Back in episode 59 of the Q&A, I explained a technique for photographing the northern lights, and while the technique definitely works, community member branislavpetkovic pointed out that that may not be the best way to approach photographing them depending on the type of photo you want.
So I decided to share branislavpetkovic’s tips with you! Here’s what branislavpetkovic had to say:
This is a good advice for astrophotography, milkyway, etc but not exactly the best way to photograph northern lights. In case of astrophotography, stars are not moving and you can have very long exposures as long as you have wide enough focal length (or astrotracer) to compensate earth rotation and off course in case if you don’t want star trails. Setup for northern light is a little bit different because northern light is moving and if you set longer exposures in 15-30s range it will be like a smeared green blob and it won’t be pretty as it really looks. So you need shorter exposures between 1s and 4s. Northern light is relatively bright on a dark sky but because of much shorter exposures you’ll also need higher ISO, usually in 1600-6400 range depending on intensity of light. I’m afraid that SX30 can’t take acceptable quality photos in that ISO range.
Unlike stars, you can get decent shot of northern lights from urban area if the intensity of light is high. I have taken photos of polar light from an urban area with full moon shining on a sky. You can even take a photo of northern light during the day but weather conditions must be very specific.
TIP for taking a photos in urban light poluted area of Northern Lights: use your GND filter upside down to darken lower part of the image where the city lights are. It won’t resolve light polution of the night sky but at least your urban foreground won’t take too much attention from northern light.
Your camera is an amazing tool, but it’s no good to you if you don’t know how to use it!
If you want to take control of your camera and use it to take amazing photos like a pro, check out my Guide to Shooting in Manual Mode video course.