Photo Advice - Aurora Borealis

I (and the lovely porcupine) are taking a little holiday in a couple weeks to the northern tip of the isle of Labrador, Canada, near the Belle Isle Straight. It’s my understanding that the Aurora Borealis may quite possibly be visible at that latitude at this time of the year. Is this correct? And if so, does anyone have any advice, or tips, on how to photograph this phenomenon?

My current thinking calls for a wide-angle lens (I have a new 19-35mm ƒ3.5 zoom) opened up all the way, 800 ASA film and attempt exposure times of about 1/60 to 1/15 second. I think I can easily push the film to about 1200 ASA if necessary. Alternatively, I can perhaps use a slower film 400 ASA (this could be pushed also if necessary, probably with better results than pushing the 800) and try my 50mm ƒ1.4 lens. I’m taking two bodies with me (a Minolta X-700 and an old Minolta SRT-101), so changing film speed presents no problem.

I guess my biggest concern is exposure time—I think I have enough equipment and film options to make the necessary adjustments to get whatever exposure time I need. Does anyone have any recommendations? Anyone attempted shooting the Aurora Borealis before?

Wow, sounds great. Can’t wait to see what answers you get UncleBeer :slight_smile: The only thing I’ve ever shot at night was when I used a manual shutter release and got good results with 400 ASA leaving the shutter open for about 5 or less seconds. It seem that may not really help, but thought I’d post it anyway.

Here’s the link to a very good buddy’spage. I’m sure he’d enjoy sharing with you some technical recommendations. I’m going to bug out of being the middleman here cuz, believe me, a lot would get lost in the translation.

You can email him at
url tag fixed - ub

Thanks, lieu. I’ll do that.

And now we’re even on fixing each other’s code. Heh.

The initial recommendation is 200 ASA in a tripod with a slow exposure. But not too slow or your photo is washed out. My buddy is going to check with his dad for more precise instructions - he took an award-worthy shot of Hale-Bopp and the Northern Lights over Scout Lake a while back. I’ve done it with a snapshot camera, but let’s just say the results were about what one would expect.

I just checked the latitude of the Straits, and it’s just a little further south than I am. You actually may have more of an issue waiting for it to get dark enough to see the Borealis. Might be far enough south, though…

Oh yes, and here’s a link to one of Larry’s photos of the Northern Lights. He’s done better, but he won’t put them on the 'net - something about not wanting to aggressively protect his copyright. :slight_smile:

Yeah, I’ve been doing a little research myself, too. It appears that my exposure times are waaaay underestimated - which is good. I’m finding times that range between 15 & 120 seconds for 200 ASA. So, I can use a slower and finer grain (and cheaper!) film, mount up the tripod, grab my stopwatch and cable release and have at it. I’ve already bought a bunch of 100 & 200 ASA film for general outdoor and wildlife shots anyway. Guess maybe I’ll get another half-dozen rolls.

That’s a good comment, tisiphone. I hadn’t thought of that. I guess I won’t be taking sunrise pictures the mornings after I try shooting the Lights.