Camera for Northern Lights

Travel Forums Travel Photography Camera for Northern Lights

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1. Posted by LeeXee0819 (Budding Member 32 posts) 2w Star this if you like it!

Hi,

We will be chasing Northern Lights on March and would like to ask your advise what brand/type of camera and accessories should I have so I can capture a decent photo of Northern Lights.

Im a beginner (mostly point and shoot) but im willing to learn the tricks.

Thank you in advance.

2. Posted by ToonSarah (Travel Guru 760 posts) 1w Star this if you like it!

The most important factor based on our experience of trying to shoot them is to have a camera with a manual focus option so you can set it to infinity. Otherwise you camera will struggle to focus at all in the darkness and won't work, or will focus on anything it can find which is likely to be in the foreground, throwing the sky and therefore the lights out of focus. The camera also needs to be able to be set to slow shutter speeds, and you'll need a tripod to hold it steady during exposures.

You don't say where you are going, but we went to Tromso and chose to go out chasing the lights with a guy who offered photography tours. The evening started with a one hour briefing in his studio so we could learn how best to capture them, which was very helpful. You may be able to find a similar tour?

But the other big bit of advice I can give is not to spend the whole time looking through your lens. Make sure you simply stand and watch for part of the evening at least. You don't want to come home feeling you haven't really seen the lights I realised part way through our evening I was in danger of doing just that so at our final stop (of three) I left my camera in the minibus and concentrated on really taking in the sight - awesome!!

3. Posted by ToonSarah (Travel Guru 760 posts) 1w Star this if you like it!

Another thought - take several sets of spare batteries and keep them as warm as possible, as they soon seize up in the cold.

4. Posted by LeeXee0819 (Budding Member 32 posts) 1w Star this if you like it!

Im going to Lapland in Rovaniemi.

We are planning to rent a car and drive around.

Ive been collecting places from Instagram where they saw Northern Lights and Im doing a bit of research where there is a high chance of seeing them.

As much as possible Im trying to stay away booking tour group as it's quite expensive. Well, the trip itself is really expensive already.

I have a Nikon D3200 camera and Olympus (mirrorless), Im not sure which one is better. But it has both manual and can control shutter. I also bought a tripod. But who knows maybe ill just, like what you said enjoy looking at it than taking pictures.

Im not hoping so much to see the northern lights (i dont wanna break my heart, hahaha) and try to enjoy the trip as much as possible.

Thank you.

5. Posted by Skandinavisk (Budding Member 27 posts) 1w 1 Star this if you like it!

Shamelessly shouting out for myself here. Have a look at my blogpost about the Northern Lights.

https://skandinavisk.travellerspoint.com/

The camera stuff is a bit down the text, so just scroll down till you see it.

As for camera gear: The most important would be having a sturdy tripod.

There are two things that I'd say though: First: Do research on where you're going to be. Take particullary care about where the lights from the ground is. Secondly: What Sarah said above: Remember to see the lights with your naked eyes.

6. Posted by Stefmuts (Budding Member 136 posts) 1w Star this if you like it!

Brand or type is not important just make sure it has the manual options for focus and the ability to play with the shutter speed. A sturdy tripod is a must and make sure you practise and play with the settings at home so you know the camera before chasing the Northern Lights

7. Posted by MilesTX (Budding Member 22 posts) 1w Star this if you like it!

I believe it's important to manually set the ISO (sensitivity), rather than let the camera set it automatically.

As ISO is increased, the amount of digital noise also increases. Different cameras have different amounts of success at minimizing this problem...reading some reviews of your particular models will tell you at what ISO the noise becomes excessive.

If that ISO is, for example, 400, then I would manually set the camera ISO at 400.

Yes, tripod & batteries & include something in the foreground (tree, mountain) for perspective.

Good luck!

8. Posted by neurotraveler (Budding Member 17 posts) 1w 1 Star this if you like it!

Quoting ToonSarah

The most important factor based on our experience of trying to shoot them is to have a camera with a manual focus option so you can set it to infinity. Otherwise you camera will struggle to focus at all in the darkness and won't work, or will focus on anything it can find which is likely to be in the foreground, throwing the sky and therefore the lights out of focus. The camera also needs to be able to be set to slow shutter speeds, and you'll need a tripod to hold it steady during exposures.

I've never seen the aurora so I'm speaking from ignorance but I do a lot of photography. I would think that focusing on infinity is not a good idea, but rather you want to focus on something in the foreground (tree, house, etc.) since the northern lights will never be 'in focus' Better to have something in the foreground and the lights be the background. Just a thought.

Also, having done a bit of astrophotography a warning that turning the focus all the way to infinity does not focus on the stars. You need to actually adjust the focus through the viewfinder to focus on the stars
'

9. Posted by Stefmuts (Budding Member 136 posts) 1w Star this if you like it!

Quoting neurotraveler

I've never seen the aurora so I'm speaking from ignorance but I do a lot of photography. I would think that focusing on infinity is not a good idea, but rather you want to focus on something in the foreground (tree, house, etc.) since the northern lights will never be 'in focus' Better to have something in the foreground and the lights be the background. Just a thought.

Also, having done a bit of astrophotography a warning that turning the focus all the way to infinity does not focus on the stars. You need to actually adjust the focus through the viewfinder to focus on the stars
'

Good point, focus on something in the foreground! But still focus manually, in the dark the auto function might not focus were you want it
and if you focus on the background you'll notice soon enough that infinity is not the sharpest, it's slightly off by most lenses
The iso setting MilesTX mentioned are also one to keep in mind, as he said high iso gives more noise (annoying structure on your immage) I usually use iso 100 for night shots, you have to use the tripod anyway so whats a second more then!

10. Posted by LeeXee0819 (Budding Member 32 posts) 1w Star this if you like it!

Thanks much.

I learned a lot on this short crash course..