The northern lights, polar lights or aurora borealis, is a beautiful natural light, and getting to see it dance above your head is a magical and surreal experience.
I share quite a few of my northern light photos on my Instagram feed, and sometimes people ask how to take pictures of this beautiful natural phenom.
So I figured I'd take you along on one of my typical nights of northern light photography. This is pretty much what I do, step-by-step:
- The northern light app goes off, saying there's a good chance of seeing the aurora in my area.
- Step right outside to take a trial shot to see what the conditions are like. If there's any green to be seen, then the race is on.
- Spend 30 minutes finding everything needed for a long night of freezing temperatures, while trying to eat something and not tripping over the dog - who is sure that the world is about to end.
- Pack camera, tripod, dog, backpack, snacks and two extra pairs of mittens into the car. And drive off to a place I've scouted in daylight.
- Park, and take everything out of the car.
- Realize that I've forgotten to bring a flashlight.
- Put everything back into the car and drive back home to get said flashlight.
- Drive back to the location and take everything out of the car while trying to keep the dog from running off.
- Stumble around in the dark for 15 minutes through lots of snow while thinking that this is better than any StairMaster. Why not use the flashlight? Because I want let my eyes to adjust to the darkness.
- Trip over a stick that was hidden by the snow, and fall flat on my face because I tried to save the tripod instead of using my hands to catch the fall.
- Finally get to the "perfect" spot, only to realize that light pollution from a nearby oil refinery completely ruins the view.
- Hike back to the car, and drive off to a better location.
- Walk through snow for another 10 minutes while the dog is running around like crazy, having the time of her life.
- Setting up the tripod and camera, taking care to find a nice spot and make sure the camera is leveled.
- Start taking pictures, only to have the dog run into the tripod just as you've clicked the button.
- Repeat step 15 about 20 times.
- Pull out some treats for the dog to distract her from bumping into the camera.
- Take about 100 photos while enjoying the view and cuddling the dog...
- ...and finally remember to look at the results, only to realize that I should have used different settings.
- Find the correct settings, and stare in awe at the beautiful lights dancing across the sky.
- Realize that I've forgotten to take pictures while admiring the stunning Aurora.
- Take some photos that actually turn out okay.
- Move the camera, making sure it's leveled again.
- The dog, who's now getting bored, insists on standing in front of the camera, blocking the view.
- Find more treats for the dog and try to distract her.
- The dog gets sick of her treats and starts wondering what this "camera thing" is, and decides to sniff the lens.
- Wipe the lens clean from the dog's nose marks.
- Bring out the extra pairs of mittens. -15 degrees Celsius (5 degrees Fahrenheit) is freaking cold!
- Continue to enjoy the show, while trying out some different settings and camera placements.
- When I can't feel my fingers or toes anymore, it's time to walk back to the car, making sure I've left nothing behind.
- Get home and transfer the pictures to Lightroom.
- Look through them, and be disappointed that I didn't move the camera just a few centimeters to the right, or that I didn't try a slightly lower shutter speed...
- Go to bed, a bit sad that none of the pictures turned out okay.
- 2 months later: Look through the pictures again, only to find that they are pretty okay after all. YAY!
- Spend hours editing them - and then - Share on Instagram!
So, that's basically my whole creative process :)
And if you've read this all the way to the end, you've probably realized that there are many hours and a lot of hard work and every single photo I share.
I'm not a photographer, nor are my photos always as good as I'd like. But I am learning, and I am enjoying the process. So I really hope you enjoy seeing them.
If you are looking for some useful information, I did highlight some tips for you in the text above. I hope it will be useful :)
And should you have any questions or comments, just let me know in the comments below. I am more than happy to answer.