The Northern Lights is one of the most elusive and spectacular natural phenomenons this earth has to offer. Their elusiveness makes witnessing the Northern Lights extra special, but it also means it will take a little bit of planning to give you the best chance to see them. I was lucky enough to see them myself in Northern Norway in September of 2017. Now, I’m here to help give you all of the tips and tricks of witnessing this beauty for yourself.
Top Tips for Witnessing The Northern Lights
» The most important factor in witnessing the Northern Lights is location. Find a destination where seeing the Northern Lights is possible. Some of the most popular locations include Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, Canada, Greenland, and Alaska. Make sure to head north!
» To have your best chance at seeing the Northern Lights, you need to go to one of these locations during certain months of the year. September through April are the months where there is the most likely chance to witness the lights, with the winter months, November through February, being the best months.
» Invest in a good camera with manual function, a mirrorless or DSLR camera will be best.
DSLR camera recommendation: Nikon D3300
» Download the app “Aurora” to find the best days and times of Northern Light activity. Some of my favorite features on the app include the aurora map, which shows a map of the earth that highlights where they are most active at that given time of the day. It also shows you the best locations right now and will show you the probability of seeing them at that location. Lastly, it also has a forecast section that shows the KP index of the upcoming week.
» The higher the KP index, the higher the chance of witnessing the Northern Lights. The KP index has to do with the earth’s magnetic field and I honestly do not understand it, so my only take away point about the KP index is this: the bigger the number, the better!
Okay, now that you are in the best location, during the best time of the year, with a great camera, a high KP index, and it isn’t a totally cloudy night… it’s time to get outside and hopefully see the Northern Lights. Part of their elusiveness is that all of these things can come together, but you still won’t see the Northern Lights. So, I recommend spending at least three days trying to chase the Northern Lights for the best chance of seeing them. The second that you see them, you will realize that all of this planning is worth every second of this magical moment.
Now it’s time to photograph the Northern Lights…
Camera Settings to Capture the Northern Lights:
» Recommended Aperture: f/2.8
» Maximum aperture: f/5.6
» ISO 800-3200 depending on conditions
» Set your focus to infinity if you are shooting the sky
» Focus on the subject if you are shooting someone or something
» Leave the lens open for 10-20 seconds per shot
Tips for Capturing the Northern Lights:
» Set up your tripod and camera, I recommend a heavy duty one that won’t be knocked over easily if it is windy
Recommended tripod: Zomei Compact Light Weight Tripod
» Use a wide lens to capture more of the lights and make sure the lens has the recommended aperture of f/2.8
» Put your camera into full manual mode (a scary thing for someone who usually shoots on auto)
» Make sure to shoot on the cameras timer or use a remote
» Last, but not least, dress warm out there…it’s extra cold when the sun goes down!
It’s time to start shooting those amazing Northern Lights!
Seeing the Northern Lights is one of the most spectacular natural phenomenons I have ever witnessed…
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