Northern Lights photos

Taking a good photo of the Northern Lights is not as easy as it sounds. Cold and arctic environment is certainly a problem, but being in the right place at the right time is just as much a challenge. 

Iceland is a cold country, especially in winter, and that brings up many challenges when taking pictures of the Northern Lights. Cameras and camera lenses can be affected by the cold, e.g. if you bring the camera from cold environment to a warm environment. This can be a real problem if you often jump in and out of a warm car. 

Keeping the camera in a camera bag is recommended. A good pair of gloves is also a necessity, along with other good winter clothes. 

Taking photos of the Northern Lights

In general, auroras are fairly dim and you can see stars through them. As our eyes don't see colour at such low light levels the aurora looks white to us unless it is very bright. The camera will however see the colour. Photographing the aurora, especially when not bright, isn't easy as the stars move across the sky with the rotation of the earth. This limits the longest exposure you can make without converting stars from pinpoints into streaks. The longest exposure time depends on the focal length of the lens but typically you will be using a fairly short focal length to get enough of the sky in. That means the exposure time should be no longer than about 20 to 30 seconds. With the low light a fast lens is required otherwise you need to increase the ISO setting to high levels which will introduce a lot of noise into the image. As an example both of these images used the following settings: Nikon D7000 with a Samyang 16mm f2 prime lens 25 seconds @ f2.0 ISO1600.

If you used a lens with a maximum aperture of f2.8 you would have had to use an ISO of 3200. If your lens was only f4 then you would have had to use an ISO of 6400. A slow lens just isn't going to give you the best results. Of course if you strike a really bright aurora then a slower lens will work just fine.

You should always be taking photos in Raw Image Format, at least for the purposes of Nocturnal and Northern Lights photography. Raw editing allows you to make much bigger adjustments than Jpeg, such as correcting exposure, changing white balance and many others. Most of consumer DSLR cameras are capable of shooting Raw.

Photos of the Northern Lights in Iceland

There are many great photos of the Northern Lights in Iceland, but these are usually the produced through hard work, experience and a good dose of luck. There are a few tricks to capturing the opportune moment, when the Northern Lights dance across the sky. 

As mentioned above you need to have your camera, ready and set up for this kind of photography. Finding the right spot can be a bit tricky, but if you make sure that you work with the locals and watch out for Northern Lights Forecast, you should be able to get a chance to get your perfect photo. Make sure you dress warm and pack all your needs, since hunting for the Auroras can take the whole night, and nights are long in Iceland during the winter. 

Finally, picture the Northern Lights with something in the foreground. Not because you just want to take photos of the Northern Lights doesn’t mean you are just to photograph the sky all night long. Adding the whole scenery on where you stand is the most dramatic way to take photos. Plus, it would remind you of the place where you have experienced the breathtaking phenomena.

Here are some photos of the Northern Lights in Iceland.