The Northern Lights, or aurora borealis, are one of Earth’s most beautiful wonders. For someone who has never seen this in real life, how could we best describe this miracle? Let’s say they are… breathtaking, stunning, colourful, and so so impressive… a pure beauty you can hardly believe is real! But in fact, no words can properly describe the experience. You should see them once in your life! It’s always hard capturing them, as they require some weather conditions, good cameras and lenses, warm clothes and a whole lot of luck! Let’s give you some tips:
When is the best time to see The Northern Lights in Iceland?
The best time to see The Northern Lights in Iceland is between November and March as these are the darkest months of the year. Regarding the aurora activity, The Northern Lights are most active in March, April, September, and October and usually, between 11 pm and 1 am.
There are three things you need to keep in mind to have a chance of seeing the northern lights: darkness, clear skies and aurora activity. To check if there is enough aurora activity you need to check out this website, super-useful!
What kind of settings should I use to capture The Northern Lights?
Set your camera and lens to manual. If you leave it to automatic, your lense will continuously zoom in and out it will not find a focus in the dark.
Set your ISO between 800 and 3200. The higher the ISO, the more the sensor becomes sensitive to light. But beware; a high ISO causes more grain, noise pollution, and lower quality. We used both ISO 800 and ISO 1600 for the pictures below.
When taking photos in the dark, you want your lens to be as wide open as possible. Use the lowest f-number you can get up to a maximum of f/2.8, which is the ideal setting. But avoid going any lower than this or images can become noisy or grainy.
The lower shutter speed you can use, the quicker you can capture your shot which gives you more detail in your picture. Try a shutter speed between 5 and 25 seconds, but it will all depend on how quickly the lights are moving. If you have strong lights, use 5 seconds, if you have soft lights take the shutter speed up to 20 or 25 seconds.
You won’t get a great shot of the lights without a tripod. A tripod allows you to take clear photographs with longer exposure time and is especially effective when there is a lot of wind.
A good wide angle lens will allow you to cover as much of the sky as possible, more of the light show and will give that extra effect. We shoot with a Canon 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6.
Use remote control, it will make life easier and ensure your camera is stable.
And the last one…
Make sure you have a memory card with a lot of storage or bring a few memory cards with you. If you plan on editing your photos, you best shoot in RAW format. But RAW takes up a lot of memory space.
It’s as simple as that… Good luck!