One week in Iceland goes fast. Especially in winter, when the daylight only lasts for about 6 hours! Luckily, we got 3 nights with good views of northern lights. We’d rented a house through Airbnb with a hot-tub northeast of Selfoss. As fate would have it we finally got it filled up on the same day as the skies cleared and we could just about see a green band forming above us. The biggest decision at this point was, should I lie down in the tub and enjoy the aurora show or get dressed for the cold night and head for the hills?
Hills first – followed immediately by hot-tub was the compromise.
I’d only tried to capture the northern lights once in Norway the previous year and I felt a bit more prepared this time around.
DSLR: Canon 7D mark II
Sturdy tripod – Mefoto Globetrotter Travel Tripod
Fast lens – Canon f2.8, 16-35mm L-series
Warm Clothes and gloves
For my first go, I climbed the hill behind our accommodation where I could get away from the immediate lights coming from the nearby houses.
Shutterspeed 13 sec
It didn’t look amazing though as I had only shot the lights, with nothing exciting in the foreground. After a few more goes I had shots with a barn in the foreground, some of far away hills and even a few shots with myself in them. For the portrait shots, I set the self-release timer for 10 seconds and ran over to roughly where I thought I should stand and tried to stand still for the duration. Looking like a tool is all part of the experience, I prefer to take these shots away from people 😉
The hot-tub was all the more fun and relaxing after I knew I had some aurora shots in the bag. Time for some champagne and celebrate our friend’s birthday!
My camera settings rarely changed much, though I found that when there was really fast moving lights it was better to reduce the shutter speed as the green lights would diffuse across the sky with little to no definition. Reducing the shutter speed would freeze the action a bit more, but that meant that I had to increase the ISO further for the foreground to be visible.
I’ve read that the moonlight can help illuminate the ground on good nights, but the moon was absent on most nights and on the last one we only had a small sliver of the moon.
Let me know in the comments if you have, or are going to photograph the Aurora, would love to hear how you get on.