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Old 21-07-2008, 23:07   #1 (permalink)
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Nothern Lights how to ?

We are going to the Yukon in Northern Canada (Dempster Hwy )end of August, beginning of Sept, and if we are really lucky we might get to see the Northern Lights as we understand that they are easier to see with a new moon, which will be the phase at the end of August. Does anyone know how to best get photos of the northern lights? I have a D70 Nikon which has a remote so that I can do time exposures, how long would I require, and at what f stop ? or could I get photos by just setting up with a tripod and shooting ? Thanks for any advice ! We are going ,hoping to get photos of the fall colors which are supposed to be at their peak during the last week in August, and first week in Sept. I have seen beautiful shots on the net of the Dempster Hwy in the fall, and hope to be lucky enough to get some photos of my own, have any of you ever been there ? when did you go, and what should we expect ? Are the bugs finished by that time ? Hope so !!
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Old 22-07-2008, 00:05   #2 (permalink)
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Re: Nothern Lights how to ?

The only time I've seen the Aurora Borealis was in Iceland in late August, many, many years ago , and I didn't try for a photo because the display wasn't very strong.

An absence of moonlight will certainly help, but I really can't suggest any camera settings.

Maybe this is one occasion where you just enjoy and marvel at nature's lightshow, without thinking that you have to record it. The colours and patterns change constantly, so a long exposure would just give a blur. Since these changing patterns are really the most striking feature, perhaps a video camera would be better.
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Old 22-07-2008, 07:13   #3 (permalink)
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Re: Nothern Lights how to ?

Me and my friends specialize in northern lights photography.

Your worst enemy will be the cold sucking your batteries dry - keep recharger's ready to go in the car and extra batteries heated in your pocket to keep the cold from leeching their efficiency.

ISO as low as you can go, keep a good tripod - don't move that camera that's the key.
Exposure (depending on the light and the length of the display ) - 15+ seconds
Aperture about 8
remote shutter if possible, very sturdy tripod - do not move that camera.
custom white balance to the scenery around you to get those natural greens.
spot meter for the sky because the lights will mess with the metering.

here's a couple of my northern lights' photos on flickr:
Flickr: Karl Johnston's Photostream


2nd page

August is the best time for photographing them aside from January through to about april. The displays are literally every single night and absolutely ... well you'll see. After you get above north of 60th lateral parallel the nights start getting longer around august and September. A good time to photograph them in December, i recall, is about 1-4 am when the darkness is at it's greatest. Should expect about +10 to -10 sort of temperatures by late august depending on the region of the yukon you go to (i'm in the NWT, it's brother to the east). Camera should work fine in that up until -40 celcius where your batteries are drained from maximum to empty in 5 minutes unless you keep them good and warm (hot water bottles on them help). The bu.gs are still around until late august or september

Make sure you post your results too ! I'd love to see what the d70 could do to them

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Old 22-07-2008, 11:21   #4 (permalink)
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Re: Nothern Lights how to ?

For the Aurora Borealis you have to be practical and keep one important point in mind: You can't get a photo of the northern lights with normal equipment so that is the starting point to remember.

There are thousands of pictures of AB but the fact is they are like the photos of waterfalls that we all know so well: long exposures and water all smoothed out. The amount of light available from AB is very low indeed and so you can only get a smooth representation of the moving aurora. With the amount of light available, even if you used a very high ISO (which will usually be so noisy it will ruin the shot) you would still not get a useable shutter speed, even with a very fast lens like an f1.2.

So, what is the best way to capture them? Well, frankly, you either have to go for one of the shots of the smooth moving AB which do indeed look very beautiful or if you want to show your friends something of what the AB is like, take a good video camera that has low-light capability (NOT IR) and capture the moving AB which is so spectacular to see.

There are thousands of photos available on the internet of AB and I love seeing them as AB is one of the great natural wonders of the world. If you have a very high quality video camera you could take a still from a video but remember that at normal video rate (29.7 frames per second for PAL) you'll still only get the equivalent of a photo taken at 1/30th of a second so it still won't be pin sharp.

I'm afraid, for some things the only real way to experience something is to be there. Even a good photo is often a very poor second best and that is definitely the case with AB. So enjoy the trip, every moment of it, and come back with the most precious thing you will ever have in life: MEMORIES

Cheers,
Rob
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Old 23-07-2008, 05:47   #5 (permalink)
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Re: Nothern Lights how to ?

Thanks Kajuah !, Silkstone, and thanks Rob, I will try my best to come home with something, but judging by what I can understand it won't be as easy as I had hoped !! Kajuah, I saw your site, and want to tell you, I loved the pics of the Pellicans !! I think though that Rob is right about how hard it is to get good photos of the AB, and I had not thought about the bitter cold ! Thanks for all the info, it is what I needed to know ! You guys are great !
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