Written by ROBERT ANNIS
Seeing the northern lights can be one of the greatest thrills in nature. But capturing the elusive aurora borealis on camera can be a bit tricky, unless you you’re a skilled photographer.
Here are some of the photography basics you should know before you set off on your aurora adventure.
When planning a northern lights trip, timing and location will be key. Most importantly, you’ll want to earmark as many days as possible for the trip.
On my most recent visit to Fairbanks, Alaska, I met a couple who had been chasing the northern lights for four nights, only to come up empty handed. (Luckily, they saw the aurora on the flight home!)
“Nature doesn’t work on anyone’s schedule,” said Eddy Savage, a guide for Natural Habitat Adventures who leads several northern lights photography trips in Churchill, Canada.
“It doesn’t just show up when it’s convenient for you. You need to devote the time.”
Photo guide Nicholas Wagner, based in Coldfoot, Alaska, suggests timing your trip with a half- or one-quarter moon, as the reduced moon will help light your foreground without overwhelming the aurora.
Picking a location within the so-called Aurora Oval gives you the best chance of seeing the lights, significantly more than someone many miles to the south.
January through March is typically the best time to go; because it’s a dry, bitter cold, there are fewer clouds to interfere with viewing the aurora.
But be sure to bundle up; temperatures routinely drop below -30°F (-34°C) that far north.
You’ll also need to decide whether to plan your aurora adventure alone or rely on an outfitter. If you’re new to an area or have a limited amount of time, a guide service is invaluable.
Not only will they take care of logistics, but guides can also give hands-on instruction, helping you to get the most out of your time.
If you decide to go solo, you’ll need to scout your own locations, preferably far away from light pollution from the nearest city.