4The aurora borealis, otherwise known as the northern lights, is a beautiful phenomena occuring in Scandanavia, and even sometimes in Scotland! They are also found in Antarctica, but here they go by a different name, the aurora australis, or southern lights.

If you live in Scandanavia, or the north of Scotland, it is good to have a couple of tricks up your sleeve to photograph these beautiful lights. Below I have compilated a list of tips, and how the aurora works.

The sun releases lots of waste matter, which speeds away at over one million miles per hour. These ‘solar winds’ stream towards earth, and highly charged electrons inevitably collide with the elements in the earth’s atmophere. Upon collision, they create a leaping, dancing diplay of ‘Spirits of Fire’. The type of atom, as well as the altitude encountered determine the colour.

Green, generally regarded as the most common colour, occurs from 20 – 150 miles above the earths crust, when solar particles collide with oxygen atom.

Solar particles encountering oxygen atoms above 150 miles in altitude provides a display of red, while the collision with nitrogen atoms above 60 miles in altitude will give purple, or violet. The same, only below 60 miles will give a bright display of blue.

Every eleven years, sunspot activity is higher than normal, and this usually causes more dancing lights. Winter 2011-2012 is the current peak. I recently visited Iceland, and although I did see the aurora, unfortunately I did not have my camera with me at that present moment.

Below are my tips…

Long Exposure

I dont have to spell this one out, it is self explanatory. You will need a tripod, because I dont mean slow as in 1 second, I mean, thirty seconds.

Small aperture

This is extremely important, otherwise you will find yourself with a completely overexposed image. The smallest available is usually the best way to go.

Take you filter off your lens!

This one speaks for itself, take you filter off your lens! This is important, because filters, however great for general use, cause concentric circles to show up on the lens.

Memory card and Battery

This one applies mostly for batteries. The cold can leak the power more quickly, so take a spare battery, and keep it in your pocket to ensure it stays warm. Memory cards can also be adversely affected by the cold, so should not be subjected to it prolonged periods of time.


Low ISO!! You dont want seriously over exposed images, or… do you?!

Well, these are just a couple of tips that scratch the surface, check out my other tips!