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Thread: Recommendation for shooting Northern Lights

  1. #1

    Recommendation for shooting Northern Lights

    Hi All
    Im looking for some advice. I have never owned an DSLR and am looking into which camera would be best to get with a specific trip in mind. My friend has very kindly given me a voucher for some photography lessons which I am due to take towards the end of this year (for the autumn / winter light) as I am due to go to see the Northern Lights in February 2012.

    I can put the hours in for training and learning how to use the camera but I wondered if you had a suggestion on which ones would be suitable for a.) a novice and b.) the trip in mind?

    Any advice would be great!

  2. #2
    FrankMi's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Fort Mill, South Carolina, USA
    Real Name
    Frank Miller

    Re: Recommendation for shooting Northern Lights

    Hi Laserboo and welcome to CiC! As with any purchase, the first questions to ask yourself are along the lines of:

    What is your budget?

    Is the camera for this trip only or is the trip just the starting point?

    How long do you plan to be a novice?

    Does the camera need to be able to satisfy your improving skills or is it just for starting out and will be replaced with a better one as your skills and knowledge improves?

    What kind of photography do you plan to shoot? Night shots like the Northern Lights? Landscapes? Portraiture? Archetectual? Wildlife? Close-up of flowers and insects? All of the above?

    Answers to questions like these can help you narrow your search and also help us to guide you in the right direction.

    By the way, could you update your profile with your name and location? We can be more friendly if we are on a first name basis!

  3. #3
    The Blue Boy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Real Name
    Mark Fleming

    Re: Recommendation for shooting Northern Lights

    Hi laserboo, welcome to CiC from me too.

    Well, you've picked a real humdinger for starting off and that's no mistake. Frank's covered the main points for choosing a camera so I won't rehash. I'll just add that you'll also need a sturdy tripod as well so that should also be considered into your budget.

    Here's a link to a very interesting (maybe a bit technical for a novice, sorry! ) article on the subject,

    How to photograph the northern lights.

  4. #4
    tbob's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Dawson Creek British Columbia Canada
    Real Name
    Trevor Reeves

    Re: Recommendation for shooting Northern Lights

    You will need a camera capable of being set to open the shutter with a push of a cable release and close it again when the release is "released". This is usually denoted by a B setting on the camera. You need to have long exposure, 18 to 30 seconds,even at wide open apertures and longer if you are trying to get foreground buildings or trees in focus as well because you will need to be using a smaller aperture. Some cameras will allow you to set time for shutter speed for this long: pretty expensive units usually.

    A good solid tripod is essential

    I don't know where you are; however the northern lights are usually best seen on very cold clear nights. Be very aware that the viewing screen on the camera will be slow and balky at low temps and that things become brittle and break below minus 35 degrees Celsius. Your camera will not be happy when used at these temperatures.

    Also remember that a camera at minus 10 or lower will collect a lot of condensation if brought into a warm house. A car is usually alright because the relative humidity will be very low (unless you have been sitting in it with the heater running; drinking coffee and wearing your snow covered boots trying not to die of hypothermia). My usual tactic is to carry the camera under a down parka so it stays reasonably warm, then quickly set it up on the tripod and shoot ; then back under the parka. The camera then sits in my garage when I get home (like most garages my car is never parked in it so it is dry and kept at 2 to 3 degrees celsius) and left over night to slowly warm and dry out

    Good luck

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