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Tromsø in Northern Norway is one of the best places on earth to see the northern lights Photo: Ole C. Salomonsen/arcticlightphoto.no – visitnorway.com
Photo: Ole C. Salomonsen/arcticlightphoto.no – visitnorway.com
Photo: Sven-Erik Knoff
Northern lights performing a dance of inspiration above Kautokeino in Northern Norway. Photo: Terje Rakke/Nordic Life/www.visitnorway.com
Enjoy the crisp sea air and the magnificant show of the northern lights from the deck of one of Hurtigruten's (The Norwegian Coastal Voyage) ships Photo: M. Horender
Photo: Øystein Lunde Ingvaldsen/www.nordnorge.com/Bø
Go on a cruise with Hurtigruten (The Norwegian Coastal Voyage) during late autumn or winter/early spring - you might see the splendid northern lights. Photo: Ivan Mervillie
Northern lights, also known as aurora borealis, dancing in the clear night sky above the fishing village of Ersfjord in the county of Troms. Photo: Bjørn Jørgensen/Innovation Norway
Photo: Stockshots.no/Innovation Norway

How to Take Photos of the Northern Lights

Here are some good tips to help you take good photographs of the northern lights on your next trip to Norway.

The northern lights can be an awe-inspiring view, so nothing is more natural than wishing to photograph it. Here's how to do that, but don't forget that there are many ways to enjoy the northern lights, not just through photography.

Learn more about the northern lights with this infographic.

Equipment

You don't really need much gear to photograph the northern lights, but there are some things you simply cannot do without:

  • Camera: A camera with interchangeable lenses will be best, but in principle any camera can be used. The bigger the imaging chip in it, the less grainy the pictures will be.
  • Lens: A wide-angle lens is best, preferably with a focal length between 10 and 24 mm and a maximum aperture of f/2.8 (but f/3.5 will do at a pinch). Manual focus adjustment is a must.
  • Sturdy tripod: To avoid blurring of the picture from camera movement. A good head which allows independent adjustment of each axis will be best. If your tripod is unstable, try hanging something heavy from the centre column.
  • Remote trigger: A cable release fitting your camera will be invaluable in reducing the vibration. It can be used in addition to or instead of the trigger delay timer, built into most cameras today. If you don't have a remote trigger, use the the trigger delay instead.
  • Memory cards: Always bring extra memory cards, if you can. A faulty card can completely ruin an otherwise excellent trip.
  • Spare batteries: The cold drains batteries very quickly, so remember to bring fully charged spares and keep them in your pocket, close to your body, until you need them.

Install the Norway Lights app for Android and iPhone to find out when and where to see the northern lights.

How to shoot the northern lights

Here are some things to keep in mind when shooting the northern lights:

  • Deactivate the camera flash and automatic settings.
  • Always shoot RAW format - it will give you the most data to work with later. Feel free to shot JPG at the same time, though, if your camera suppoerts it. Most do.
  • Focus manually to infinity. Switch off the camera's autofocus to be on the safe side.
  • Open up the lens aperture. You need to admit a lot of light, so shoot wide open. This will be when the f-number is as low as possible, i.e. f/2.8 or lower for many pro-lenses, or f/3.5 or f/4 for many consumer zooms.
  • Compose your shot. Remember that the northern lights need scale and context, so include the foreground in your shot. This can be a tree, a building, a car or even just the horizon.
  • Set the ISO to somewhere between 100 and 400, depending on what you need. The faster your lens and the longer your shutter speed, the lower your ISO can be, and vice versa.
  • Start with a shutter speed between 4 and 12 seconds, and experiment from there. Avoid longer shutter speeds, as they will tend to blur the northerns lights as they move across the sky. Adjust ISO and/or aperture if neccessary.
  • Keep the camera as still as possible while you are exposing. Use a tripod and a remote trigger if you have one, and the trigger delay function if you do not. Do not touch the camera until it is done exposing, and shield it from the wind if you can.

Keep in mind that you do not need complete darkness to see and photograph the northern lights. In fact, a certain glow over the horizon might add that special something to your pictures, so try to be ready to catch the magical light that can occur from an hour before sunset to an hour after. A full or partially full moon may also add a certain ghostly glow to your pictures. The key is to experiment and make the most of what you have available.

Learn when and where to find the northern lights.

Good luck

Viewing the northern lights can be a fantastic experience, but with a good photograph that you took yourself, you can share some of the experience with your family and friends. Best of luck making your own awesome souvenir from Norway.

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Last updated:  2014-01-03
When shooting the northern lights, take care to include some foreground to give the picture depth - Photo: Gaute Bruvik/www.nordnorge.com/Karlsøy
When shooting the northern lights, take care to include some foreground to give the picture depth
The northern lights in Kautokeino, Finnmark, Norway - Photo: Terje Rakke/Nordic Life/www.visitnorway.com
The northern lights in Kautokeino, Finnmark, Norway
Northern Lights over Tromsø, Troms, Northern Norway - Photo: Innovation Norway
Northern Lights over Tromsø, Troms, Northern Norway

Interest:  Nature attractions, The northern lights

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Tromsø in Northern Norway is one of the best places on earth to see the northern lights - Photo: Ole C. Salomonsen/arcticlightphoto.no – visitnorway.com

How to Take Photos of the Northern Lights

Here are some good tips to help you take good photographs of the northern lights on your next trip to Norway.

How to Take Photos of the Northern Lights

Source: Visitnorway

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