Instructions on how to photograph the Northern Lights

Instructions on how to photograph the Northern Lights

This photo was selected as the most original photo. Taken by Tom Allen 28.01.14 This photograph was taken at Hotel Rangá in South Iceland

Now that the Northern lights season has started we wanted to share with you instructions on how to photograph these celestial phenomenons.
At Hotel Rangá we offer a wake up call for our guests so that they will not miss the lights if they show up – we recommend that you sign up for the wake up call.


1. If you request a wake up call when we see the lights, please mark your room number on the list in the lobby. (Please note that there is a new list every day).

2. When waiting for the northern lights you will receive a call from the reception or the night watchman, be prepared with your clothes and camera gear – it could happen while you are a sleep. If you get the call the best way is to respond quickly.

3. Dress in many warm layers as staying out in the middle of the night, standing still, your body will cool down quickly and you will want to give up.

4. Most often the lights are seen in the general direction of north. If you don‘t have a room with a balcony facing the north, please come out to the parking lot.

5. Have the camera ready, use your fastest wide angle lens, the ISO (ASA) number from 500-1600, F- stop wide open or largest and on a good tripod.

6. When exposing you will have to experiment with times from 5 seconds to half a minute.

7. Keep in mind the Auroras will come and go.  If they disappear they will probably reappear within 30-60 minutes. If not, they will show up later, most often when we are back in bed.


Checklist for the more serious amateur photographer when photographing the Northern Lights

Shoot in RAW format
Turn on Long Exposure Noise Reduction
Set LCD Brightness to low
Remove the filter from your lens
Pre focus your lens on infinity or use live-view with loupe
Test exposure, consult histogram
Have 2 batteries and 2 flash cards
Use a tall but sturdy tripod
Use a cable release (not a wireless one)
Check the aurora forecasts
Scout a location in daylight
Don’t breath on your viewfinder
Use your lens hood to protect against frost/condensation on your lens
While waiting for aurora, point your camera lens down to prevent frost gathering on the glass.
Have a luminex cleaning cloth accessible to clean frost from lens if needed
Put black tape over your red processing light under the wheel (for Canon users-your fellow photographers will like you)

Please note that if you forgot your tripod we have some in the reception.



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