Learn about your camera
Learn to operate everything well in advance, and be sure all works well. I cannot emphasize this enough … unless you’re a pro at working under cold and dark conditions, this will help more than you can possibly know. The last thing you want to do is buy a new, all singing all dancing camera and try it for the first time in a cold climate. Try it at home first and take it off auto so as to learn some of the basics and practice a little. Trying to play with all the buttons on a camera at -30 degrees is not easy and you will miss the opportunity to get some great Aurora photos!
Take spare equipment
When shooting in below-freezing weather, it is critical to have a fully charged set of batteries, since the cold temperatures can quickly drain them. Should your battery discharge too early, you can extend its life by placing it in a warm pocket, close to your body, to warm it up. If you have a spare battery it’s always a good idea to take it with you so that you always have a fully charged battery available. Fingerless gloves are a great idea when we shoot in cold weather; this allows you to have access to your camera controls and dials. It’s always wise to have a good chamois lens cleaner with you. Moisture can become a problem when coming in from the extreme cold to have a warm by the log burner.
Get as far away from artificially lit areas like cities or villages as you can. Light pollution will decrease the intensity of the aurora borealis you can capture. All our Weekend a La Carte Aurora breaks have been selected with a view to being in the best areas for viewing the Northern Lights. Whenever possible, include a foreground – frame the lights with trees, get them reflecting in a lake, let a person stand there. The possibilities are endless, try to think outside the box.
If you are checking aurora forecast websites, keep in mind that low activity can still be very acceptable for photography, particularly in the northern regions like Abisko. So actually, your location may be more critical than the intensity of the aurora display. Expert Northern Lights photographers we work with tell us to photograph even the slightest activity as it will often show up better on a camera than with the naked eye. The joy of digital photography being that you can delete and reuse.
Between 10:00pm to 3:00am seems to be the best times for viewings and so good to stay up late, a glass of wine at lunchtime and a late afternoon nap seems to be a good solution if you are an early bird.
According to scientific data presented on www.spaceweather.com, statistically speaking, March is the most active month of the year with October a close second.
Point and shoot cameras v DSLR
While it is not impossible to photograph the aurora with a little point and shoot digital camera, it is challenging indeed and we don’t recommend it. Point and shoot digital cameras serve a great purpose but generally the cameras sensor will be tiny and they lack the feature controls on a DSLR camera.
For many, just viewing the northern lights is a life-long dream. And to capture them with a camera is both a thrilling and awe inspiring experience.
Be patient and enjoy the night sky. You are likely to learn a few constellations in the process!
For more information on breaks including photography sessions of the Northern Lights on our Northern Lights Breaks click here