Seeing the Northern Lights is a once in a lifetime experience for many people who come to Iceland. Capturing this special moment on camera isn’t easy though (except with the iPhone :-) )
You can find the Aurora forecast on the Icelandic weather site. This is no guarantee but gives you a good indication if something is going to happen:
Make sure to check your specific location or consider adjusting your travel plans to photograph the lights somewhere cool.
- First, you will need to find a place where there is little light pollution - meaning light from cities, cars etc. Sometimes, if the Aurora is strong you can photograph it in the city, but this is more the exception than the rule.
- You will need a tripod, preferable a sturdy one since it is often windy in Iceland. Tripod is essential since you will need to do a long exposure.
- Ideally you find a good composition and interesting foreground. Photos of the lights are nice but much cooler if you’ve got an interesting landscape in the shot.
- Camera (ideally full frame and photo that has little noise at higher ISO levels)
- Wide angle lens. For example 16-35mm equivalent or 24-70mm equivalent. If you’re more serious, you can get prime lenses such as 14mm, 20mm or 24mm fixed lenses.
- Remote shutter - alternatively set a 2 or 10 sec shutter to eliminate camera shake
- Setting the focus manually on the stars or on the landscape if you have an interesting foreground. You can also use a flashlight to illuminate your subject to get the focus just right.
- Long exposure settings. For example Aperture f/2.8, Shutter 4-6 sec, ISO 800. You might need a slower shutter or adjust the ISO a bit higher if needed. Try to take some sample shots once you’ve set yourself up to make sure you are ready for when the lights appear.
Here are a couple of cool spots to photograph the Northern Lights.
Check out my map to find more amazing spots to shoot.