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Photographing the Aurora Boreailis In Iceland

Mark Jansen

Mark Jansen

Owner / Operator at Jansen Photo Expeditions
Mark’s interest in photography and love for landscapes constantly draws him into some amazing places. He researches his subjects extensively, sometimes making many trips to selected areas waiting for the perfect light, an interesting approach to the subject, and just the right moment.His goal of "freezing time for others to enjoy" is what drives him to create his visions.

Mark has a passion for landscape and classic creative aviation photography as well as providing large scale commercial installations of his fine art photographic murals and print works throughout California.

He has over 25 years of professional fine art and photographic experience. 

He works with both small and large corporate businesses in helping them project a powerful impact through his images. Mark offers photographic workshops in various U.S. and International locations.

Mark is an expert and personable instructor, expedition leader & award winning, visionary photographer. 

He is also a photography educator with the "Manfrotto School of Excellence" online educational network. 

"This is gorgeous work!", says Christopher Robinson, editor of Outdoor Photographer Magazine.
Mark Jansen

Photographing the Aurora Borealis in Iceland can be an exciting and challenging experience for beginner and advanced photographers alike. Everyone has their own way of accomplishing this. The following steps reflect what you might already know if you’ve been exposed to milky way or any type of night photography.

Iceland's waterfalls and the Aurora Borealis photography workshops

Aurora Borealis Photography workshops in Iceland.

First, the most important thing before you even touch your camera is to set up for the shot.

Take a few moments to enjoy this wonder of mother nature.

Experience the magic with your naked eye for a few minutes, as the colorful lights dance and whip around before you. This will be the most lasting experience of the Aurora Borealis you will ever remember, much more than any digital photograph will ever do.


How to document what you’re about to experience.

First and most importantly, you’ll need a solid tripod with a simple to operate ball head as well as a remote wired shutter release. You don’t want to be pushing your camera’s shutter button by hand.

The camera should be a DSLR or mirrorless camera with manual focus. Locate your lenses infinity mark. But before you shoot, turn your focus back slightly. If you don’t have this option, focus at a distant light if possible. Or when it’s still light, focus on a distant object and mark your lens with tape at your widest open aperture.

If your camera has a BULB setting, you can manually control exposure times throughout your Aurora shooting session.

Light house workshops in Iceland

Most cameras today have amazing ISO setting options. I suggest starting at 800 ISO and maxing out at 2500 ISO. This will vary depending on your camera.

A wide-angle zoom lens works best. F1.4 to f2.8 will offer the best results but 4.0 will work as well with higher ISO’s.

The trick is to keep your aperture wide open so it can gather the most light possible.

Fixed prime lenses work, but variable wide lenses rule for any landscape, especially when capturing the Northern Lights!

Long exposures are essential for capturing the Aurora. Exposure times vary between 5 seconds at higher ISO settings with wide open apertures, all the way to 20-40 seconds. I’ve captured it at various settings. My best results using my full frame Nikon range at ISO 800 at f 2.8 using my 14-24 lens at 20 seconds. This will vary depending on brightness and conditions, but I seldom go above ISO 2500. (20 seconds tends to keep stars from blurring in my case ).

Aroura Borealis photographed from Reykjavik by Jansen Photo Expeditions photography workshops Always have spare camera batteries on hand. Keep them in a warm inner pocket. Bring a good head lamp with an infrared light setting option. This will prevent night blindness.

NOTE: When using headlamps be respectful of others making exposures near by, don’t be selfish. It’s always good to work with others when exposing in any night photography situation. Team work rules!

Experiment with different exposure settings. All cameras are different. Expect to be fussing around at first. Its always good to test your settings first and get a feel for working with your camera in the dark. Knowing your camera’s button locations and menus is critical. (If you’ve never done night photography before, playing in the dark at home where it doesn’t count is a good way to learn)

Jansen Photography Iceland Photography WorkshopsWhen the action starts, you’ll want clear skies for the most part and quickly seek a good landscape to construct your composition. As far as moon phases are concerned, total late predawn darkness is best while exploring optimum locations on our workshops. But I’ve found waxing or waning crescents great for illuminating foregrounds, especially with the strong foreground features found in Iceland.

When experiencing the Aurora, your camera will most likely see something before you will. Camera sensors can pick up much more than your eyes will at first. You will most likely notice a faint green hue on the horizon with your naked eye and then pinks if the strength continues. As this increases you will want to turn down your ISO. Always consult your camera’s histogram and make adjustments as you go. Remember, if you want star trails, any exposure time over 30 seconds will provide this. If you want static stars, a 20 second exposure will do, but you’ll need to rise your ISO to do this.

Enjoy shooting the Aurora!
Join us for our photography expedition to Iceland where we explore the area most known for great Auroras in February 2018.

All the best,

Mark Jansen

JansenPhotoExpeditions.com

www.MarkJansenPhotography.com

 

 

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