Photographing the aurora and NLC

Photographing the Aurora and Noctilucent Cloud

The Aurora

To photograph the aurora you need 3 things, a tripod, a digital camera and a bit of patience.

Remember when you are setting up it will be dark, so familiarise yourself with your equipment and make sure the camera is fully charged. Levelling the tripod in the dark can be an interesting experience but is manageable with practice.

You will normally need a long exposure so use of the “manual” setting on the camera will be needed. Most cameras with auto focus will not handle the aurora, so you will have to select manual focus on the lens and use street lights or even bright stars to focus on. With my camera the lens becomes very slack when you do this so a regular check of the focus is essential. Use a high ISO setting(I use 1600) and take as many shots with different exposures as possible. Weak aurora may require 20 seconds or more, while strong aurora can be as low as a second. Have a look on your screen after each shot and adjust accordingly. Once you have got a good exposure, try turning the camera without changing its vertical angle. This way you can create a panorama by taking overlapping shots along the horizon.

Noctilucent Cloud

You need the same 3 things but it’s a lot easier since NLC are reflecting sunlight and therefore are a much brighter target. Exposure times are around the 1 sec mark and sometimes auto focus will work so experiment with lots of different settings.

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