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Thread: I finally did it - Northern Lights

  1. #1
    Member jmg's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    At the end of the cul-de-sac

    Default I finally did it - Northern Lights

    These are some of my first successful northern lights photo shoot after nearly eight years of trying. We got a call from some friends last night around 9:30 last night that they were out. When we opened our garage door to head out, they were right in front of us. We have never been able to see them from our house because of the city lights. We then headed to the hillside up above the city to get better views. We enjoyed a couple hours' worth of the lights moving all around us overhead, and some out over the city as well. We had several streaks and at times, the sky was completely green.

    After a couple of hours, we decided to head home. As we started down the hill, the lights were starting to come on strong, dancing overhead quite a bit. Since I kept pulling over to take more photos, we decided we should turn around and head back up the hill. When we turned around, there was an amazing show of lights behind us. We quickly found a driveway of a house that we were familiar with and knew nobody was living in (we almost bought it a couple years ago), got out, and started taking more photos. Most of the photos taken had exposure times of about 10-30 seconds. I've never taken any photos of these before and really had no idea how to do this. I ended up taking about 40 photos, and the attached three are the best we found. We are headed back out tonight, so there may be more coming.

    Pic #3 (bottom photo) is the very first picture I took last night. You can see the city out to the left.

    Pic #2 was taken probably an hour and a half into our viewing. The faint red to the bottom right of the photo are the city lights. Note to self in the future - when my buddy Cory gets in front of me to take pictures with his cell phone, he gets a swift kick from behind. Photoshop will obliterate him from view.

    Pic #1 (top photo) was taken when we turned around to go back up. This was the first time we saw colors other than green, as you can some purple mixed in. This was going off just as we got parked, so I was rushing to get this taken.

    Hope you enjoy. If you have any tips for better photos, please let me know.

    Never count your days, but rather, make all of your days count.

  2. #2
    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Eagle River, AK


    Nicely done! We enjoyed the show last night as well, though I've yet to break out the camera. Last night was particularly cool, as it Silas' first time seeing the northern lights. My wife woke him up around 11:30 and we watched them together for about 20 minutes. Good stuff.

  3. #3
    Moderator LuJon's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Palmer, AK


    I heard on the news they were out, grabbed the camera and went outside... Nothin! Oh well, turns out the camera battery was dead anyway.
    Last edited by LuJon; 03-09-2012 at 10:44.

  4. #4
    New member
    Join Date
    Sep 2010


    Try different ISO settings. Not sure what you are shooting with but I had the best results with f-stop as low as your lens will allow, 400-800 ISO, anything higher picks up a lot of noise, and I vary exposures from 15-30 depending on light intensity, with best results so far coming from 20 sec exposures at 800 ISO.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2006


    You did a very good job. The colors are nice and rich, specially the green.

    You can take the bright spot out of photo#2 with PhotoShop. Your exposure times seem to be OK (continue that). Shoot RAW, and remove unwanted spots with Camera Raw.

    I use a very wide angle lens around 11mm, aperture around f/2.8, for around 11-15 seconds. Sometimes I close the lens to around f/4 and kick the ISO to around 600. Noise can be easily taken out without image degradation with CS5, or with one of the numerous plugins for CS5 (I use Neat Image).


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