As with all night photography shooting the Aurora requires a set of minimum equipment.

Tripod

At the top of this is a strong sturdy tripod. It doesnt need to be expensive but it must be able to hold your camera still.

Due to the fact that it will likely be cold a tripod with wrapped legs will be of benefit to stop your hands getting cold when carrying it to a new location.

Once your camera is on a tripod, don't ruin everything by physically pressing the shutter release button. That will only introduce a blur to your picture. Instead, use a shutter release cable or wireless remote to open your camera's shutter without touching it. Some cameras have a two second or 10-second shutter delay feature, which serves a similar purpose.

Camera

Next is a camera, and whilst you can get averagely good results with a cellphone it is reccomended that you have at least a DSLR or mirrorless camera with the ability to set Manual exposure and a high ISO. 

Unfortunately, most people who go hunting for the Aurora don't think about camera equipment, and often turn up only with a smartphone or a point-and-shoot camera. These gadgets aren't sensitive enough to capture the Northern Lights (and nor do they have enough manual controls), and what's more, their batteries often stop working in the cold temperatures.

To go with the camera it is reccommended  to have a wide angle lens, for full frame cameras this should be around 14-24mm. As well it is advisable to have a fast aperture of at least f2.8.

The key is allowing the most amount of light to hit your camera’s sensor in the least amount of time, in turn maintaining a lower ISO, thereby minimising noise.

At night human eyes are less sensitive than during the day but after time you will be able to see better in the dark than when you first arrive to shoot. For this reason it is suggested to reduce the brightness of your camera LCD screen and your smartphone if you carry one (and you should have a phone for emergency contact). If you have a head lamp its best if it can be set on red light if it can do it. 

 

Know your camera well enough to use it in the dark

Being able to adjust your cameras setting in the dark will help prevent using a torch or headlamp and ruining your night vision

 

Transport

While this may seem like a no brainer being able to travel can seriously help you to successfully capture the lights, especially to chase clear skies.

 

Scout the location in daylight

Once you're settled into your hotel, take a drive around the local area and scout out a couple of locations that you could return to later. Not only will this increase your chances of finding an interesting composition, but you will know exactly where to park your car, and where you can walk safely in the dark.

 

Always take spare batteries

Sub-zero temperatures are not only bad for your fingers, but can sap your camera's batteries. They run down much faster in the cold, so take a couple of extra batteries, and keep them in jacket pockets, and close to your body, to keep them warm.

 

Heating

If its one thing that can end your night hunting the Aurora its a fogged up lens. There are many ways to combat this from a simple sock around the lens to specialist camera jackets and heat straps.  AT Frosted Lens make a camera parka that keeps your camera and attached lens nice and cozy during long periods in sub zero (degrees celcius)  temperatures.  If these items are beyond your budget then hand warmers can be a very effective way to keep your lens at least warm and Dew free.

 

Keeping Warm

Its no use having a toasty camera if you're freezing, so it makes sense to kit yourself out with warm clothing.  Not only does it need to be warm but it needs to be able to keep rain and wind at bay, often the wind chill can make it very uncomfortable for the ill prepared photographer. 

Dressing in layers will allow you to add or subtract items. Try to avoid materials that dont breath or wick moisture away, of all modern fibres Merino wool is by far and away the best for keeping you warm and allowing your body to sweat if you get too warm.

Merino Wool

Often used in long underwear or winter wear, it can also be a good summer fabric; early generations of wool were scratchy; today’s merino wools are quite soft.

  • Pros: Breathes well; wicks moisture and is available in lightweight, summer-worthy styles. Doesn’t retain odors like synthetic fabrics do.

 

Protecting your Hands from Cold

Nothing like frozen and painful fingertips to ruin an outdoor photo trip in cold temperatures and take the fun out of it! Find gloves thin enough that you never have to take them off to change camera settings, batteries or memory cards, and use your tripod.

There are plenty of gloves avaliable that will allow you to still use your camera and also the touchscreen on your phone. 

Advanced Warning

If there is one thing that can increase your chances of seeing the Aurora then it's anvanced warning.  There are many Apps and services that can send you txt messages etc or you can have a go at reading the gauges yourself. The  Space weather prediction center is one place that can dish up all the information you need to help improve your chances of seeing the lights.

 

 

While this is not an exhaustive list its should give you a good starting point to help you capture the Aurora.