chilly climate pictures else you’ll be depressing AND chances are you’ll lose your alternative to get images of this spectacular occasion.

Fairbanks northern lights tours
Picture by Final Frontier Mushing Coop

One of many coldest actions to do within the winter is photographing the aurora. That is primarily since you spend lots of time standing and sitting nonetheless waiting- which is the recipe for getting chilly actually quick. I do lots of snowshoeing, and snowmobiling as outside winter actions and I’m seldom chilly as a result of my physique is producing warmth and utilizing power. Subsequently listed below are the objects I like to recommend for staying heat whereas ready for the Northern Lights to look!

Heat Images Mittens

For me one of the crucial difficult issues about northern lights pictures is holding my fingers heat whereas altering digital camera settings. There’s usually a number of trial and error concerned in capturing the northern lights, you might be all the time twiddling with the buttons and settings. And which means chilly fingers. I exploit the Warmth Firm Gloves for chilly climate pictures. I like them as a result of you may simply fold again the highest of the mitten to get to the digital camera buttons after which shortly fold the highest of the mitten again in your fingers to reduce warmth loss.

Warmth Firm Gloves – Heat Shell

Mitten flap with magnetic closure; merely pull the flap again and use the liner as an alternative for optimum dexterity. Nice for winter pictures and winter sports activities.

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Crew these pictures gloves up with the electrical handwarmers I mentioned above and also you’ll keep heat!

I also can suggest heated gloves too. The truth is, top-of-the-line in the marketplace is the Gordini Heated Gloves. They’re fairly sensible gloves – they’ll thermoregulate themselves! You may set the temperature you need them to take care of by way of a cellphone app!

Chilly Climate Jacket

A heavy parka is advisable for aurora pictures. Or you may layer wind jacket with a puffy jacket. I favor longer coats although like parkas for being out in the course of the night time. You may as well strive a heated underlayer. Heated merchandise have actually come a good distance up to now few years. They’re much extra inexpensive and the warmth performance is all the time bettering every year.

The North Face Ladies’s Down Parka

The North FaceWomen’s Soar Down Parka gives winter safety from the highest of your head to your knees. This cold-weather coat options waterproof DryVent material and 550-fill down insulation. Not as soon as was I chilly in Alaska on this parka!

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12/24/2023 12:17 pm GMT

Sahara Ladies’s Heated Jacket

Nice for a layer underneath your favourite winter coat.

From Gobi Warmth – 10 hrs of Warmth | 3 Warmth Zones | with Battery & Charger | Machine Washable | All Day Heat

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12/25/2023 11:47 am GMT

Socks and Boots

Standing out on the snow for lengthy durations of time doing pictures means inevitable chilly toes. You should utilize the disposable toe heaters – nonetheless I’ve discovered that the electrical socks are actually nice options too! Granted – they’re extra of an funding – however they’re nice for any chilly climate exercise like snowboarding or snowshoeing. I used the Gobi heated socks on my final journey and was actually pleased with them.

Gobi Warmth – Heated Socks

12 hours of Warmth | Battery and Charger Included

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12/26/2023 08:32 am GMT


Oboz Bridger 7" Insulated B-Dry Hiking Boot

Oboz Bridger 7″ Insulated B-Dry Climbing Boot

Sooo – snug and heat! These are my go-to winter insultated boot. I exploit them for snowshoeing and on a regular basis round city stuff when it is actually chilly. O Match Thermal insoles present stability and help whereas lowering warmth loss to maintain your ft joyful!


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Different Gear to Keep Heat Chasing Aurora

Seirus Magnemask Combo Clava

OMG – I like this for actually chilly climate! The masks is secured by a magnet and it is simple to tug down and flip again up. Breathable and heat!

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12/24/2023 02:17 am GMT

Nepal Hand Knit Ear Flaps Beanie

  • 100% Wool Hand Wash Solely
  • 100 % New Zealand Wool Fleece Lining. (Itch free)
  • ❤ Honest Commerce and handmade in Nepal. Hand knit one by one, not mass produced so there could also be minor variations in colour and imperfections.

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12/25/2023 07:17 am GMT

See my full checklist of substances for excessive climate right here

Enhance the Total Expertise of Your Northern Lights Images Outing

Have a Place to Wait Inside

The Northern Lights are unpredictable, and heat is important in Fairbanks as you wait. If you are able to do a Northern Lights journey that has an indoor choice the place you may wait inside – that is a lot most popular. And if it has foods and drinks…even higher! In case you are merely ready in a automobile – simply ensure you have sufficient fuel and maintain the automobile operating and the warmth on!

northern lights alaska

Carry Some Sizzling Drinks

There’s nothing higher than a piping sizzling mug of sizzling chocolate whilst you look ahead to the aurora forecast to enhance! Many Northern Lights excursions may have issues like sizzling chocolate, tea, espresso, and on the spot ramen to maintain your insides heat. Or in the event you go by yourself, you should definitely convey a thermos of sizzling drinks.

Embrace a Full Moon

Opposite to well-liked opinion, the complete moon can mild up your northern lights scene completely.

It’s essential to notice a full moon doesn’t obscure the sunshine of the aurora, in reality, the brilliant moon usually enhances the distinction between the surroundings, snow, and the aurora offering a pleasant pure mild within the foreground.

northern lights photography tips
The total moon can mild up your scene completely

Know Your Instructions

After speaking with physicist Peter Delemere on the Geophysical Institute in Fairbanks, we discovered if you find yourself armed with slightly information, you may have a greater expertise. Peter steered realizing your instructions (N/S/E/W) and realizing the place the aurora oval is so you’re looking in the fitting path. In Fairbanks, the aurora oval usually sits simply to the north. So whenever you get to your capturing location, arrange your gear pointing north and watch the northern horizon for the primary indicators of the aurora.

Take an Aurora Picture Workshop

northern lights photography workshop
Frank serving to me with my settings. Take a photograph workshop the primary night time!

In fact, the quickest and simplest way to enhance your Northern Lights pictures is to take a workshop the primary night time you exit! We went to Aurora Bear Images Workshop and had a one-on-one expertise with Frank Stelges who set us up for our future nights of aurora chasing!

Finest Digital camera Settings for Northern Lights Images

I’ve slightly guidelines I carry on my Evernote cellphone app so I can all the time check with it. All it’s important to do is ensure you have all digital camera gear I discussed above, and simply observe these steps to nice aurora pictures!

1. Activate Handbook Mode

That’s proper…Northern Lights pictures means it’s essential to get out of auto. No auto exposures, no autofocus, no auto ISO. That is the place the rubber hits the highway in pictures and you’ll have to perceive guide settings.

In case you are at the moment questioning what guide settings are, then I counsel you’re taking a category BEFORE your Northern Lights journey so you know the way to make use of your digital camera’s guide settings, tips on how to regulate them, and why.

2. Activate Handbook Focus

Sadly, your digital camera, regardless of how fancy it’s, can not auto-focus at the hours of darkness. It’s guide all the way in which child!

3. Set Focus to Infinity

When you don’t have an infinity setting, then you definately’ll need to probably take your digital camera out within the daylight and focus it on essentially the most distant object you may see and make a mark in your digital camera as to what that focus spot is. Or go away it on the market and don’t contact it. However actually, most DSLRs and lenses have infinite settings nowadays. They aren’t all good although so it nonetheless could also be slightly trial and error.

4. Flip Off Auto ISO

Begin with a setting round 1600 and regulate from there. Dn’t be discouraged if it’s important to change it so much earlier than you might be pleased with it.

photographing nothern lights in alaska

5. Activate Your Digital camera Timer

When you don’t have a distant shutter launch, then activate the timer. I usually have a 10-second timer set for night time sky pictures. This fashion you may press the shutter and watch the countdown whereas your digital camera is totally nonetheless.

6. Set Aperture

My rule of thumb is to set your aperture to the bottom f-stop quantity you may get to in your lens.

7. Shutter Pace

That is one to mess around with relying on what different mild sources are round you, together with moonlight. Longer exposures will end in brighter photographs, however stars will streak, and the aurora will soften. Quick exposures could have sharper particulars, however dimmer photographs require extra post-processing. Begin at 15 seconds and regulate. If you would like tremendous sharp stars although, then it would be best to mess around together with your different settings (like ISO) to have a slower shutter – like 8 seconds.

8. Focal Size

Zoom out to the widest you may in your lens – this ensures you’ll seize all of that lovely show within the sky.

You and your digital camera at the moment are ready to seize the northern lights! Nonetheless, the final ingredient you want for aurora viewing is endurance. Northern lights are by no means assured, however you may all the time select to ‘dance them out’. Work in your greatest hokie pokie and look ahead to the northern lights to look and dance with you!


By Tina T

Hi I'm Tina, a website author with an unmatched passion for her craft. With an unwavering commitment to quality, she combines her love of design and writing to create captivating online experiences that leave users amazed.

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