Photographing the corona (aurora borealis)

A corona outburst usually doesn’t last long and there are several ways to capture it. I won’t go into details of using a whole-sky fisheye lens or filming the aurora. Most of you coming to the North (or South) to see the lights have a dslr camera with a wide-angle lens. So, what more is needed?

  • know your aperture, exposure time and ISO
    When being out at night, seeing the aurora gaining in strength, you might be so excited that the camera basics are forgotten and replaced by adrenaline. Be familiar with your camera settings and what the change will do. For example let’s say you are using these settings: aperture 2.8 | ISO 800 | Exposure time 4 sec. If you want to capture more details you need to shorten the exposure time. But what do you need to do with the aperture and ISO? Anything? Indeed you do, otherwise your image might be too dark. In my aurora guide I cover this in more detail.
  • know your camera buttons in the dark
    It is exciting to see the dancing lights in the sky and you might press the wrong camera button which messes up the photo. Taking out the flashlight, checking and correcting might take just long enough for the corona to pass. Knowing which buttons/wheels change the ISO, aperture and exposure time helps a lot.
  • follow the aurora develop
    As you’ll see in the photos below, aurora will change quickly and – while positioning the camera, etc – it’s good to keep at least one eye on the sky. Which leads to the next point
  • be ready to ‘shoot from the (tripod) hip’
    when the corona opens up it is not a fixed point in the sky, it moves around. If you are superfast, you can use the camera’s viewfinder to point at the corona. For me, the best way was to turn the camera approximately right. And often that works. It’s perhaps tricky to explain in writing, easiest is to show you during one of my tours.
  • check the photo for highlights
    just before the corona the intensity of the lights is often rising, resulting in blown out highlights of the next image. Check the photo from the screen and if there are some white areas, you want to adjust either the aperture, exposure time or ISO.

That’s about it, if you want to share your experiences or have more ideas, points to remember, I’d be happy to read your comment and let’s discuss!

The corona photo series below is taken within ~70 seconds.


Copyright: Thomas Kast

A strong aurora outburst with a starting corona at the top

Copyright: Thomas Kast

9 seconds later – One more photo into the same direction, notice the purple-green rays on the top right corner. Time to point the camera upwards.

Copyright: Thomas Kast

14 seconds later – the corona is about to unfold, rays in all directions, what a rush!

Copyright: Thomas Kast

12 seconds later – Boom, we have lift off. It’s like looking into the soul of Lady Aurora

Copyright: Thomas Kast

15 seconds later – The end is nearing, the structured rays get washed out and the puple is almost gone

Copyright: Thomas Kast

18 seconds later – the show moved on, see the rays on the far right



4 responses to “Photographing the corona (aurora borealis)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s