(Content and images by Amoghavarsha)
Amoghavarsha is a photographer from Bangalore and he was a part of the Beyonder Group that travelled to Norway in January 2017 for chasing the Northern Lights or if I can say experiencing the Aurora Borealis phenomena. This was Amogh’s first experience of witnessing Northern lights and of course capturing it on camera. We have tried to summarise his experience and photography tips below.
Through the eyes of a Photographer
It was an experience like never before. A beautiful landscape with unique experiences and subjects. A lot of creativity and patience is surely the key to photography in Norway. Extreme weather, coupled with very little day light is definitely a new challenge. The whites of the arctic make way for a lot of subliminal photography, where each moment presents an opportunity for an unbelievable art.
The northern lights were another marvel, playing hide and seek – most times. But in the moment they revealed themselves, they were nothing short of wonder. The whole white landscape with dark skies – suddenly revealing a montage of rainbow colours dancing around in the sky was magical. It all happens in a moment, and the photographer has to be ever ready!
Basic preparation for capturing the lights starting from Camera, Lens, setting, focus and other technicalities
It is sub-zero temperatures with very little light so one has to take into account the weather and lighting most.
- Carry minimal gear – Not easy to shoot and move in the snow and cold with tonnes of gear.
- Lots of batteries needed – As most cameras run out of charge in no time due to the extreme cold.
- Know your camera well – Won’t be too many opportunities to trial and error as the lights show up and disappear very quickly.
- Tripod is all important – As one has to do long exposures of atleast a few seconds all the way up to a minute to capture the light.
- Experiment with shooting starts in the night sky before you heading out there.
- A wide to mid angle lens gives the best results.
- One has to shoot in wide aperture and slow shutters to get good results.
How to finally shoot?
Depends on the conditions, but I would recommend the following:
- When there’s a chance of the lights, setup the camera where one has seen the action
- Point the lens in the general direction and manual focus to infinity.
- Take test shots – change ISO – retest
- If you are getting good stars in the sky and some foreground you are good.
- Wait for the lights!
- Once you get the safe shots of the northern lights, experiment and change composition and angles
Pointers on acclimatisation for self, for camera and taking care of the photography gear
- Know your camera controls (even without looking at the camera).
- You might have to operate the camera with gloves – so be prepared.
- Keep warm, so you can focus on the camera and not yourself.
- Lots of batteries – fully charged.
- Some cameras might shut off due to low temperatures so make sure you have a slightly weather sealed camera.
- Make sure extra batteries are in some place warmer.
- Cameras with good ISO capabilities a must.
- Carry a good head torch – helps use without hands and a must.
Should one practice during the day for the Night shoot?
The weather in Tromso is extreme and there is hardly any daylight. Hence, it is mostly low light (dusk) to night photography. You get 3hrs of decent light. So, practise during the night. During day just make sure to recharge batteries – check gear etc.
Most common mistakes that people make
- Exhausting battery by looking at pictures too often.
- Not carrying enough memory cards and batteries.
- Not carrying a good tripod.
- Not keeping themselves warm to stay out atleast 4-5 hours in the night.
How does one create memories of such an experience? Is there a way to create a story format, or should one have a story in mind while shooting?
Stories depend – on available time – places traveling. But yes, always good to have a rough sketch ready in mind and adapt it based on the how the trip goes.
What are the other things in Tromso which are great from a photography point of view?
The town is pretty picturesque, also one gets to see a lot of snowfall with a very Christmas feel to the whole town, its houses, churches and low bustle. One also gets to go into the fjords and see whales and dolphins. The backdrop of the mountains provides excellent landscape photography opportunities. The wilderness camps have huskies and beautiful landscape.
Northern lights is an experience of a life time, and if it can be captured in the lens it will be memories and stories forever.