• Forecast
  • News Tip
  • Categories
Temperature Precipitation
Estimated read time
2m 43s

Tips for photographing the aurora

By KTVA CBS 11 News 6:46 AM December 12, 2013

Alaskan photographer Dave Parkhurst offers advice on how to capture the northern lights.

ANCHORAGE – Have you tried — unsucessfully — to take a picture of the aurora with your iPhone or iPad?

Dave Parkhurst is an Alaskan photographer who has spent his life capturing one of nature’s best light shows.

On Thursday, he was a guest on KTVA 11’s Daybreak and offered tips on how to photograph the aurora.

1)   Safety first. Parkhurst said it’s the most obvious tip he must insist on. He said just getting a shot is not worth frostbite or possibly losing a body part. “I’ve been out under the stars in some dangerously serious sub-zero temps over the decades and ultimately the rule is safety first,” Parkhurst said.

2)   Films cameras still work. “When I first began chasing aurora in 1980, I shot slow-speed, high resolution 35mm films,” Parkhurst said. “Manual film cameras were and are still tough as nails and endured the extreme cold very well.” He said the cameras could be extremely cold for hours and still shoot.

3)   Pamper your digital camera equipment. The cold is hard on digital cameras, laptops, cell phones and tablets, according to Parkhurst.  “I’ve seen digital displays completely freeze up, “ he said. “I couldn’t see what the camera settings were or do anything internally. It was time to find some warmth.”

Also, going digital means being dependent on batteries. Parkhurst recommends bringing many batteries or a power pack.

4)   Little post-processing. “All digital images require some post-processing. Sadly, the majority of digital photographers out there over-process their images,” he said.  “It renders them unrealistic to what the eye actually saw.” Parkhurst said the smaller the amount of post-processing, the closer the picture is to what the eye actually saw.

5)   Don’t be fooled by the aurora forecast.  “The aurora forecast has a far lower success rate than the Alaska weather forecasts,” he said. “The aurora occurs anywhere around the world when it decides to occur. There is no scheduled time or set date.”

6)   Dress smart. Parkhurst recommends dressing in layers, have inside pockets and wear good insulated footwear with dry socks. He said don’t wear tennis shoes, cotton socks, jeans, t-shirts or thin coats. He also stressed protecting the head with a hat and hands with gloves.

7)   Stay hydrated without alcohol and eat. “You are burning more energy than you think being out in the cold, especially in sub-zero temps,” he said. “Bring a thermos of hot tea or coffee, as warm liquids can often take the edge off the cold and warm your core.”

8)   Be alert. Parkhurst said to watch out for wildlife — especially moose — in the winter. “A moose that is stressed from searching for  food and surviving in the deep snow is not something you want to cross paths to struggle with,” he said.

9)   Experiment and enjoy. Parkhurst suggests to experiment with your camera under many different settings.  “Remember the aurora is a fast-moving, constantly brightening and dimming source of light that is 60 to 200 miles above the earth in differing spectrums, “ he said. “So experimenting with a variety of exposures will teach you to become comfortable with your equipment.”

Latest Stories

  • News

    ‘Large power outage’ affects residents in Anchorage area

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Jan 26, 23:14

    Chugach Electric is reporting a large power outage Monday night in Anchorage, south of Tudor Road and in the Spenard area. The outage was caused by a generator at the Chugach plant on International Airport Road that tripped offline, says Sarah Wiggins with Chugach. Crews are now working to bring up a generator at another […]

  • Sports

    Wasilla player looks to have promising pro hockey career

    by KTVA Sports on Jan 26, 22:05

    Hockey is arguably the most popular sport around the state. Some young players use it to further their education, while others hope to make some money from it. Tanner Schachle is new to the Kenai River Brown Bears, but already his coach says he may have the chance to make a living on the ice.

  • News

    How Obama’s ANWR proposal could impact Alaska’s economy

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Jan 26, 21:21

    President Barack Obama’s actions Sunday to propose new wilderness designations in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge would essentially shut down any hopes of oil exploration in the area. Department of National Resources Commissioner Mark Myers joined KTVA 11 News to break down how the Obama administration’s proposal could impact Alaska’s economy.

  • Weather

    Evening News weather, Jan. 26

    by KTVA Weather on Jan 26, 20:54

    Kenai Peninsula and Prince William Sound Temperatures in single digits along with light winds. Some locations could see some morning fog. Southeast Things are drying out with temperatures unseasonably high. Fog can be found throughout the region. The Mat-Su Valley and Copper River Basin Expect mostly sunny skies with lows down to 33 degrees below […]

  • News

    New survey rates Alaska businesses on LGBT-friendliness

    by Heather Hintze on Jan 26, 20:50

    Local business leaders launched a new initiative in Anchorage to encourage companies to be more inclusive of the LGBT community. Named 1+1 Alaska, this online survey rates businesses “based on workplace policies, benefits and community engagement,” and helps them identify ways they can grow to be more inclusive for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender workers. A panel […]

  • News

    Students make ‘mountain of sandwiches’ for Anchorage’s homeless

    by Heather Hintze on Jan 26, 18:00

    Students at Anchorage’s Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic School are helping to feed Anchorage’s homeless community. Monday morning, the kids made a “mountain of sandwiches” that went to feed clients at the Brother Francis Shelter. Parents said the activity kicked off the school’s celebration of Catholic Schools Week. First- through -sixth-grade students formed assembly lines to turn out […]

  • News

    Crews work to restore heat and water to UAF buildings

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Jan 26, 17:41

    Some University of Alaska Fairbanks buildings are without heat and water following line breaks, school officials report. The breaks happened within the utility corridors near the campus fire station along Yukon Drive around 4:30 a.m. Monday, says UAF spokeswoman Marmian Grimes. Repair crews were initially unable to reach the breaks. This was due to resulting […]

  • Crime

    Anchorage man sentenced to 17.5 years for sexual exploitation of a minor

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Jan 26, 17:29

    An Anchorage man who pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual exploitation of a child was sentenced in federal court Thursday. Kevin Dale Callander, 45, was sentenced to 210 months — or 17.5 years — in prison on two counts of sexual exploitation. Additionally, Callander will serve a separate 12-year prison term for sexual abuse […]