Reminiscing the Northern Lights

Being close to the arctic circle, Sweden is one of the best places to get visuals of the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis). But as Stockholm is not in the very much northern part of Sweden, it’s kind of difficult to catch a sight of Northern Lights; within past two months, I missed more than 5 chances to see the northern lights because of the cloudy sky.

March is said to be one of the best months to sight Northern Lights, as after April, there won’t be many dark hours. However, I had my first visuals of the green skies back in October, and luckily I had enough time to find a place to set up my camera before the visuals occurred again.

Here are some pictures:

We saw this from the window of our apartment and then rushed straight to the forest nearby to get a better view.

We saw this from the window of our apartment and then rushed straight to the nearby forest to get a better view.

And here are some of the pictures that I captured in the forest.

Aurora2

Aurora3

Dancing Auroras over Kista

Dancing Auroras over Kista

Illuminated forest

Illuminated forest

How to capture Northern Lights

Now, there is a probability of sighting Aurora this month, I thought of sharing some tips from a photographers’ point of view.

How to know that an aurora show is happening

On Facebook, keep a track of this Page, they post aurora alerts: Aurora Service Europe

You can also download any Aurora alerts app on your phone, I use this one: Northern Eye Aurora Forecast

Just remember, that for KP level for getting a good sight of northern lights in Stockholm is 6 or more. Read this blog from Satu for more details about the KP levels and their relation with Northern lights.

What are recommended equipment

  1. A good camera: It’s recommended to have a DSLR camera, but any camera with manual controls gives you good chances to capture the Northern Lights.
  2. Wide and fast lens: If you’re carrying a DSLR, the choice of lens also matters a lot, it’s recommended to carry a lens with smaller focal length, all the above images were captured at 18mm of focal length. Also, it’s better if you have a lens with a wider aperture.
  3. Tripod Stand: As we have to capture the aurora activity in long exposures, tri-pods are a must to get sharper images.
  4. Remote Shutter: This is one of the basics of long exposure photography, having remote shutter release lowers the chances of getting pictures blurred. Although if you don’t have it, using the timers helps considerably.
  5. Dress well: This is obvious, you’d be out at night and sometimes we have to wait a lot, so it’s always better to dress wisely to avoid falling sick.

A small guide for shooting:

  • Use Bulb Mode if you want really long exposure, if the exposure is under 30 seconds, use Aperture Priority mode.
  • Set your lens f/stop at its largest opening (f/2.8 or larger)
  • In Aperture Priority mode, a slight overexposure tends to be helpful, mostly +1 to +1-1/2 of a stop.
  • Using Bulb mode: If your exposure exceeds the in-camera timer of 30 seconds, Plug in your shutter release and switch your camera to Bulb mode, if you have an intervalometer that’s a big positive. Your exposure will continue as long as you hold the release button down.

Happy Aurora Watching. If you’re curious how they look from space, that’s what I found on the internet:Aurora6