Rvers Guide to Photographing the Aurora Borealis

Rvers Guide to Photographing the Aurora Borealis


The Aurora Borealis (known as the Northern Lights) are streaks of light dancing across the sky. They are a joy for RVers who are camping in the northern United States or Canada.

People are often surprised to know that you don't need to have an expensive camera to capture this breathtaking event. The truth is, almost any DSLR can capture the Aurora Borealis. The Aurora is also visible year-round, and you don’t have to live in Alaska to see the beautiful Northern Lights. There are some advanced tutorials online on how to photograph the Northern Lights, they are so advanced that my head was spinning. Our goal is to dummy this down and simplify the process. As with photography, there are variables. You can adjust camera settings to match your needs. These tips should get you on track. 

Before we begin, there are a few other factors to keep in mind. First, you will need to be in a northern state where the Aurora Borealis will be visible. You'll need to know when it will be visible, and this website is a great resource: http://www.softservenews.com/. Make sure it's a clear night and it helps if there is no moon showing above the horizon. Once you have all these conditions working in your favor make sure you are out of town. The ambient lights of being near a city will affect the visibility of the northern lights.

What Equipment Do You Need?

  • A DSLR camera with manual mode: this doesn't have to be expensive, a $150 camera will work fine
  • A charged battery
  • A tripod
  • A flashlight since you'll be walking in the dark

Camera Settings

  • Mode: the camera must be set to manual
  • Focus: set the focus to manual and infinity
  • Aperture, you will want the lowest f-number. We recommend f/4 to begin
  • Shutter: 30 seconds is a good speed. Anything longer than this and you'll get star trails in your photo because of the earth's rotation
  • ISO: use the lowest ISO possible. This will vary depending on your camera but we shoot at around 800.

I hope this inspires you to keep an eye out for the next Northern Lights storm. Get out and capture the show so that you can share the memory with friends and family.