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Thread: Night shooting - Northern Lights

  1. #1
    Adrian's Avatar
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    Night shooting - Northern Lights

    I have hunted around the web for tips but thought I would ask here as someone is bound to have done this:

    In early March we are visiting Finland for a week, primarily hoping to see the Northern Lights. I have zero experience of night photography or the long exposures needed for this event.

    We are taking a 5DIII as main body and 40D back up. 5D was purchased recently with 24-105L though I am happy to buy another lens specifically for this trip if need be. Wide angle seems to be favoured by many. We have a 3 legged thing Eddie tripod with Ball head, and an electronic remote release for the camera. Ample spare batteries to deal with low temperatures and I am used to condensation issues, so not worried about that.

    Obviously I will do some night sky practice in advance, but I am wondering if anyone has any advice for 5DIII set up for this job: both stills and video. There is a lot of conflicting advice on the internet about ISO, exposure, aperture (lots of conflict here) and optimum exposure lengths, use of live view etc. We may not get many chances to get it right so I would very much welcome input from those with experience.

    This will be the first big test for the 5DIII (with us) and the 3LT tripod, so I will report back on our experiences. We need to travel fairly light as a fair bit of night trekking is involved and it will be pretty cold.

  2. #2
    Boatman's Avatar
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    Re: Night shooting - Northern Lights

    Try poking around www.spaceweather.com and http://spaceweather.com/gallery/inde...al83tgn3serbv1. A lot of the photographs list what their settings were for the image and I think there are some how-to's linked, but I'm not sure of the exact sites.

  3. #3
    rpcrowe's Avatar
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    Re: Night shooting - Northern Lights

    Being a Southern California guy, I have never shot, nor even viewed the Northern Lights.

    I have, however seen a lot of pictures of that wonderful sight. The pictures that I like the best show some foreground in relationship to the lights. The same as showing some foreground makes a better fireworks image than just showing the sky and fireworks alone...

  4. #4
    dje's Avatar
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    Re: Night shooting - Northern Lights

    Adrian I can't provide any specific advice on this but it so happens that I stumbled across some wonderful Northern Lights images on PBase the other day. You can see them here. Exif info is available. Most of these images are helped by an interesting foreground as per Richard's observation.

    Dave

  5. #5

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    Re: Night shooting - Northern Lights

    Adrian - no specific info but could you update your location so that if we discuss cold weather one will know what your normal living environment is. Someone in Mali will need more specific advice then someone in North Bay for example.

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    Re: Night shooting - Northern Lights

    Adrian: try ISO 1600, f/2.8 @ 20 seconds to start, will need tripod, cable release and timer if longer than 30 seconds.

    Cheers:

    Allan

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    Re: Night shooting - Northern Lights

    You might want to consider this ebook about doing night photography: http://harvestinglight.net/seeing-the-unseen/ I haven't downloaded it but I did meet its author and saw his pictures of the Northern Lights that he took in Iceland while I was sleeping 10 minutes away. He is very accomplished and has made a specialty of doing night photography.

  8. #8
    Adrian's Avatar
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    Re: Night shooting - Northern Lights

    Thanks for the tips and links.

    I have been a member here for 5 years (I post rarely) and never noticed my profile was incomplete! Now amended. I am based in the UK and Germany. The reference to conditions in my original post was because we are used to doing tropical trips where the environment is typically humid and hot and condensation on glass etc is an issue when going into a cool air conditioned environment. Obviously Finland for the northern lights trip will be the same issue in reverse, so we will use sealed plastic travel bags. We are expecting night temperatures of around minus 15 centigrade.

    As per the original post we have a sturdy pro level travel tripod and a remote electric wireless release for the 5DIII which also has switchable 2 second delay to deal with mirror shake.

    I am aware of the advantages of having some foreground in the shots as it adds perspective and scale. It has been recommended that we try shooting across a lake view. Typically when I read about shooting the moon (which I know is different) the recommendation is ISO 100 and aperture around f8. In any case f2.8 is not available on the 24-105L glass. We may however, get a faster lens if there is a clear benefit for this trip and ongoing.

    Adrian

  9. #9

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    Re: Night shooting - Northern Lights

    If it's important to you to have a faster lens, consider renting one.

  10. #10
    rpcrowe's Avatar
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    Re: Night shooting - Northern Lights

    Mike,
    Ebooks can often provide wonderful knowledge at a very low price. My library also has a selection of eBooks available to download (I haven't seen any photo titles though).

    I downloaded two Photoshop CS6 instructional books at quite a bargain over the hard copy prices. I read them either on my computer or on my Vizio Android Tablet...

  11. #11

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    Re: Night shooting - Northern Lights

    Adrain: the moon and the northern lights / stars are very different. One of the members of our club travels the world shooting ellicpes and stars and such. Always lets us know if a possible northern lights display is on. He states as above eailer post, ISO 1600, 20 seconds and the widest opening you can use and go from there.

    Cheers:

    Allan

  12. #12
    Moderator Dave Humphries's Avatar
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    Re: Night shooting - Northern Lights

    There is a lot of conflicting advice on the internet about ISO, exposure, aperture (lots of conflict here)
    Let me first say I have not tried this.

    If I was going shoot a night scene with a foreground object, I would choose an aperture to suit the necessary DoF required for both the foreground object and anything in the distance to be sharp.

    The stars, moon and (I guess) the northern lights, are, to all intents and purposes, at infinity.

    Beyond that, all I have learnt is that the northern lights are quite dim!

    Cheers,
    Last edited by Dave Humphries; 18th January 2013 at 10:59 PM.

  13. #13
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    Re: Night shooting - Northern Lights

    Here's another link someone posted not that long ago on night photography
    http://www.ukclimbing.com/articles/page.php?id=5133

  14. #14
    Adrian's Avatar
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    Re: Night shooting - Northern Lights

    That is a really helpful video link Patrick. Conveys a lot of knowledge. Thanks. Adrian

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    Re: Night shooting - Northern Lights

    Adrian, Sounds like a great adventure. The Northern Lights are so surreal - I'd love to capture them myself on film. There's tons of info on capturing them here:

    http://digital-photography-school.co...imelapse-video

    Good luck, and please post some pics or videos when you return.

    Toby

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