Posts Tagged ‘Aurora’

How to Photograph an Aurora

June 17, 2009

“Auroral Explosion”
© Copyright Ben Hattenbach

Auroras make for stunning photographs. I imagine that auroras are even more incredible when viewed in person. But what’s the best way to photograph auroras? Ben Hattenbach wrote a detailed article on The Luminous Landscape website that describes how he photographed the Aurora Borealis during “nine chilly nights” in the Alaska wilderness.

He also has some good anecdotes about how his photography equipment fared in the freezing cold: “On this trip to Alaska, the nighttime temperatures in the mountains I was exploring normally ranged between -20 oF (-29 oC) and -40 oF (-40 oC), conditions that the locals dismissed as mere ‘t-shirt weather.’”

I recommend you read the entire article for all the details, but here’s a quick summary:

Where in Alaska Can One Find an Aurora? Destination: Fairbanks. Ben Hattenbach describes three different locations within about 60 miles of the city, with Clearly Summit along the Steese Highway being only 20 miles from town.

When is the Aurora Best Viewed? Late February and March when the Alaskan skies are the most clear, and between midnight and 2am when the aurorae are most intense.

What’s the Best Way to Photograph the Aurora? Ben Hattenbach explains: “Capture the aurora’s lines and structure, together with some landscape for context.” A sturdy tripod is a must. A fast wide-angle lens is optimal, on a DSLR that produces photos at high ISOs with little or no noise. His suggestions for camera settings include:

  • Manually prefocus at infinity.
  • Use the largest lens aperture available, preferably f2.8 or below.
  • Choose the highest ISO with which your camera will provide reasonably good quality photos.
  • Set your exposure time manually and keep it as short as possible.

Read Ben Hattenbach’s article for more details and more amazing aurora photos.

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