As you move closer to the Earth’s magnetic poles, you may get the unique opportunity to marvel at the Northern Lights, a spectacle of Earth’s atmosphere colliding with charged particles from the sun which form dancing blankets of reds, purples and greens illuminating the still night sky — so naturally you’ll probably want a camera at the ready.
Whether it’s taking a picture of a particularly red moon, a selfie at a friend’s BBQ that has run long into the evening or a garden snap to convince your other half that it was definitely a badger and not a cat you saw, night pictures are notoriously troublesome.
If you decide to embark on our Iceland’s Northern Lights escorted tour or simply go it alone, we have put together some handy tips to give you the best chance of taking that Pulitzer-prize winning snap.
Location, Location, Location
Naturally, this spectacular phenomenon isn’t going to creep up on you during a cruise to the Bahamas or on safari at Kruger National Park, it is all about the where and when. Country-wise, your best bet is in Norway, Finland, Sweden, Canada, Iceland and even Scotland, during the winter months of November through to early March between latitudes 65 to 72 degrees. Crisp, clear and cold evenings are the best conditions for this cosmic display so when you venture out, wrap up!
Before You Set Off
So you’ve chosen your spot, now there are a number of precautions and aspects you need to consider. Following a check of the forecast, allow three days in which to locate the aurora borealis and hunt for your perfect picture. Secondly, as you will be wandering around the wilderness in complete darkness in freezing conditions, route planning is extremely important with the aid of maps and GPS equipment. Lastly do not go alone! There is a myriad of guides and excursion options at your disposable that are run by experts.
It may seem obvious, but in the midst of witnessing a cosmic show unfolding before your eyes, the last thing you want is to require more batteries and realise you’ve only packed plasters, spare socks and wine gums. As well as fully charged batteries, it’s also worth packing a basic first aid kit, a bottle of water, spare memory cards, snacks, a powerful torch, waterproof cases and a mobile phone with the country’s emergency number saved on it.
A number of camera accessories are also a must including a wide-angle lens to capture the enormity of the event and of course a tall, sturdy tripod to ensure your shots are not blurry. A remote shutter will also come in handy, so as to reduce any chance of camera shake.
Just before you head out, make sure you switch your camera to manual mode as you will need to have full control when achieving the best shots. Your light sensitivity (ISO) should be set between 200 and 800 so your images don’t appear grainy. Set your aperture between 1.4 and 4.0 which will allow as much light as possible into the camera’s sensor and your shutter speed needs to be slowed to 10–30 seconds to allow your camera to optimally process your images. Make sure your camera’s autofocus is switched off, instead set it to infinity, to allow it to focus on the distant landscape.
Finally, make sure you find some creative foreground objects to give the Northern Lights some perceptive. As beautiful as they are, showing them in relation to a forest or mountain creates ambience and really gives your photos dynamic layers.
Well that’s it, if you have taken any photos of the Northern Lights why not post them on our Facebook page – we’d love to see them www.facebook.com/mercuryholidays
Until then, happy snapping!
Now discover Iceland for yourself
Our popular Escorted Tour of Iceland which include all flights, accommodation, transfers and entry fees.
|Iceland’s Northern Lights||5 days||from £595pp|