Northern lights trip

There are many who have the dream of getting to experience Northern lights, Aurora Borealis, to get to be blown away by this incredible light show in the sky. It’s even number one many bucket lists. Iceland has for years been a big Northern lights destination and no wonder, we often get to see it here. One of the reasons Iceland being ideal is the small amount of light pollution we have here. One only needs do drive a short distance outside any town or village in Iceland in your rental car to lessen the negative effects of light pollution while watching the Northern lights. Below is a time lapse video of  Northern lights.
As for most people, taking pictures of your vacation is a must and you probably want to take pictures of Northern lights too.  So, can you just point your camera/phone to the sky and shoot away? Well, you could but chances are you will be disappointed. To help you out to achieve the results you want of Aurora Borealis, we compiled a list of a few things to think about.

Equipment for shooting Aurora Borealis

To be honest, you will need a DSLR camera and a tripod to get satisfying pics. A remote for the camera would be brilliant too but the built in timer will do well too. The reason being when you hit that button, the camera will move slightly and we don’t want that with long exposures.
You need a lens that is wide and bright, like a 20mm and with an F stop of 2.8 or under. Northern lights are much darker than you perceive them while you look at them so you want the camera to gather as much light as possible.
Shooting Northern lights is little like shooting a waterfall, the longer the camera is open, the blurrier the lights will become. Northern lights is not stationary , it moves around, sometime at great speed, like a waterfall. So when taking shots, have your camera at its lowest f stop and the ISO as high as you can without the pictures becoming grainy (i.e. too much noise). Experiment with ISO number between 800 to 1600. Most people wants the shots to be crispy and clear.
If your camera has the possibility (most have), take the pictures in RAW instead of jpeg. Not only do you have a bigger range of light to work with afterwards if you are into that but it also allows you to have a much better control of the white balance.
So you are all setup, eagerly anticipating to shoot but what to focus on? Well, start by setting the lens and the camera on manual focus and just set the focus where you want it, may it be the stars, the moon, a skyline or a tree line. If you don’t have a live view, you might find it hard to use the view finder to focus with in the dark but that is easily overcome by turning the focus to infinity. Take a few test shots of starts, like a second long or so and see if you are happy with the results. Also try to turn the focus just a touch away from the infinity setting and look at the result. When you are happy with the focus, you only have to set the time. Start off with 10 seconds and see what happens, you might want to adjust it to your liking. A good white balance number to start with is around 4000k and adjust after your liking.
Photographing Aurora Borealis in Iceland
Photographing Northern lights in Iceland has one consideration. It’s usually very cold, might even be very windy so a rental car is the best way to go for then you have shelter and means of transporting your gear, also, you also have the possibility to use your car to shield and stabilize your tripod from the possible winds. One thing to have in mind is that do not take the camera in and out of the rental car for you will create condensation on your lens. When you have taken it outside, keep it outside until you are done with your photo session.

Extra equipment

Dress well. Proper thermal underwear and dress in layers. Get yourself a pair of Icelandic woolen socks (they are really good) and something on your head too. If you have the possibility, bring something warm to drink too and something to eat for you will burn a lot of calories being out in the cold.
Like mentioned before, wherever you are driving in Iceland, you only need to drive a few miles to get out of any light pollution. If you are in Reykjavik, we recommend you take road nr:1 to Selfoss, as soon as you have left Reykjavik, take any side road (make sure the road has been cleared so you don’t have to drive in thick snow and park when you find a suitable place and if you are lucky, there will be Northern lights dancing above your head. Please note that the appearance of Northern lights is never a guarantee and you might have to repeat this trip a few times. You can also keep your eye on the Aurora Forecast supplied by the Icelandic Met office.
Happy shooting!  #GoIceland
PS: If you get some pics you are happy with, please feel free to share them on out Facebook wall!