Longford Leader Tutorial: How to photograph the Northern Lights this weekend

The Aurora Borealis will be visible over the country tonight, according to Astronomy Ireland

Jessica Thompson


Jessica Thompson



Longford Leader Tutorial: How to photograph the Northern Lights this weekend

Keep your eyes on the sky this weekend for chance sightings of the Northern Lights

Photographers in Longford will get a rare opportunity to photograph one of the most spectacular solar light displays in over a decade as the Northern Lights appear over the country this weekend - that is, provided the sky is clear.

As was mentioned in an earlier post on the Longford Leader website, there has been a huge explosion from the sun, which has sent chunks of matter towards earth. This means that all of this weekend, there is a strong chance of spectacular displays of light over Ireland.

And, for the photography enthusiasts, it means some incredible photos. But if you're an amateur or beginner, and wondering how to get some good snaps, we thought we'd provide an easy tutorial.

If the lights are visible tonight, here are a few tips. If they're not visible tonight... well, you could always take a trip to the Arctic Circle.

When to go:

The lights will be at their most spectacular tonight from 10pm onwards, according to Astronomy Ireland, but will be visible tomorrow night and Sunday night too.

Where to go:

Head northwest of any towns or cities to ensure the sky isn't polluted by street lights. You'll need a dark, clear location, unobstructed by trees or buildings.

What to bring:

A camera. It seems obvious, yes. But a proper camera will get you better shots than a smartphone - unless we get a really bright and spectacular display.

You may need a long exposure if the lights aren't too bright.

If you've ever tried to photograph the full moon on your smartphone, you'll know what I mean here.

If you bring a DSLR, a wide-angle lens would be best for photographing the sky.

A tripod will also be extremely useful when photographing the sky, as it will stop the camera from shaking.

Make sure you've got batteries and a SD card in your camera.

Finally, bring a warm coat. It will be a bit nippy tonight.

Something to note:

It’s possible that you’ll arrive at a destination and see nothing. This will either be because there is nothing to see, or because there is something to see, but it's just not visible to the naked eye.

Don't give up immediately. Put your camera on a slow shutter setting and take a few shots of the sky. Look back on them and you might see some streaks of green. Then it's just a matter of perfecting the show.

How to take the shot:

Set your camera to manual - you could try some of the automatic or semi-automatic settings but they won't be quite as effective.

Set up your camera on the tripod and point it towards your shot. You might want to use a remote shutter release or set your camera on a timer, so there's no shake when you push the shutter button.

f/28 is the best aperture setting for shooting the Northern Lights. It’ll provide a wide aperture which will allow more light to hit the camera’s sensor. f/3.5 or f/4 will also work well if your aperture doesn’t go down to f/2.8.

You’ll need a slow shutter speed – usually between 5 and 25 seconds, depending on the speed and visibility of the lights. But you can play around with this yourself.

How you set your ISO will depend on the aperture and shutter speed settings, as well as the conditions before you. Start off with a 400 to 800 ISO to try and eliminate noise from the photographs, but if the the photo isn’t bright enough, play around with higher ISO settings. It’s all about taking practice shots until you get it right.

Keep practicing and taking shots until your satisfied, and make sure you send your shots to us at newsroom@longfordleader.ie. We'll put the best ones up in a gallery on our website.

Here's hoping for clear skies!

This article was adapted from a blog post. Read the full tutorial and post here.