Tips for Photographing the Aurora in Tasmania
This month I thought I’d share some tips for photographing the aurora in Tasmania. This information will be in four parts – gear, what causes the aurora, locations and finally camera settings on the night of the shoot. Today I’ll be covering gear.
The first thing to cover is camera gear and in this category we have the camera body itself, along with lenses and tripods. While it isn’t essential to rush out and buy the newest camera on the market, it is worth pointing out that older cameras may produce images high in noise, as aurora photography involves high ISO and long shutter speeds, both of which lend themselves to noise/grain in images, which new cameras handle better. Noise can be handled in post processing too – I’ll cover that in part 4.
Cameras with a full frame sensor are technically better at handling noise, but this does not rule out cameras with small sensors at all. These days even a phone can capture the aurora!
A wide angle lens allows you to capture a lot of interesting foreground to compliment your aurora. It is one thing to “point and shoot” and to capture the colour in camera and I understand this will be more than enough for a lot of shooters. However, for a little extra “wow” in a shot already full of “wow” the same rules re composition apply at night. If you can frame your aurora with a dead tree, or use still water to capture reflections – or anything else you can think of – your shot will be extra special.
For the record my lens of choice is a 15-30mm f2.8. On an APSC camera, the equivalent lens would be 10-20mm or thereabouts.
Any tripod will do of course, but the sturdier the better for those long exposures. Consider packing a small phone tripod too – every now and then I’ve tried to do timelapse or video of the aurora, with limited success at this stage…
Bits and Pieces
This, funnily enough, is the important bit! The little extra bits that can make hours in the dark either easy-going and comfortable or just plain frustrating.
- It is good to have a headtorch, so your hands are free to search for and operate gear. If you can attach your tripod to your camera bag that is gold too, so your hands are free while walking around in the dark.
- Gloves are good for cold nights, and if you can get the fingerless type (or the ones where the thumb and forefinger can be exposed) that makes life much easier.
- There is no real need to carry multiple lenses or filters etc so attach your favourite lens at home, and keep your camera bag as light as possible. Perhaps add some choccies or other midnight snacks instead 🙂
- Phone – to check on solar wind information, or the Facebook group to get live updates – and to share your own! Keep in mind, that excessively looking at your phone and even the back of your camera will ruin your night vision and therefore your ability to view the aurora with the naked eye. Avoid over-looking at gadgets and remember to enjoy the show!
- You may even like to carry a small stool to sit on if you are shooting reasonably close to your car.
I hope you’ve found part I of my tips for photographing the aurora in Tasmania useful. I’ll be sharing more in the weeks ahead…