Northern Lights... full moon photography
Replies: 9 - Last Post: Nov 23, 2012 12:51 PM Last Post By: urchin79
Nov 12, 2012 6:46 AM
Northern Lights... full moon photographyThis is a photography specific question, I know enough about the lights and have enough experience of them so no need for advice on how they can't be ordered to appear etc etc please. ;)
Do any of you photographers pay a lot of attention to moon cycles? What do you prefer? I'm tempted to go at time when there is more light so illuminate the foreground but then again it's nice to see them as strongly as possible in the very dark but don't know which is more beginner friendly to photograph with a camera that won't be top end one that costs thousands of pounds.. Camera not purchased yet, main aim is wildlife photography tbh and need to look into cameras more closely. Probably pay around £500.
Thanks for any advice :)
Nov 13, 2012 1:17 AM
1A full moon is about as bad for seeing the northern lights as suffering the light pollution of a large town. Only uncommonly strong NL displays can be seen when the full moon is in the sky.
There are lots of NL pictures on the web, and you will notice that the moon is absent in practically every one of them. There's a good reason for that.
Nov 13, 2012 2:39 AM
2Well, there is advantages and disadvantages of a full moon. The advantage being the foreground being lit properly as opposed to complete darkness under a new moon. So while new moon are best to distinguish aurora, if you're looking for some surreal and unique photos, having a full moon can actually help. Plus, you really want to be looking for strong aurora that's stronger than the moon light, not weak ones that can only been seen under new moon.
But the best best moon phase imo that balance both the advantage and disadvantage is crescent to 3/4 moon.
Nov 13, 2012 4:06 AM
Nov 13, 2012 5:45 AM
4The way things work, even a half moon in the sky is very serious light pollution, substantially prejudicing your ability to see regular NL displays. What is favourable about the time when the moon is in smaller phases is that it spends much more time below the horizon.
If you are deliberately aiming to photograph the NL with a moon in the sky, I hope you've got lots of time to wait for your photo op to turn up. Because you'll need a far rarer conjunction of circumstances to get your photo.
Yes, there are some wonderful photos of the NL with the moon in the sky to be found. But I bet they were rare and special occasions.
Nov 13, 2012 8:59 AM
5If you're new to photography you might want to start with the dark sky, i.e. new moon, and maybe try to time your visit as to arrive at what ever spot just before new moon, and stay on a while, until maybe 1/2 to 3/4 full?? Getting a decent photo of the Aurora with a dark sky is not so hard, but the more light from the moon you get the trickier it will be. Of course it depends on your photographic skills, the camera and sheer luck!!! If you haven't purchased your camera yet, make sure you get one that can manage photos in the dark, and I mean REALLY in the dark!!! In the old times this meant keeping the shutter open manually....... There's probably a digital equivalent to this;-), just make sure you get it. 500 pounds for a camera is not that much, so make sure you pick the really best one for your purpose!!!
I'm keen on photography myself, but have 'old-fashioned' cameras, (yes, analog!!) so can't really give advice about digital ones. The good thing about digital cameras is that you get immediate results and will know what to change for the next shot, not like me waiting for processing;-). Photography is so much fun - enjoy!!!!
Nov 13, 2012 9:53 AM
6I'll probably only have 2 weeks and literally the times I can go are either full moon right in middle or new moon in middle! Full moon will be late Feb/ earlyMarch and tbh I really wanted to go that month rather than the earlier time of Feb.
This was the reason why it got me thinking of attempting to get something in the foreground in the shot, maybe a hut. Lots of photos I have seen have this but obviously no idea how professional the photgraphers are. So, Iviehoff, the idea that the moon is practically absent in every photo you see online is not relevant. The aim is not to photograph the moon in the photo (I don't want it at all) but to get some light and many people try to use this to their advantage. You won't see anything in the foreground on a new moon. I don't have professional light equipment so i'd have to rely on the moon giving some when i'm out in the sticks ;)
I do wonder exactly what sort of camera + equipment i'd need and what is suitable for a beginner to get. All I know is i'd like to get into photography, I have a really good knack of getting good well composed interesting shots just with a point and shoot so i'd like to try and work on the quality of pictures too.
I also want to make the most of the solar max so if i'm gonna try it, might as well try it this year. Esp as my usual cravings for arctic trips has got a bit much!... actually it's not just arctic trips, it's the Nordics in general... I regularly buy polar bread (not the good Swedish make unfortunately) and rubbery cheese & Reindeer p!ss (Lapin Kulta/Norrlands guld) The staff in Ikea see me regularly and think i'm mad always in the resurant lol
Nov 13, 2012 1:26 PM
So, be ready to photograph the lights in a dark sky, because in a short window of opportunity, those will likely constitute most of the opportunities you will have.
In general, for daylight activities, you would of course be better off going late Feb/ early March rather than early feb, because the length of daylight is changing very rapidly at that time and 2 weeks later makes a very useful difference. But if you do go at a time with full moon in the middle, then when that full moon is in the sky, you will not see minor light displays. Are you willing to gamble on strong displays only? In the period of time leading up to the full moon, you will get some moon-free sky in the early morning. In the period after the full moon, you will get some moon-free sky in the evening. In practice, these moon-free times might be the best opportunity you have.
Nov 13, 2012 2:10 PM
8According to a couple of friends in Scotland, it has definately been much better this year than during other parts of the solar cycle. It's tapered off now (was good, relative to other years, in Sept) but then it does tend to doesn't it, with the spring being the next statistically good time.
Obviously NASA's predictions in May are of limited use to us unless we manage to see them at lower latitudes where we do get some nighttime! But i'd not loose hope in the fact that the best may very well be nearing the time they suggest. March has been said as a good month anyway and may be a very good bet in 2013.
I've only tended to be in higher latitudes in Feb, once in Jan (no real issues with less daylight hours but Jan was limiting activities in Finnish Lapland a bit) and had some good sightings (esp in Greenland even during solar min it was outrageous... we saw them when the sun had only just set faintly moving about then some very bright ones in evening but that's another matter, Kangerlussaq is one of the best places aparantly) so be good to visit in March. It's just literally a toss up...Feb new moon, March full moon! Or late March and get myself into trouble!
Nov 23, 2012 12:51 PM
9Well i've managed to sort out stuff in March and i'm going 3rd-19th (half in Russias arctic Kola and half in Inari area) with the new moon bang in the middle :D So i'll have other moon phases around this anyway, just not full on bright full moons! Flights booked, so unbelieveably excited about going up North again :)
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