We like to time our tours to correspond with space events, things like meteor showers, or peak nights for the Northern Lights. We always welcome cameras on our hikes and are happy to offer some astrophotography tips.
For this post, we are going to focus on how to photograph the aurora borealis, aka the northern lights. I am an aurora chaser, so almost every night of the winter I am outside, bundled up, and set up with my camera to photograph the aurora borealis over Kananaskis. I love the opportunity to help people take amazing photos of the night sky and have compiled some tips on taking photos of the aurora:
It’s not as hard as you may think to photograph the aurora, but there are a couple of things that you definitely need:
• Camera with manual settings
• Spare camera batteries (long exposures drain batteries. So does the cold)
• Wide angle lens. No zoom lens, although kit lenses will work.
• A clear view to the North/North-East
• Dark skies
• An Aurora forecasting app/website
• Lots of patience
Before going out, check the aurora forecast. A simple Google search will bring up lots of options for aurora forecasts and all will give you the same basic data: forecasted levels of geomagnetic activity and what the aurora is doing right now.
The best time to catch the aurora is when the sun is on the opposite side of the planet. This is why it’s easier to catch the aurora in the winter, there are more hours of true darkness. It’s still possible to catch the aurora in the summer, there is just a much smaller window for viewing. It also helps if there is no moon. A full moon cast so much light, that it will interfere with your ability to see the lights.
So now that you are set up in a dark area with a clear view of the skies, what do you do with your camera? Cleary shooting on auto isn’t going to cut.
There are so many ways to set your camera to catch the lights, and no one way is right or wrong, however, there are some basics to keep in mind.
Keep in mind composition: I like to make sure I have some earthly aspect in my photos of the night sky: a mountain or a tree line gives perspective. Once you have it down pat, start throwing in new challenges, like posing people, etc.
Good luck and be sure to tag all your Kananaskis adventure photos with #KOmtnLife for a chance to be featured on our social media!
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