We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

northern lights photography

Manchester, United...
Level Contributor
18 posts
Save Topic
northern lights photography

Hi, I'm going to Saariselka 18th Dec 2013. We're doing the Santa thing for the children during the day but it's my 40th also and I've always dreamed of photographing the Aurora.

I'm intending being out each evening with my camera, but, not knowing the area (and I could probably do with some photography tips) would anyone know of any local guides/photographers I could book to take me out to some of the best places to take photos of the Aurora. I know some of the local firms do 'aurora hunts' but I believe these are all early evening and not during better times for Aurora watching. As I said I could probably do with some help with actually taking the photographs also.

Any recommendations or advice would be really appreciated, failing that if anyone fancies meeting up to go out with cameras between 18th and 21st Dec let me know.

Thanks a lot.

Rovaniemi, Finland
Level Contributor
2,303 posts
Save Reply
1. Re: northern lights photography

Can't help on guides, but basic tips for shooting auroras.

First: Have a tripod. Second: Use manual control.

It is night shooting, but you don't want too long shutter speed, as you still wish stars to appear sharp and auroras not too blurry. Use wide angle, large aperture (small f-number) and a bit higher ISO number to compensate the shutter speed.

Depenging on camera, you might also need to switch to manual focus, as there's not much for the autofocus to focus on. But often focusing to infinity doesn't give good results, so take a step or two back. Experiment at home first shooting stars and sunsets.

Shoot raw if possible. Auto white balance can get pretty confused with snow and auroras, but if shooting raw you can fix that at home.

And the third important tip: Find a good location.

Edited: 15 August 2013, 22:50
Oulu, Finland
Destination Expert
for Helsinki, Oulu, Lapland
Level Contributor
3,869 posts
66 reviews
Save Reply
2. Re: northern lights photography

Google "shooting northern lights" and you'll get a wealth of info ;-) .

At least Top Safaris arrange tours/lessons for shooting the northern lights: …saariselka.fi/topsafaris/…northernlights

Manchester, United...
Level Contributor
18 posts
Save Reply
3. Re: northern lights photography

Thank you both.

Probably going to be a once in a lifetime (or certainly a long time anyway) trip and don't want to mess the photographs up, any ideas where a good place might be to go and set the camera up, ideally within walking range but I'll rent a car for a day if needs be.

Thanks for the link to Top Safaris, quite like the trip they offer but is 21.00hrs late enough?

Thanks again.

Rovaniemi, Finland
Level Contributor
2,303 posts
Save Reply
4. Re: northern lights photography

Place to set up your camera is Google and user manual. So quite near... :) No one can set up the camera beforehand, it all depends on conditions. Auroras can be faint or bright, they can move really slow or dance around and switch places in seconds, they can be low above the horizon or right above your head.

So go ahead and learn to use your camera. Setting up your camera is the easiest part. There's not that many controls you need to adjust, and once you get hang of it, it's all very logical.

Manchester, United...
Level Contributor
18 posts
Save Reply
5. Re: northern lights photography

Thanks, don't suppose you have any idea about good locations around Saariselka to take photos.

Sorry to pester but I don't want to mess things up.

Oulu, Finland
Destination Expert
for Helsinki, Oulu, Lapland
Level Contributor
3,869 posts
66 reviews
Save Reply
6. Re: northern lights photography

Any place with an unobstructed view to the sky & north + away from the artificial light pollution (i.e. step away from the street lights). If the lights will show up, you'll see them more or less everywhere.

And 9 p.m. will be late enough, at least it'll be pitch black. You cannot really predict the time of day. They can be there even in the broad day light but we just won't be able to see them with naked eye.

Edited: 16 August 2013, 23:05
Finland
Level Contributor
894 posts
11 reviews
Save Reply
7. Re: northern lights photography

Hi, I remember your earlier posts and I can see that you are ready for some effort to get the opportunity for good photography. Saariselkä is ok for observing the sky with the naked eye, but is not an ideal location for sky imaging. The resort has too much light pollution for quality sky photographs. Another source of light pollution is the Ivalo airport, which is in North, in the best direction of the NL. In normal weather conditions the sodium glow of the resort can be seen in up to 10-15 km radius!

I cannot give the ideal coordinates either, but when the weather looks favorable, go ahead with the plan to rent a car. Drive e.g. up to the town of Ivalo that has less artificial light and find a small side road where you can park. If it is very cold, you will find having a warm car very comfortable too.

It will be very dark when you get away from all the lights. I have done some very amateurish sky imaging few times... one very handy thing is to have is a dim red light when you adjust your equipment.

Also, ask the guys at Top Safaris, they can probably give the best advice.

I hope that helps. Good luck.

Rovaniemi, Finland
Level Contributor
2,303 posts
Save Reply
8. Re: northern lights photography

I don't want to disagree with what Yuke or Zam said, but shooting Northern Lights I wouldn't be too worried about light pollution. It's a bit different when shooting stars with long exposure - when you want to catch those dimmest of objects. Then the haze and light pollution will be a problem, and you need to drive kilometers away from the nearest population.

But of course if they are using snow machines in Saariselkä, then there is almost a fog surrounding the slopes. That will be a problem.

But normally Northern Lights will be perfectly visible with naked eye, even here where I live and this is suburbs only a couple of km from Rovaniemi town center. Rovaniemi airport is roughly 20km closer to us than Ivalo airport is to Saariselkä, and even if it's located at a hill top, it's very very seldom you see the lights. And they don't have those approach lights on all the time.

Couple of Northern Lights shots showing also the lights of Rovaniem. You see the haze, meaning the sky isn't perfectly black, but you also see hown the Northen Lights are still visible:

santatelevision.com/wp-content/uploads/image…

https://fbcdn-sphotos-a-a.akamaihd.net/hphot…

…imageevent.com/veikkojkeranen/laplandfinlan…

...

But also learn to use some photo editing shotware - some probably came with your camera. If you want that perfect picture, it's an essential skill when shooting night skies and Northern Lights.

I have been working with professional photographers, in fact even compiled a book about Northern Lights, and it's very seldom you get the final picture streight from the camera. At least some white balance and level adjustments nearly always needed.

Manchester, United...
Level Contributor
18 posts
Save Reply
9. Re: northern lights photography

Thanks so much for all the advice, I really appreciate it. Thanks Yuke I remember you replied to some of my earlier questions, you've been so helpful. I hope the lights put in an appearance I've noticed there will be a full moon when I visit which I hadn't considered when planning the visit. Think I will have a chat with the Top Safari guys and look into renting a car for an evening also.

I'll keep practising with the camera before I come out, although just seeing the lights will be something I have dreamed about since I was a young boy and I'm 40 this year.

Pasiroi, did you ever get your book published, what is it called?

Thank you again for all your help everyone, I'll no doubt be on here with more questions in the coming weeks :-)

Rovaniemi, Finland
Level Contributor
2,303 posts
Save Reply
10. Re: northern lights photography

Oh, poorly chosen words. Published yes, but not my book. Work for a client.

But you are very lucky with the full moon! If the sky is clear, now I truly would follow Yukes advise, and try to get far far away from the lights... :) Is it a road trip, a night safari or just cross country skiing, doesn't really matter.

Full moon in middle of winter night is one of the most magical feelings you can have. Believe me. Auroras you can have in september, big deal, but that bright moon, with snowy white landscape, total silence... It's hard to describe, but for me that is one of those moments, where you strongly feel, that this is the place where my roots belong.

We have a nice 12km skiing trail starting almost from our doorsteps. Of the trail only the first 4km is illuminated and then you have to use your headlamp. You don't meet many other skiiers after that point. But when there is a full moon, there are elderly people, young couples and families just skiing under the stars and moonlight, savoring the moment. It's a moment that touches even us stoic Laplanders.

And don't worry, the full moon won't affect your chances of catching auroras. If they appear, it will be double the magic.