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Gear checklist for successfully photographing Aurora Borealis

Dark nights are progressively taking over the 24-hour sun up North, and the Aurora Borealis season is about to start. Whether you are planning your first trip to photograph the northern lights, or you are lucky to live close enough to the geomagnetic north to witness auroras regularly, it is time to get your gear ready.

Must have gear:

  • Camera or DSLR with manual settings for focus, shutter speed, aperture and ISO. Focus is done on infinity on stars, aperture is set to the fastest possible, shutter speed and ISO are used to control the amount of light.
  • Wide angle and fast lens. A wide angle lens is needed to capture as much as possible of the landscape and sky; a fast lens to allows for shorter exposures. The shorter the exposure, the sharper the northern lights are so one can capture details of light curtains, and fast moving auroras. My favorite lenses are a 14-24 mm, f2.8; 20 mm f1.8 and 24 mm f1.4.
  • Sturdy tripod. Exposures can range from ½ sec to 10-15 sec.
  • Remote shutter release cable.
  • Spare batteries. Cold weather, wind chill factor, long time outside… A great combination to drain batteries.
  • Spare memory cards. You can never have enough!

Protecting your (expensive) photo gear.

Photographing Aurora Borealis means spending long hours outside at night. Humidity, frost, cold temperatures, wind or even a light breeze, are concerns for cameras and accessories. A wonderful night can rapidly turn into a nightmare for photographers. Cameras can get cover in frost, the shutter can freeze, batteries drains very quickly, remote shutter release cables freeze and break. I use a Camera Parka and a remote cable cover to protect my equipment. I was involved in the development and testing of these products with AT Frosted Lens.

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There is 1 comment

  1. Richard Mathews

    Thanks for the info. Since I live in NE Oregon, I very rarely get an opportunity to photograph the Aurora. But I do occasionally get out in the mountains for a nighttime shoot. And I’ve already learned that the camera sees much more than the eye.


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