• 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

  • Politics

    Legislature casts doubt on new proposal from Anchorage LIO owner

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Feb 05, 22:58

      JUNEAU — Last month, members of the Alaska Legislative Council said they would end their controversial lease on the Anchorage Legislative Information Office if it’s owner — 716 West Fourth Avenue, LLC — didn’t make offer a more “competitive” price. A new proposal from company owner Mark Pfeffer was made public Friday, but the […]

  • Politics

    ‘Idea Line’ lets Alaskans weigh in on government spending

    by Liz Raines on Feb 05, 22:24

      JUNEAU — Alaska lawmakers say they’re turning to the public for ideas on how to solve the state’s nearly $4 billion budget deficit. At a press conference Friday, members of the house majority presented the “idea line” – a 24-hour hotline where Alaskans can leave messages for lawmakers. The number to call is: 1-844-414-5949 […]

  • Sports

    CBS crews ready for the most advanced Super Bowl broadcast yet

    by Dave Goldman on Feb 05, 21:17

      SANTA CLARA, Calif. – To get some perspective on how far the Super Bowl has come, all you have to do is look back to the first game. Eleven cameras and two trucks were used at the first broadcast. That was the extent of CBS’ needs to show the Green Bay Packers defeat the Kansas […]

  • News

    Can I recycle that? Demystifying the rules for recycling in Anchorage

    by Lauren Maxwell on Feb 05, 20:41

      Anchorage recycling programs aren’t making a profit these days. That’s because the prices paid for recyclable materials have reached their lowest numbers in a decade. “There’s been a drop of about 46 percent in the price of metals,” explains Mary Fisher, Director of Alaskans for Litter Prevention and Recycling (ALPAR). ”For the price of paper […]

  • News

    UPDATE: One person confirmed dead in Eagle River house fire

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Feb 05, 19:54

    Last Updated: Friday, Feb. 5, 2016 at 10:45 p.m. One person is dead following a house fire in Eagle River Friday evening, authorities confirm. The Anchorage Fire Department received the call at 6:47 p.m., according to AFD spokesperson John See. The caller stated that they thought a person was trapped inside the house. Crews responding […]

  • News

    Anchorage 911 dispatcher helps man save his wife’s life with CPR

    by Heather Hintze on Feb 05, 18:34

      ANCHORAGE — “She’s not breathing,” Keith Herte explained frantically over the telephone to 911 dispatcher Frances Robinson. “She’s not breathing, okay,” Robinson replied. It’s a call she remembers well: May 4, 2014 — A call from a man whose wife had gone into cardiac arrest at their home in Eagle River. For Robinson, it was the […]

  • Lifestyle

    Health official: Alaskans at low risk for Zika virus

    by Associated Press on Feb 05, 18:22

    An official with the state Division of Public Health says Alaskans are not likely to contract the Zika virus unless they have contact with people who have been traveling in affected areas. Infectious disease program manager Michael Cooper says Alaskans could theoretically be infected through sexual transmission or blood transfusions, but not by the mosquitoes […]

  • News

    New details emerge about Anchorage man facing child porn charges

    by Shannon Ballard on Feb 05, 17:21

    ANCHORAGE — We are learning new details about the Anchorage Police Department’s investigation that lead to the arrest of Christopher Olson, the 31-year-old Anchorage man charged with 27 counts relating to child porn and sexual abuse of a minor. We now know Olson was his victim’s babysitter, according to court documents. Authorities discovered 14 videos on his […]