It is the end of the summer and that means the northern lights are showing across Alaska.

On Tuesday and Wednesday night, the aurora's colors are predicted to be highly active with clear skies.

If you want to take pictures of the aurora this week here is what you need to know.

First, pick a spot away from city lights.

Counting on the night if it's clear, you don't have to go far from the city or out of town. 

Locations for good aurora shots in Southcentral Alaska:

  • Knik River
  • Turnagain Pass
  • Hatcher Pass
  • Palmer
  • Eagle River Nature Center
  • Glen Alps Trailhead
  • Mt. Baldy

Next, take your camera off autofocus. Your camera is very unlikely to be able to autofocus on the aurora. So you will have to use manual focus. If you're using a decent lens which has focus markings, it should be reasonably easy.

When taking your picture if you include a mountain in the background it can help show how big the northern lights are showing that night. Also, water reflection shots are always cool. 

The big one is to use a tripod and set your camera to a low shutter speed.

It is recommended to play around with your camera on Manual settings. General settings are ISO 3200, f/2.4, t=3s and then I adjust time shutter speed accordingly to the situation. If the lights are weak, then I go to t=8s, stronger light can reduce the time to 1s. Please note that you must recalculate the shutter speed if your minimal aperture number is higher.

Example: if your minimal aperture number is f/3.5, then your times should be between 2 and 15 seconds. You can reduce then to 1-8 seconds by increasing ISO to 6400, but your images will be noisier. The brightness changes rapidly and it is important to change your shutter speed immediately to get rightly exposed photos.

Shoot panoramas. Even 14mm wide lens is often not wide enough for aurora oval. All my photos are full 360 panoramas. There are many websites describing details of 360 photography. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

When your out photographing the aurora, you will most likely be out there for a long while. So in order to get the best aurora shots possible, you need to be warm and comfortable. If you are happy, then your aurora shots will be happy too. If you are cold, tired, uncomfortable etc, then your aurora shots will likely suffer. So before you even grab your camera equipment, prepare yourself.

Lastly, be patient and enjoy the moment. Happy aurora hunting!

WATCH BELOW: University of Alaska Anchorage planetarium manager Omega Smith with more tips on where you can see the best show. 


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