By Photographer Patrick J. Endres
Please give attribution when referencing this article. Updated 12/11/2009
Common green color caused by oxygen gasses. Brooks mountain range, Alaska. © Patrick J. Endres
For many, just to view the aurora borealis (or northern lights) is an exciting thought. And to capture them with a camera is both thrilling and awe inspiring.
Before the advent of the digital camera, photographing the aurora with slide film was complicated and often involved a good deal of experimenting. With today's average digital SLR and a good lens, you are very likely to get some very satisfactory images.
This article is intended to give you some necessary information to maximize your aurora photography. While much of what is written below is general in nature and applies to most all digital cameras, the many, many brands and models have their own uniqueness. I will focus on Canon digital SLR's, since that is what i shoot. It is divided into four basic sections with a few miscellaneous details:
- WHERE AND WHEN TO VIEW THE AURORA
- HOW TO DRESS - WHAT TO WEAR
- CAMERA AND OTHER GEAR
- EXPOSURE - HISTOGRAMS - FILE TYPE
To learn more about the science of the aurora borealis visit wikipedia. A book by Dr. Syun-Ichi Akasofu in collaboration with Jack Finch and Jan Curtis, The Northern Lights Secrets of the Aurora Borealis, is an excellent resource. So is Northern Lights: The Science, Myth, and Wonder of Aurora Borealis with excellent photographs by my friend, colleague and maniacal aurora photographer Calvin Hall.