NORTHERN LIGHTS 101: How To Photograph The Aurora


(upbeat electronic music) – Hey guys, I’m here in Iceland in this beautiful valley called Thorsmork. I’m gonna be doing some hiking and camping here for the next couple days, but I’m also gonna be
photographing the northern lights and I wanted to share
with you how I do that. The best time to see the lights is generally in the fall and winter between September and April, and it helps if you’re far
up in the northern hemisphere in places like Alaska,
Canada, Norway or Iceland. You need certain conditions to be met if you’re gonna be able to see them. Number one, you need really good weather. So clear skies. The other thing you need
is strong solar activity. Now, this can actually
be measured somewhat, but it changes from day to day. So, some days you could have
really strong northern lights. Other days, there could
be absolutely nothing. I use a smartphone app called Aurora, which helps predict the
strength of the solar flares. And it’s not 100% accurate, but it does a pretty
good job of helping you determine what is gonna be a good night to be outside to look for the lights. Another important factor is your location. You wanna be somewhere
with a clear view north. You wanna be outside at night for a long period of time as well. Not just one hour. I’m saying two to four
hours, or all night, if you’re really dedicated. Because the lights come and go. So if you’re not out
there for long enough, you may not see them. I’m using a Sony A7R3 with a 16-33mm lens. It’s a 2.8 lens. Now, this is kind of a fancy camera, but you don’t need a camera this nice to get photos of the northern lights. It helps because the sensor on
this camera is really large, so it’s really good for
low light photography. But you can use something like this. This is a Sony RX100. The basic requirements, you need a tripod, and you need to know the proper settings to manually control your camera. For lenses, you want something with an aperture of at least F 2.8. You can shoot it with F4 as well. I’ve done that before. That fast lens helps capture as much light as possible into your camera. Something else you may
want is a shutter release. What this does is it allows
me to plug it into my camera and then I can sit back in my chair here, take photos with a button, so I don’t have to be
crouched up behind this thing, especially if you’re gonna be
sitting out here for hours. The other thing I like
to do is you can put this in your pockets and stay warm. You’re also gonna want
some cold weather gear, because if you’re gonna be out all night in the northern hemisphere in the winter, it’s gonna be cold, so
usually I bring gloves, I bring a winter hat
for sure, a warm jacket. Heat warmers for your hands. I put these in my pockets
so when I’m not shooting, I can keep my hands nice and toasty. And probably a little alcohol
to make it through the night. One thing you’re definitely
gonna need is a tripod. Because you’re shooting
at longer shutter speeds, you need your camera to be super stable. And you can’t do it handheld. Focusing your camera at
night can be pretty tricky, especially up at the sky,
so I recommend pre-focusing your camera before the sun completely sets on something far off in the distance, like maybe a tree or a mountain, and that way you can then
turn it to manual focus and it’s set and ready to go
for when the light show starts. All right guys, we got lucky. The light show has begun. I’m in my folding chair,
nice and comfortable. I’m gonna be here for a
couple hours shooting photos and I’m gonna show you how I do it. Generally, the settings I use
for my northern lights photos are an ISO between 2000 and 4000, an aperture of 2.8 or 4.0, depending on the lens I have with me, and a shutter speed between two seconds all the way up to 13 seconds. Again, depending on how
bright the lights are and how fast they’re moving. I also always shoot them in raw, and I switch my white
balance to incandescent. You can change that in
post-processing later anyway if you’re shooting in raw, but I like to be able to see approximately what the photos are gonna look like, and the incandescent
setting for white balance creates a bluer image, and it really makes the colors pop. The camera is set up nice and low here. I’ve got a 16 to 33 millimeter lens on. I’ve got it at 16 millimeters right now. Nice and wide so you
can see the whole sky, and I’ve got my (mumbling
here) with a little light on hanging down from the top to make it glow. And the lights are all up here. You’re not gonna be able to
see it with this video camera, but I’ll show you my photos in a second. (camera shutter clicking) (camera shutter clicking) (camera shutter clicking) It’s hard to tell on
the little screen here, but this shot was ISO 2500 shot at F 2.8 and a four second exposure. When deciding how long
to keep the shutter open, it really depends on how
fast the lights are moving and how bright they are. If you use an exposure that’s too long, it’s gonna make the whole sky green and you’re not gonna be able to see the individual kinda rays
of light from the aurora. Now that I’m back in front of my computer, I’m gonna show you some
of the post-processing techniques I use for editing
my northern lights photos. While there are a million different ways to edit northern lights
photos, this is how I do it. We’re gonna take this raw, unedited image, and turn it into this one. Because adjusting the exposure, contrast, texture and white balance
of your aurora images can really make them stand out. So the first thing I’m gonna do is remove the lens chromatic abrasions and enable the lens profile
corrections as well. Next I’m gonna increase
the color temperature a bit to make it a little warmer and not as blue as it was originally shot. Then it’s onto exposure. I’m gonna brighten the whole image. Maybe a stop, stop and a half. I’m gonna increase the contrast a bit and decrease the highlights so
the highlights in the aurora themselves aren’t so blown out. Then onto shadows, which I’ll increase to bring out the shadows in the landscape, in the darker areas in the landscape. And decrease the white point a bit. And increase the black point. Again, this is to bring out the darker colors in the landscape. I’m gonna increase the clarity, add a little de-haze effect, as well as increase vibrance and decrease saturation just a tad. Onto the tone curve, I’m gonna increase the
black point a little bit, and then create a slight S-curve to boost the contrast in the whole image. You can see the difference
when I turn it on and off. Now we’re gonna tweak the colors
of the image a little bit. First up, orange. There’s really no red, so I’m
not gonna worry about red, but the orange here in the tent, I wanna make it less contrasty. Less saturated. Now we’re gonna do yellows. The yellows often affect grass color, even though grass is normally green. There’s some yellow in there too. And now onto the green. I’m gonna adjust the
hue of the green channel as well as desaturate the green. We’re gonna do the same
with the aqua channel, and this is gonna affect
the tone of the lights. So I’m gonna change the hue a little bit, and desaturate them just a bit as well. And the blue channel. It’s gonna affect kinda
the sky above the lights. Reduce the saturation a little
bit so it’s not overdone. And darken the sky a bit as well. Purple and magenta really
aren’t affected in this image. So we’ll move on to sharpening. Now, I have a particular way I like to sharpen most of my images. The amount is 30 and the masking is 11. Onto effects and a vignette, and what this is gonna
do is it’s gonna draw the viewer’s attention into
the center of the photo by darkening the edges. That’s about it for the basic adjustments. Now, I’m going to throw
on some gradient filters to adjust just certain
portions of the image. This is a linear gradient, and we’re gonna make a nice, big, soft one and just affect the colors of the northern lights themselves. First I’m gonna drop the color
temperature of the sky only and then make it slightly more blue. Increase the contrast a bit. We’re gonna increase the highlights. And increase the clarity. The clarity is really gonna bring out the rays of light at the top here. It’s gonna separate the northern lights from the night sky in the background. Now, we’re gonna using a circular gradient to reduce the strength of the
lights in certain parts here where it’s kind of a mush
of overexposed aurora. So we’re gonna drop the exposure and drop the highlights
in just certain areas. And we’re gonna increase
the clarity a bit too. Again, for the same reason. To bring out some of
that texture and detail. And then one more of much the same. Just adjust the position of it here. Okay, so I think that’s done. We’re gonna do one more circular gradient, and this time I’m just gonna focus on these individual rays of light at the top. What I’m trying to do here is to bring out the texture and detail of
these individual light rays. So we’re gonna increase
their exposure a tad, and boost the clarity. Just from this region. And another one. If at any time I’m moving through this editing process too fast, you can actually slow down the video and see it a bit slower. Now I’m gonna do another linear gradient, and this one is just going
to affect the ground. I wanna bring out some of those shadows and dark spots in the ground here. I think I took out too much green earlier, so I’m gonna bring some of
that back in the grass here. And I’m gonna drop the color temperature because the grass was looking a little too yellow on the right side. Now if we zoom in,
you’ll see kind of like, kind of a brighter haze at
the very top of the tent and I don’t like how that looks, so we’re gonna drop the
exposure and the highlights and increase the shadows
in this section just a hair so it doesn’t stand out so much. And I think that’s about it for Lightroom. I’ll show you before and after. It’s quite a big difference. One more topic I want to cover here about northern lights
photography is composition. You’ll notice in all my images, I have some kind of foreground element to draw your attention in rather than just shooting
photos of the sky directly. Here we have Iceland’s famous plane wreck on a black sand beach. One of my favorite images of all time. I spent all night camped
out next to this plane waiting for the aurora to appear. This is actually a
composition of three photos. One where I lit the outside of
the plane with an LED light, one with a red LED light inside, and finally, one of the spectacular aurora that suddenly exploded in
the sky for about 15 minutes. In this photo, I’m using
the road as leading lines to draw the viewer into
the heart of the image. In this one, I grabbed my head lamp and did some light painting
with a nice, long shutter speed. The key is to put some kind of subject in the foreground of your
image to give it some depth. Well, that’s it for my quick northern lights photography guide. I hope you guys enjoyed it, and thanks for watching. Let me know if you have any
questions in the comments and don’t forget to
subscribe for more adventure, travel and photography
videos from around the world. (upbeat electronic music)

11 Comments

  1. MUJAHID MOHIUDDIN May 2, 2019 at 7:35 pm

    Love from karachi bro😍😍😍

  2. Travel Hunter May 2, 2019 at 10:03 pm

    Hello, I'm a travel YouTuber from Korea.Your video really helped me a lot. Thank you.😁

  3. Naturenerd1000 May 3, 2019 at 12:42 am

    Unfortunatly you can't see the Northern Lights in the summer because it's light 24/7 in Alaska. 😩

  4. B270 Aphu May 3, 2019 at 7:53 pm

    https://youtu.be/xcw8OXGPie4

  5. Blend Work May 9, 2019 at 3:52 pm

    finally you upload a video ! thanks

  6. TopBins May 24, 2019 at 10:57 pm

    Amazing video you inspire me to try and make my own YouTube videos too!💯👊🏼🔥🎥

  7. Yörük Kızı Laz Oğli May 29, 2019 at 9:08 am

    Very beautiful 😍👍

  8. Social Live June 5, 2019 at 11:56 pm

    Great video!

  9. Passport to the Blue June 14, 2019 at 7:36 pm

    thanks for the tips!! we're new youtubers looking for feedback, anything is appreciated!

  10. Our National Adventure July 21, 2019 at 7:11 am

    Just beautiful

  11. Neville Long head October 2, 2019 at 11:42 am

    👑 🔥 😍

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *