If there is one thing I love to shoot it is the Northern lights. Every year I take a couple of small groups on an expedition to the frozen north of Norway. I’ve been running these trips for 15 years and we have never not seen the Aurora. In that 15 years I have developed and perfected my techniques for shooting the Aurora, whether timelapse or real time 4K and 8K video. I have the cameras, the lenses and the know how to get great Aurora pictures and video.
I’m up, 200 miles North of the Arctic Circle shooting the Northern Lights with a mixture of DSLR’s and one of my PMW-F3’s. The F3’s performance has really taken me by surprise as it’s possible to capture even a very faint Aurora just using the 8 frame slow shutter. Hopefully we’ll get a nice clear night and a decent Aurora and then I can turn off the slow shutter altogether. Either way, this is the first time I have been able to shoot the Aurora with out needing to resort to time-lapse.
The below clip is Timelapse as it does show the motion of the Aurora better. Shot with my F3 using the 8 frame SLS and 18db gain.
The last couple of days provided some really spectacular skies with amazing vapor trails and fluffy clouds. So I grabbed a selection of cameras and shot a bunch of timelapse which you can see cobbled together in this clip. I used a Sony PMW-350 and a Canon 350D and 550D. Amazing how well they match after a quick grade. I also included an previously un-used Aurora shot from Iceland at the end. The name of the clip comes from the fact that clouds are made of water vapor and ice crystals.
You can also watch it in HD on Exposure Room.
Well I have just returned from Iceland where I held a couple of 3D stereoscopic master classes and a workshop on video for the internet. They went well and we all had fun despite almost a foot of snow fall the morning of the classes. On the last day of my trip I decided to try and get some more Northern Lights footage. As I am often asked how I do this I put together the clip below which explains what settings I use for the Aurora and also gives a brief description of S&Q on an XDCAM EX. Basically what I do is use the EX Slow Shutter at 32 or 64 frames to increase the sensitivity of the camera. For a dim Northern Lights display I use 64 frames but for a bright display I drop down to 32 frames. The slow shutter acts like a long exposure on a stills camera. I then combine this with interval record shooting at 1 frame every second. I did also have a Canon DSLR with me and tried to shoot the Aurora with that. I found I needed a 10 second exposure at 800 asa to get a similar result to that achieved with the EX. The 10 second exposure means that it would take longer to get a decent length video sequence and most of the motion of the Aurora would be lost. Some of the exposure difference was I admit to the slower F4 lens on the Canon compared to the Sony EX’s F1.8, so perhaps with a faster lens you could bring the exposure down to around 5 seconds and this is something I hope to try when I go Aurora chasing next winter.
If you watch the video make sure you stay to the end to check out my attempt to record a piece to camera in 60 mph blowing snow! Don’t know why I even thought it would work. What I will say is that my new Vinten 5AS did a great job of keeping the camera steady in some pretty extreme conditions.
Here’s a quick edit of some of the Aurora footage I managed to grab with the PMW-350 on the 6th of Feb in Karasjok in Northern Norway.