Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis take place when electrically charged particles from the sun travel in solar winds and interact with the magnetic fields of the Earth’s atmosphere. This creates an ethereal glow and dancing lights in the sky.
Autumn and winter are the best times of year to see the Northern Lights in Scotland as the nights are the darkest. Late at night or the early hours of the morning are generally your best chance of catching them. Here are our top tips for your chance to catch of glimpse:
Did you know Scotland is renowned as one of the top places in the world to view Northern Lights? We are on the same latitude as Stavanger in Norway and Nunivak Island in Alaska, so we’re in with a good chance of spotting the lights.
Once you’ve checked everything out and got into position it’s a case of waiting and watching. Certainly, the best time to see Northern Lights in Scotland is during long, clear, winter nights.
Have you done your homework? You have invested time and money to be in the best location at the right time of year and now it’s crunch time.
Catching your hopes and expectations on your camera. As with any trip to the wilds, preparation is key. Whilst you may have the latest DSLR it may all come to waste if only a few basic things could have also been remembered.
Keep alert! I look at 3 websites daily to try and gain an indication that the aurora may be on that night.
This may sound obvious but having read the manual and taking time to become familiar with settings and buttons will reward at the crucial time. This is especially true to those folk that have a basic digital camera and generally use the default point and shoot settings. Just take a little time as it will pay dividends.
A checklist is very useful just to ensure that nothing is left behind.
You are now set up and ready to shoot. We all have an idea of the image that we would like to capture and this will vary. Knowing how your camera is set up is crucial as this will allow you to alter specific settings to obtain the result that you require. The following is how I set up my camera. I then alter settings to suit conditions etc. Note that you could have your camera setup and ready to go before setting out thereby reducing faff.
As you get familiar with judging the intensity of the aurora, you can make pretty good guesses on exposure times.
Using Bulb mode: If your exposure exceeds the in-camera timer of 30 seconds, switch your camera to Bulb mode. Plug in your cable release. Your exposure will go as long as you hold the release button down.
“You can be forgiven for wondering why this noise reduction feature isn’t always ON at all times. The answer is that using it can slow down your shooting of one picture after another. Here’s why: to do its job, Long Exposure Noise Reduction has to re-energize your imaging sensor and in effect take a “blank” exposure, after your actual picture is taken, for the same length of time. During this time, you cannot shoot another actual picture — the red card busy light on the back of the camera stays on until the process is completed. If you shoot, for example, a 30-second exposure, the camera has to be tied-up for an additional 30 full seconds before your next picture can be taken.”