Aurora Borealis Photography

Aurora Safari Camp founder, Fredrik Broman offers handy hints about capturing the Northern Lights.

Lapland photographer Fredrik Broman works in sub-zero temperatures but that’s a small price to pay for shooting one of the world’s most spectacular night-time phenomena: the Northern Lights. The temperatures in Lapland creep even lower once the sun sets, but for Fredrik Broman, that’s when the photography gets really interesting.

Learning to shoot during his military service for the Swedish Navy, Broman first invested in a good camera while sailing all the way to Australia. Since then he’s made a study of the Aurora Borealis, the Northern Lights, the infamous IceHotel and the wild world of the Arctic Circle. Here he shares his tips on shooting some of the most marvellous sights in the snow.

When and where can you see and photograph the Northern Lights?

The chances of seeing the lights are better if you’re around the Arctic Circle and further north. Some years it has been visible 1000km south in the Stockholm area. From September when the nights are dark again, the chances of seeing the Northern Lights increase. I’ve seen it as early as the middle of August, but that was back in 2004 when the Northern Lights were really strong. You can usually see it from September until a few days into April. It depends on the sun’s activity, as that in turn effects the radiation creating this phenomenon.

How do you photograph the Northern Lights?

1. You need a tripod and a camera with manual settings you can use.
2. Stick with Manual or AV for your camera modes.
3. You often need shutter speeds up to a minute or longer.
4. Try a f/2.8 lens. It’ll help a lot. If the lights are really strong, you can go down to a shutter speed of around 10sec with one of these lenses.
5. Do all of the above using ISO around 100-400 for good results.
6. Clear skies and snow on the ground are ideal conditions.

Photography workshops at Aurora Safari CampAurora Borealis

What are the challenges of photographing the Northern Lights?

The challenge lies in catching the strong purple or pink light. It moves around a lot and isn’t as strong as the green colours.

What tips do you have for photographing the snow before night time?

I like to put an object in the foreground as a silhouette. Preferably people. There are so many bad sunset shots, and so many of them are the same. Sunset is not my favourite moment in the evening. It starts getting more interesting an hour after, especially in the far north when you have exciting light all night long. If you’re photographing the snow at dusk or in low light, you will definitely need a tripod and a long shutter speed to get the best shots

What sort of special housings do you use to protect your camera gear in the snow?

You don’t really need that. Up in Swedish Lapland where I live and work a lot, we get cold, dry winters. You do need to keep extra batteries inside your long johns!

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