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  1. #1
    Junior Member

    Northern Lights

    Greetings Everyone!

    I will be going to Norway very, very soon to see the Northern Lights. I recently purchased a Nikon D3100 camera and was wondering what your thoughts the best settings would be for it. I am brand new with this camera and SLR cameras in general so any help would be appreciated!

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  2. #2
    Senior Member
    Will V|Photography's Avatar

    Re: Northern Lights

    I have ZERO experience shooting the Northern Lights but I'd suspect that a tripod and a LOOOONNNGG shutter speed would yield the best results.
    C&C Always Welcome!
    Flickr & "Like" me on Facebook
    Gripped D3100 | AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR | AF-S DX VR NIKKOR 55-200mm f/4-5.6G IF-ED

  3. #3
    Gear Head
    gqtuazon's Avatar

    Re: Northern Lights

    I agree. Get a travel size tripod for long exposure settings. happy trip.
    Best regards,

    My Gear
    My website

  4. #4
    Junior Member

    Re: Northern Lights

    Two important tips:
    1 - Put the lens on manual focus and find something far away to manually set the focus to infinity. The D3100 won't let you take a shot with autofocus turned on if it can't find the focus (like lights far away in the sky) and all the way clockwise is not the infinity setting.

    2 - Turn off noise reduction. The noise reduction function in the camera takes as long to process as the shutter speed. OK for 1/250 of a second, but not so good for a 30 second exposure. If noise is a problem, there are third party programs that run on your PC to process the image.

    Good luck and be sure to post pictures!
    New to DSLRs. Nikon D5100 & D3100.

  5. #5
    Senior Member
    It's going to be quite a list:
    Tripod (ball head recommended) - essential as you will be doing long exposures. Look for a tall one as you will be pointing the camera at the sky and need to fit yourself under it. Also ensure that when mounted, the cameras' battery cover is not obstructed.
    Lens - wide, fast, sharp and with minimal vignetting or what ever is within your budget or currently attached to your camera. Make sure to remove any filters, protective or otherwise, as these can produce concentric circles on your images.
    Shutter Release - not essential but really useful, get a cabled release rather than a remote release as batteries freeze quickly. Alternatively use the cameras' self timer, either way you're trying to reduce camera shake when triggering the exposure.
    Spare Battery - essential, you will need to keep a battery warm at all times, so a second is required unless you want to wait while warming your battery back up!
    Memory Card - you can get Extreme cards that are designed to function in low temperatures but I'm not sure of the need.
    Other - head lamp (get one with a red light that preserves night vision), hand warmers, wool insoles, thick soled boots, down jacket (layers are less important than insulation when standing around) non-cotton/natural under layer.

    Focus - With the camera set to single point focus and preferably using the centre focal point, pre-focus to infinity by auto-focusing on a distant object that has contrast and then switch your lens to manual and use focus lock if the lens has it or tape the focus ring to the body of the lens to prevent movement. Alternatively use Live View to focus on a bright distant object (moon or stars) when at location. Auto-focus on the object and with Live View zoomed in manually adjust until sharp.
    ISO - you'll want high ISO, around 800 will be good but you may want to experiment with quality/results for your specific camera before you leave.
    Shutter Speed - Bulb mode, activated with cable shutter release or camera self timer. You will have to make a decision as to how long to maintain the exposure depending on how bight the Aurora are on that night. Read up on Histograms as these will tell you how your timing is effecting each exposure.
    Aperture - As wide as you can go with your lens at the focal length you are using.
    Noise Reduction - if your camera has it, use it.
    Format - RAW you'll want to process them and RAW contains the most information to work with. If you're not sure how to just yet then shoot in RAW + JPEG mode but keep your RAW files for later processing.

    - Always keep a battery warm;
    - Remove lens filter;
    - Shoot between 10PM and 2AM;
    - Locate yourself far away from light pollution;
    - Include some foreground interest; maybe get a flash to light up close objects (this is a whole other subject though!)
    - Check your histogram
    - There's an iPhone app for tracking the Aurora, although I'm not sure if it's any good.

    Oh and good luck, when I went to see them I slept through the best display of the week!
    Thanks/Like SteveH Thanks/liked this post

  6. #6
    Junior Member

    Re: Northern Lights

    thanks for all of the advice! now hopefully i will be able to get a good picture or two....if not, i suppose the memories will be good as well.

  7. #7
    Senior Member
    Will V|Photography's Avatar

    Re: Northern Lights

    Last night I went out to try and shoot the meteor shower. I started out at f/8, ISO 200, and 30sec shutter. It gave me a good baseline and then I adjusted from there. As for the Aurora, I just found this site with some good information. Photographing Northern Lights
    C&C Always Welcome!
    Flickr & "Like" me on Facebook
    Gripped D3100 | AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR | AF-S DX VR NIKKOR 55-200mm f/4-5.6G IF-ED

  8. #8
    Senior Member

    Re: Northern Lights

    It is tricky. I lived in Iceland for 2 years and could see it nightly. My friend had an SLR film not digital and could never get it right. But with the new Digital ones it should be easier. Good luck because it is really beautiful!

  9. #9
    Senior Member
    I Recently photographed the northern lights for the first time in Iceland, I used my D7000 with a tokina 11-16 m lens, shot in bulb mode with cable release and camera mounted on tripod, I got my best results at around f8, ISO 1600 and exposures in the region of 25 seconds, as previously mentioned by others I used manual focus and had previously focused on a point on the horizon during daylight hours.

    My advice would be to scout around in the daylight for the spot you want to shoot from and find some foreground interest I was in Iceland for 4 days and only saw the lights once, and unfortunately It was the first night and I hadn't really found myself a great spot, consequently while I did get some decent pictures of the lights they are pretty average shots due to the boring foreground.

    I'm far from an expert but hopefully this might be of some use to you

    Finally dress up warm, I thought I had plenty of clothes on before i went outside and yet I was still very cold!!

  10. #10
    Senior Member
    Ranie's Avatar

    Re: Northern Lights

    Trevski - can you post some of the pics that you took?
    " Shoot first, ask questions later"

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