To date I have attempted to shoot the Aurora Borealis twice. The first time was in September in the Peace Region, just north of Fort St. John, and the second was just recently over the holidays in Yellowknife, on the Dettah Ice Road.
Both times I tried different things and got very different results. Ironically, I think my first attempt was better than my second. Lets take a look and compare.
ISO400, 11mm, f/8, 30 seconds
ISO200, 16mm, f/13, 70 seconds
The biggest thing you will notice is the shutter speed. The first time I left it open to the longest preset of 30 seconds, the second time I used the BULB setting and timed it to about 70 second.
I’m not sure why I tried 70 seconds on the second attempt. Partly I think it was because when I had first gone out the lights were not out as strong, but they did end up coming out. As I scoured Flickr afterwards I think the most common shutter speeds are 15 and 30 seconds. It makes sense as you can see above in my first attempt. The ISO is also a mystery to me. I’m afraid to go any higher that ISO640 in fear my photos will look graining. What I have noticed on Flickr, is that if you want the foreground to show use a higher ISO. If you want it to appear more of a silhouette use a lower ISO. I read that my Nikon D90 works best at ISO200 so I had it there for my second attempt.
What I am struggling with on some level is my cameras capabilities. I’m read over and over that it is not the gear you use, it is how you use it. I tend to disagree with this when it comes to the Aurora. Obviously camera that are better suited for low-lighting will shine through in quality. For the time being though I have the D90 and I’ll stick with it.
These are some of my lessons learned in the first two attempts with Aurora. Do you have any advise and do something that works for you?