How to photograph northern lights

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As beautiful as they are elusive, the Northern Lights remain one of the world’s most impressive natural phenomena and biggest bucket-list opportunity for photographers, amateur and professional alike. Resulting from disturbances in Earth’s atmosphere caused by solar winds, the Northern Lights come in varying shapes, colors, and sizes, and are notoriously difficult to predict with any certainty. If you’re going to gamble your precious time and hard-earned money on a chance to see the Northern Lights, it’s best to have a plan; follow along below for some of my favorite tips and tricks for shooting the Aurora Borealis.

How to photograph northern lights

Sony α7R III. Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 G Master. 13 secs., f/2.8, ISO 4000.

How To Find The Northern Lights

Being the Northern Lights, the places they show most are notoriously dark and cold. Winter is by far the best time of year for viewing and, generally speaking, the further north you go, the better your chances: think Alaska, northern Canada, Greenland, and Iceland for primetime viewing, but the lights occasionally make their way into the northern reaches of the continental United States. The intensity of the aurora is measured by the Kp Index, which rates from 0 to 9, with 0 being nothing and 9 being the lightshow of a lifetime.

The aurora is practically impossible to predict on the long-term, but there are some reliable medium to short term forecasts that are publicly available that I use regularly: The University of Alaska, Fairbanks provides a great forecast for Alaska and Western Canada, and the app “Aurora” is great for more localized information. Aurora can also be used to set up notifications and alarms to let you know when the lights are about to turn on wherever you may be. This is particularly handy when the aurora is forecasted to peak at 4am and I fall asleep well before.

How to photograph northern lights

Sony α7R III. Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 G Master. 15 secs., f/2.8, ISO 2500.

Prepping For A Night Of Shooting

Packing warm, layered clothing and the requisite accessories (gloves, hat, hand warmers, etc.) are key to comfort in these harsh conditions. Bring a source of light as well (preferably a hands-free one, like a headlamp), to make sure you’re able to see what you’re doing. The nights up north are long, and if you’re going to be standing outside for hours on end waiting for the show to start, do it in safety and comfort. There’s nothing like being outside when it’s -30F only to realize you’ve left your gloves at home.

How to photograph northern lights

Sony α7R III. Sony 24mm f/1.4 G Master. 5 secs., f/1.4, ISO 2000.

Camera Gear For The Northern Lights

A number of combinations of camera and lens will allow you to capture the Northern Lights, but best results are going to be had with a full-frame camera paired with a wide lens with a fast aperture. The Sony α7 III and α7R IV will provide excellent results when paired with the Sony 24mm f/1.4 or 16-35mm f/2.8 G-Master lens, allowing you to capture a wide field of view with as little noise as possible.

Also, as with any type of night or long-exposure situation, a sturdy tripod you trust is key. One with an adjustable head that allows you to switch from landscape to vertical orientation will make changing compositions much easier in the dark and cold. Attaching an intervalometer to the camera is also wise as it eliminates any shake in the camera as you trigger the shutter. The two second timer shutter release setting can also accomplish the same task. Fortunately, Sony Alpha cameras come with a software intervalometer installed, which means that’s one less piece of gear to buy and inevitably loose, if you’re anything like me.

How to photograph northern lights

Sony α7R III. Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 G Master. 30 secs., f/2.8, ISO 2500.

Camera Setup & Settings For The Northern Lights

Unlike the Milky Way or other star formations, the Northern Lights can vary in speed and intensity. There’s no proverbial “set it and forget it” shutter speed that comes with traditional astrophotography, and the Aurora’s ever-changing appearance will require you to change your settings on the fly.

First and foremost, make sure you’ve got your focus on the sky nailed. I use a Sony α7R III which is adept at grabbing focus in the dark, but I often double-check by enabling focus-peaking, magnifying, and fine-tuning with the focus ring on the lens. Once I’ve got my focus sharp and have reviewed a few test shots to verify, I’ll turn the camera to manual focus to ensure I don’t lose it accidentally.

How to photograph northern lights

Sony α7R III. Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 G Master. 15 secs., f/2.8, ISO 4000.

If the lights are somewhat dim and difficult to see with the naked eye, I’ll use a longer shutter speed (15-25 seconds), the fastest aperture my lens allows (f/2.8 or f/1.4), and ISO to taste (usually between 800-1200). This longer shutter speed allows the glow of the aurora’s colors to fill the frame. If the lights are vibrant, visible, and moving quickly, it’s important to use a quicker shutter speed to freeze their movement; the glowing, flowing streaks of the aurora can quickly become a green mush if the shutter is left open too long. In these situations I try to use a shutter speed no slower than 4 seconds, an aperture of f/2.8 or f/1.4, and an ISO between 3200 and 6000 depending on conditions. I used to be hesitant to push the ISO above 2500, but the latest Sony Alpha bodies are capable of producing amazing results at much higher ISO settings.

And, most importantly, don’t forget to enjoy the show! It’s a great privilege to see and experience the Aurora Borealis, and it isn’t afforded to many. The best memories aren’t digital, but the ones we make for ourselves.

Posted by Kublai on 14 Nov 2017

How to photograph northern lights

Don’t listen to anyone who says you can’t photograph the northern lights. Let’s put that myth to rest. You absolutely can, and your smartphone might just be your best bet! Here’s what you need to know for your next Northern Lights Tour:

  • Above all else, know thy phone – spend some quality time with your built-in camera and the adjustments you can make
  • Don’t skip the tripod – unless you’re a robot, you’re not gonna hold your camera still enough during long exposures
  • Hello, darkness, my old friend – light pollution will ruin otherwise great shots of the aurora
  • Geek out with your manual settings – a little time messing with exposure and ISO can make all the difference
  • Go ahead and edit – even a few nudges on those sliders can bring out dazzling detail hidden in your images

The northern lights can be an elusive subject. A little shy at times, even for professional photographers. And while most people don’t lug around €5,000 ($5,500)-worth of camera gear, a seven-man crew and a portable editing suite, most people do have the next best thing: their smartphones.

Smartphones have come a long way. Take the iPhone. Larger sensor. Double lenses. Brilliant performance in low light (like if you’re, say, shooting the night sky). Smart tech all around. And now Apple has added the “live photos” feature, which can bring a whole new dimension to a difficult subject like the northern lights.

How to photograph northern lights

1. KNOW THY PHONE

Not all smartphones are created equally. Take a look at your camera specs and find out what kind of features you have. Regardless of your equipment, keep a few basics in mind.

  • Keep your lens clean with a microfiber cloth or lens wipe – Iceland can get pretty damp. But your lens doesn’t have to be. No shirt tails or fingers, please. Distilled water can help with grime, but don’t even think about using harsh cleansers. They’ll damage your lens faster than you can say “extended warranty”.
  • Quit out of other apps if they’re running simultaneously – CPU power matters, so give your cam all it needs.
  • Turn off your calling/messaging functions – the last thing you want when you’re nanoseconds from capturing the ultimate shot is a call or text message to shut it all down.

How to photograph northern lights

2. DON’T SKIP THE TRIPOD

Even the finest surgeons and gunslingers ought to heed this advice. The human hand is just not going to hold your camera steady enough.

  • Dark images need a long exposure – even the slightest movement can leave you with a blurry, soupy photo.
  • Inexpensive smartphone stands work well too – we like the ones with bendy legs that you can prop up on a rock or a backpack or wrap around a fence.

How to photograph northern lights

3. EMBRACE THE DARK SIDE!

You want as much contrast as possible: dark sky, bright lights.

  • Get out of the city – light pollution is enemy #1.
  • Move away from the road – even passing headlights can spoil your blackness.
  • Our drivers will turn off all the lights they can – we won’t leave you in the dark; this is your best chance to get a clear shot.
  • Do what you can – if you find yourself around ambient light, even shielding your setup with a jacket can help.

How to photograph northern lights

4. SWITCH TO MANUAL MODE

The auto mode on your phone is probably not really ideal for this kind of photography. Try your manual settings instead.

  • Some pre-sets that might work – look for names like starry night, lightning and fireworks.
  • Manual mode lets you adjust things like ISO and exposure – some phones don’t have a manual mode in the native camera app, like the iPhone, but you can download apps like ProCam, that offer manual controls.
  • Dial-in your ISO to 800 – If the lights aren’t clear enough then up your ISO, but too much and you’ll get graininess.
  • Try a 15-second exposure – up your exposure time if the Northern Lights are being shy. You’ll have more time to capture it if it flickers across the sky, but this is where you really need a tripod.
  • Let the games begin – start with those settings and adjust until you get your best images.

How to photograph northern lights

5. AIN’T NO SHAME IN EDITING

Editing your images is not cheating! You took the picture. Enhancing it just brings out the good work you’ve already done.

  • Don’t leave well enough alone – With a subject as delicate and fleeting as the Northern Lights, you ought to at least tweak your images to bring out depth and definition.
  • Nothing fancy – basic adjustments like contrast, brightness and tone can make a world of difference and most cameras offer these editing features in the device.

How to photograph northern lights

And remember, you are not alone. A lot of photographers—amateurs and pros alike—have tried their hand at capturing the elusive Aurora. So look online and see what the hive mind has to say, even about shooting with your particular device.

A little money might go a long way too, and not just with equipment. If you’re willing to spend a little on camera apps, you might end up with some priceless pictures from your Northern Lights Tour.

And one last note: don’t forget to look at the lights with your own eyes as well. Remember to enjoy the moment and make memories. Those images in your head may end up being the ones you treasure most.

Donald S. Johnson

Planning to go on a trip to Antarctica? Then do not miss out on carrying your best low light point-and-shoot camera to capture the famous northern lights in the winter? As awe-inspiring as they are, these lights are spectacular geographical views of all time.

As a beginner night photographer, you may not know how to use it to photograph the northern lights. So, let’s show you how to do it to perfection.

What Exactly are Northern Lights?

Northern lights refer to the astronomical lights visible occasionally in the sky at night in both the northern and southern hemispheres. This natural phenomenon is also known as polar lights, auroral lights, or aurora Polaris. Basically, these auroral lights are a stream of lights with varying bright colors and different wavelengths. However, the primary colors are usually pink and pale green.

They get the name “auroral” from the fact that they tend to occur mainly in the aurora zone, a geographic area of latitude 60-75 0 . So they are more common in places (of high latitude) closer to the poles, such as Alaska, Iceland, Finland Abisko in Europe and Antarctica.

Another intriguing question is, “how are the northern lights formed?” These lights are produced when the gaseous particles in the earth’s atmosphere collide with charged particles of the sun’s atmosphere. The different colors of the northern lights depend on the gas type in the collision. For instance, nitrogen results in blue northern lights while oxygen results in red northern lights.

The Best Camera Features For Northern Lights

There are certain camera features or settings known to bring out the best images of the northern lights. The settings are based on:

  • How fast the auroral lights move in the sky
  • The auroral activity
  • The level of brightness of the lights ( how bright the lights are)

These are the features you ought to implement:

The Manual Mode

It’s always the first camera setting to undertake. Set the camera to the manual mode to have a great focus and an easy time taking photographs of the northern lights.

Aperture settings (f-stop)

Snapshots of the lovely colors of the northern lights need an aperture of f/2.8 or lower in the camera’s manual mode.

Shutter speed

Shutter speed determines the exposure time. It depends on the brightness level and the speed of the polar lights. If these lights are slow and less bright, ensure the shutter speed is within the range of 20 to 30 seconds. If the lights are moving quickly and the brightness is intense, go for a shutter speed of 1-5 seconds. Set as needed.

The ISO Value

Adjusting the ISO value of the camera depends on the degree of brightness of the aurora, and the artificial external lighting available ISO settings work on controlling the light sensitivity and the shutter speed of the camera.

The higher the ISO value, the faster the shutter speed. Therefore, if the auroras are moving fast through the sky, it’s best to set the ISO to large values for the fastest shutter speed.

If the auroras are extremely bright with the moonlight present, it’s advisable to use an ISO value of 800. On the contrary, if it’s dark(when there’s no moonlight or any other artificial light), adjust the ISO value to at least 1600, which can be as large as 3200-6400.

The white balance

The northern lights require adjusting the white balance so that they appear as natural as possible in the photograph. The most recommended white balance settings are around 3000 kelvins to 3500 kelvins.

Setting the white balance is significant, especially when the northern lights cover nearly the whole sky.

Lens focus

It’s good to use a fast wide-angle lens in northern lights photography. An angle of view within 14-20mm is super sufficient. If you go below this range, then the depth of field gets narrow.

Plus, the lens should be capable of reaching aperture f/1.8, f/2.8, or widest f/4. Though the best of the three is f/2.8.

The five straightforward steps:

Step 1: Adjust to the manual mode

Switch the current mode to the manual mode of the camera. Also, switch off the camera flash at this point as it’s a light pollutant.

Step 2: Set the camera’s ISO.

Start with ISO 800 as you progress to the higher ISO values until you get the best fit. You need to know that the higher the ISO, the less light required in order to capture the northern lights. It’s sensible to use a large ISO since the northern lights are shot best in the dark.

Step 3: Set the aperture

An aperture of f/2.8 is advisable for pics of auroral lights. Set to that aperture or a lower number of the f/stop. This is to enable much light to get through the lens of the camera.

Step 4: Adjust the shutter speed.

Start at 15 seconds and keep adjusting to complement the speed at which the northern lights are moving. The shutter speed determines how long the lens remains open to let in light.

Step 5: Focus and take a shot

Ensure the lens focus is at infinity. Pre-set the lens focus, possibly during the day. And In this case, the autofocus option is not applicable since it’s night photography.

Lastly, shoot the northern lights and smile at the good photos you’ve made.

Photography Tip: Mount the camera on a tripod to avoid unnecessary camera movements when photographing. If it stays in your hands, the camera likely won’t be still, hence blurry photos. The tripod should be strong and sturdy. Pack it alongside your point-and-shoot camera on your trip.

Conclusion

It’s worth carrying a point-and-shoot camera when visiting countries that experience the northern lights. It’s a beautiful phenomenon to capture and take photos back home with you.

Although they tend to be unpredictable in their occurrence, keep stargazing on your tour, and you’ll be lucky to shoot nice photos of the northern lights.

Read More:

How to photograph northern lights

Donald S. Johnson

Hi, I am Donald S. Johnson. I grew up in the hill area. I have a business with technology, I also love photography. I enjoy hiding behind the camera lens. I have used many types of cameras from low-end to high-end professional DSLRs. I love to play with different types of cameras. I have a dream. I will make my house a small camera museum.

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Planning to go on a trip to Antarctica? Then do not miss out on carrying your best low light point-and-shoot camera to capture the famous northern lights in the winter? As awe-inspiring as they are, these lights are spectacular geographical views of all time.

As a beginner night photographer, you may not know how to use it to photograph the northern lights. So, let’s show you how to do it to perfection.

What Exactly are Northern Lights?

Northern lights refer to the astronomical lights visible occasionally in the sky at night in both the northern and southern hemispheres. This natural phenomenon is also known as polar lights, auroral lights, or aurora Polaris. Basically, these auroral lights are a stream of lights with varying bright colors and different wavelengths. However, the primary colors are usually pink and pale green.

They get the name “auroral” from the fact that they tend to occur mainly in the aurora zone, a geographic area of latitude 60-75 0 . So they are more common in places (of high latitude) closer to the poles, such as Alaska, Iceland, Finland Abisko in Europe and Antarctica.

Another intriguing question is, “how are the northern lights formed?” These lights are produced when the gaseous particles in the earth’s atmosphere collide with charged particles of the sun’s atmosphere. The different colors of the northern lights depend on the gas type in the collision. For instance, nitrogen results in blue northern lights while oxygen results in red northern lights.

The Best Camera Features For Northern Lights

There are certain camera features or settings known to bring out the best images of the northern lights. The settings are based on:

  • How fast the auroral lights move in the sky
  • The auroral activity
  • The level of brightness of the lights ( how bright the lights are)

These are the features you ought to implement:

The Manual Mode

It’s always the first camera setting to undertake. Set the camera to the manual mode to have a great focus and an easy time taking photographs of the northern lights.

Aperture settings (f-stop)

Snapshots of the lovely colors of the northern lights need an aperture of f/2.8 or lower in the camera’s manual mode.

Shutter speed

Shutter speed determines the exposure time. It depends on the brightness level and the speed of the polar lights. If these lights are slow and less bright, ensure the shutter speed is within the range of 20 to 30 seconds. If the lights are moving quickly and the brightness is intense, go for a shutter speed of 1-5 seconds. Set as needed.

The ISO Value

Adjusting the ISO value of the camera depends on the degree of brightness of the aurora, and the artificial external lighting available ISO settings work on controlling the light sensitivity and the shutter speed of the camera.

The higher the ISO value, the faster the shutter speed. Therefore, if the auroras are moving fast through the sky, it’s best to set the ISO to large values for the fastest shutter speed.

If the auroras are extremely bright with the moonlight present, it’s advisable to use an ISO value of 800. On the contrary, if it’s dark(when there’s no moonlight or any other artificial light), adjust the ISO value to at least 1600, which can be as large as 3200-6400.

The white balance

The northern lights require adjusting the white balance so that they appear as natural as possible in the photograph. The most recommended white balance settings are around 3000 kelvins to 3500 kelvins.

Setting the white balance is significant, especially when the northern lights cover nearly the whole sky.

Lens focus

It’s good to use a fast wide-angle lens in northern lights photography. An angle of view within 14-20mm is super sufficient. If you go below this range, then the depth of field gets narrow.

Plus, the lens should be capable of reaching aperture f/1.8, f/2.8, or widest f/4. Though the best of the three is f/2.8.

The five straightforward steps:

Step 1: Adjust to the manual mode

Switch the current mode to the manual mode of the camera. Also, switch off the camera flash at this point as it’s a light pollutant.

Step 2: Set the camera’s ISO.

Start with ISO 800 as you progress to the higher ISO values until you get the best fit. You need to know that the higher the ISO, the less light required in order to capture the northern lights. It’s sensible to use a large ISO since the northern lights are shot best in the dark.

Step 3: Set the aperture

An aperture of f/2.8 is advisable for pics of auroral lights. Set to that aperture or a lower number of the f/stop. This is to enable much light to get through the lens of the camera.

Step 4: Adjust the shutter speed.

Start at 15 seconds and keep adjusting to complement the speed at which the northern lights are moving. The shutter speed determines how long the lens remains open to let in light.

Step 5: Focus and take a shot

Ensure the lens focus is at infinity. Pre-set the lens focus, possibly during the day. And In this case, the autofocus option is not applicable since it’s night photography.

Lastly, shoot the northern lights and smile at the good photos you’ve made.

Photography Tip: Mount the camera on a tripod to avoid unnecessary camera movements when photographing. If it stays in your hands, the camera likely won’t be still, hence blurry photos. The tripod should be strong and sturdy. Pack it alongside your point-and-shoot camera on your trip.

Conclusion

It’s worth carrying a point-and-shoot camera when visiting countries that experience the northern lights. It’s a beautiful phenomenon to capture and take photos back home with you.

Although they tend to be unpredictable in their occurrence, keep stargazing on your tour, and you’ll be lucky to shoot nice photos of the northern lights.

Read More:

How to photograph northern lights

Donald S. Johnson

Hi, I am Donald S. Johnson. I grew up in the hill area. I have a business with technology, I also love photography. I enjoy hiding behind the camera lens. I have used many types of cameras from low-end to high-end professional DSLRs. I love to play with different types of cameras. I have a dream. I will make my house a small camera museum.

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How to Photograph the Northern Lights eBook

How to photograph northern lights

How to Photograph the Northern Lights (eBook)

If you have long dreamed of photographing the northern lights, or have made attempts that you wish were more successful, then this eBook is a must for you. How to Photograph the Northern Lights is a very well illustrated, comprehensive 330-page tutorial that will give the necessary information to make your aurora photography venture a success. Two long-time Alaskans and specialists in their fields have teamed up to create this resource.

Two Alaska specialists, photographer Patrick J Endres and scientist Neal Brown, have teamed up to produce this thorough and resourceful book. If learning how to photograph the northern lights is on your bucket list, then this wonderfully illustrated eBook is a must. It is a comprehensive and thorough guide that will equip you with the information necessary to capture your own photos of the aurora borealis.

3rd Edition: V3.7 Updated 1/31/2018

330 pages | 150+ photos | 150+ illustrations | English

Last Updated on March 14, 2021

With a pulse, ribbons of swirling light appears and vanishes across the northern night sky creating one of the most epic natural displays to be photographed. The aurora borealis offers the intrepid photographer one of the most awe inspiring photo opportunities imaginable if you know what you’re doing.

How To Take Awesome Pictures of The Aurora Borealis

How to photograph northern lights

Northern lights are triggered when high energy electrons and protons smash into nitrogen and oxygen atoms over fifty miles above the surface of the earth.

These tiny impacts create lights through the release of energy. The process is very similar to how neon lights are created.

Aurora borealis happen most often neat the north and south poles. These are referred to as auroral zones so to get the best images of the Northern Lights you will want to get as close to these zones as possible.

Where To Photograph The Northern Lights

How to photograph northern lights

The most accessable locations for photographers to take pictures of the aurora borealis are in Canada’s Yellowknife and Dawson City. In the US, Fairbanks Alaska is an incredible spot to capture this awesome light display. And for international photographers, Iceland provides and incredible display.

When To Photograph an Aurora Borealis

The most active times of year for the Northern Lights are during the equinoxes. Because Western Canada and Alaska are cloudy near the fall equinox, spring is the time to shoot the Northern Lights. The skies are much clearer but it is also very cold.

Northern Lights Photography Tips

How to photograph northern lights

1) Prepare For The Cold

Most photographers looking to capture the aurora borealis travel to Alaska or Western Canada around March. But the temps are going to be very cold so you need to prepare for those freezing temperatures. Temperatures often drop to -30 degrees.

You will need an arctic parka, pants and boots to withstand these temps. Unfortunately there are no gloves out there that provide both the warmth and dexterity necessary for the job.

The solution to this problem is to nudge dials and push button on your camera with the eraser end of a pencil. You will also want to use an electronic cable release trigger for your shutter.

Tip: Take a short piece of wood dowel and glue it to your shutter release for easy use with heavy gloves

2) Prepare Your Lens

Don’t use any filters. Lens filters will create interference patterns in your images. You can use daylight but you are better suited for focusing on infinity and taping it in place to prevent accidentally bumping it out of position.

While shooting, you should check your focus periodically by using your LCD screen to enlarge your image. Look at the sky or a bright star and ensure your focus is on point.

Keep an eye out for accumulated condensation on your glass. Do your best to not breath on your lens or viewfinder to prevent accumulating condensation.

3) Focus On Composition

The Northern Lights are constantly moving and this means you need to compose each image you shoot. Keep any external lights off and keep your eyes adjusted to the dark. This will allow you to better compose your images when looking at the dim light of your viewfinder.

When you do need to use external light, use a small LED headlamp and turn it back off as soon as possible.

4) Don’t Forget Your Exposure

You will get the best image results by using manual exposure and opening up a stop from your camera’s estimated exposure. A general rule of thumb is to use an exposure of around ten seconds at f/2.8 and an ISO of 3200.

Your brightness will change constantly so keep an eye on your histogram and enable highlight warnings. You should also be shooting in RAW.

5) Edit For Great Final Results

Reduce any noise in Lightroom or Photoshop in the detail panel. Then enable Profile Corrections in your Lens Correction Panel. You can boost the contrast of your Northern Light sky by using your Adjustment Brush.

You also will find your sky looks a bit too green in which case you can increase your global contrast to add black to your sky. This will really make the aurora borealis pop.

Conclusion

I’ve traveled to Alaska to capture the Northern Lights and it was one of my best photography outings. After years of nature and night photography I was geared to go. I was well prepared for the cold and my gear worked perfectly thanks to following these simple tips. If you are planning to photograph the aurora borealis too, just take the time to properly prepare and you too can capture some truly awe inspiring images.

Written by ROBERT ANNIS

WHO OWNS THE SUBWAY?

Seeing the northern lights can be one of the greatest thrills in nature. But capturing the elusive aurora borealis on camera can be a bit tricky, unless you you’re a skilled photographer.

WHO OWNS THE SUBWAY?

Here are some of the photography basics you should know before you set off on your aurora adventure.

100% GREE ENERGY

WHO OWNS THE SUBWAY?

When planning a northern lights trip, timing and location will be key. Most importantly, you’ll want to earmark as many days as possible for the trip.

WHO OWNS THE SUBWAY?

On my most recent visit to Fairbanks, Alaska, I met a couple who had been chasing the northern lights for four nights, only to come up empty handed. (Luckily, they saw the aurora on the flight home!)

WHO OWNS THE SUBWAY?

“Nature doesn’t work on anyone’s schedule,” said Eddy Savage, a guide for Natural Habitat Adventures who leads several northern lights photography trips in Churchill, Canada.

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“It doesn’t just show up when it’s convenient for you. You need to devote the time.”

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Photo guide Nicholas Wagner, based in Coldfoot, Alaska, suggests timing your trip with a half- or one-quarter moon, as the reduced moon will help light your foreground without overwhelming the aurora.

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Picking a location within the so-called Aurora Oval gives you the best chance of seeing the lights, significantly more than someone many miles to the south.

WHO OWNS THE SUBWAY?

January through March is typically the best time to go; because it’s a dry, bitter cold, there are fewer clouds to interfere with viewing the aurora.

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But be sure to bundle up; temperatures routinely drop below -30°F (-34°C) that far north.

WHO OWNS THE SUBWAY?

You’ll also need to decide whether to plan your aurora adventure alone or rely on an outfitter. If you’re new to an area or have a limited amount of time, a guide service is invaluable.

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Not only will they take care of logistics, but guides can also give hands-on instruction, helping you to get the most out of your time.

WHO OWNS THE SUBWAY?

If you decide to go solo, you’ll need to scout your own locations, preferably far away from light pollution from the nearest city.