Saturday, April 5, 2014

Playing Outside with Aurora...

Have I told you how much I love living here in Nome? The photographs below of the Northern lights are another reason why I enjoy living here so much.  I've had my Canon EOS Rebel T4i for a numbers of years now but just recently learned how to take photos of the Northern lights.

I wouldn't say I'm an expert I'm still a novice at this and received some help from a couple of people this year.  Janice and Doug Doherty residents of Nome told me about the Aurora Forecast app for my iphone.  So I could have an idea when the lights would come out.

Also on Facebook Aurora Alerts by Soft Serve News is a great resource.  I also received hands on help from a lady who's name I never got who said she use to teach classes at UAF on how to take pictures of the Northern lights.  This was excellent because I had no idea where or how to change aperature, set my timer, what an F stop was, or how to focus to infinity.

Here are some tips:

  1. Dress warm.  Gloves or mittens are essential!
  2. You need a tripod... you really, really, really need this.  I've tried without one and propping the camera but a tripod would save you a lot of time and energy.
  3. Set your Camera to Manual
  4. Set your F-Stop to it's lowest setting.  Mine was 3.5 if you could go down to a 1 or 2 that would be even better.  In order for me to do this I had to change my aperture (not sure if I'm use this word right) to 18mm in order to have the lowest F-stop on my camera.
  5. Change your ISO anywhere between 800 to 3200 depending on the lighting around you.
  6. Change your shutter speed to 3-10 seconds (play around with this to find what works for your camera)
  7. I was also told that since the camera is on a tripod that turning the stabilizer off also helps (this didn't seem to make a difference to me).
  8. Set your camera to infinity focus.  When I was told this I was like, "say whaaat?"  Anyways I have a digital camera so in order to do this I changed my settings to Auto Focus focused on something in the distance like a sign or lamp post.  Once I hear the beep that it was in focus then I switched back to Manual Focus. After you do this DON'T MESS WITH YOUR CAMERA!  Now take a picture.
 M for Manual

Open your aperture by changing it to 18mm.  Briefly put camera on AF (Auto Focus) focus on a sign or lamp post at a distant once the camera beeps put camera back to MF (Manual Focus)

On my display screen.  M is for Manual.  4" is my shutter speed.  F3.5 is my F-stop.  ISO is set at 1600.  The single rectangle near the center bottom left is for a single shot.  I would go here to change my setting if I wanted multiple shots or to set my timer to 10 seconds before the camera snaps a photo so I have time to run on the ice in front of the camera and pose and hold my pose till the camera is done taking the shot.  To change settings using the display you have to press (touch screen) the white Q in the bottom right-hand corner then press f-stop, shutter speed, iso, etc.

Now that you've gotten everything set up.  GO AND TAKE A PICTURE!

Feb 20, 2014 behind Martinson's subdivision.

Photos below were taken on April 5, 2014

In this photo, I turned around, I took a moment to look up and it was AMAZEBALLS!!! There's something about being alone and staring out into the night sky.  Trillions of stars, galaxies, planets and Aurora in front of them displaying a show just for you (I mean me).

My hands were freezing and I my tripod malfunctioned so it was time for me to go inside and warm up.  It's not until I load the pictures to my laptop that I think of what I will do differently next time. The lights were bright and I enjoyed my time playing outside with Aurora.  I probably won't get a chance to see her again till next winter since it doesn't get dark here till after midnight and the sun rises at around 6:00 am now.  Next time I'll wear gloves, next time I'll reduce my shutter speed, next time I'll try to take some video footage, next time I'll build a snow man... do you wanna build a snowman! (I have 4 kids)

Photos below taken on 4.12.14

Oh look there really are aliens in Nome... okay not really.  Just some reflection from the light source below into the sky playing tricks on my camera.  Thought it cool enough to post though :-)

Till next time...


  1. I think your pictures are pretty cool. I found you by searching for recipes to jog my mind about canning smoked salmon. We haven't done it in 15 yrs. and your video series is so helpful! Thanks for sharing your tips and tricks.

  2. Thanks for the comment Susan. That reminds me... I need to bring out the smoker from storage :-)

  3. Wow, wonderful pictures and thanks for sharing with us. To see northern lights Alaska northern lights tours is best.