Best Camera Settings to Take Photos of the Northern Lights
The northern lights, also known as the aurora borealis, are a natural light display in the sky, predominantly seen in the high-latitude regions (around the Arctic and Antarctic). The lights are caused by the collision of charged particles from the sun with atoms in the Earth’s atmosphere.
Wisconsin is one of the few states in the lower 48 where it is possible to see the northern lights. The best time to see the lights is during the winter months, when the nights are long and dark. However, it is possible to see the lights during other times of the year, as long as there is a strong geomagnetic storm.
If you are planning to take photos of the northern lights in Wisconsin, there are a few things you will need to do to prepare. First, you will need to find a location with a dark sky. The lights are best seen away from city lights, which can wash out the colors.
Once you have found a location, you will need to set up your camera. The best settings for photographing the northern lights will vary depending on your camera model. However, some general tips include:
* Use a wide-angle lens to capture as much of the sky as possible.
* Set your camera to manual mode.
* Set your ISO to a high setting, such as 1600 or 3200. (Photos in gallery are taken from 800 to 1600 ISO)
* Open your aperture as wide as possible.
* Set your shutter speed to a long exposure, such as 30 seconds or longer. (Photos in gallery are taken from from 3 to 6 seconds, note longer exposure will create star motion blur, however it will increase the amount of light you capture.)
* Use a tripod to keep your camera steady.
Once you have set up your camera, you will need to be patient. The northern lights can be unpredictable, so you may have to wait a while before they appear. However, when they do, the results will be worth it.
Click on Northern Lights Image to Enlarge.
On April 23, 2023, photographer Branden Bodendorfer captured stunning photos of the northern lights over Central Wisconsin. Bodendorfer had received a notification alert early in the day that there was going to be a high KP Index tonight, peaking at 10 pm. The app Bodendorfer uses is Aurora, which is available for both Android and iPhone users. The resulting photos are a beautiful reminder of the natural wonders that can be found in Wisconsin.
**The KP Index**
The KP index is a measure of geomagnetic activity. It is used to predict the strength of the northern lights. The KP index ranges from 0 to 9, with 0 being the weakest and 9 being the strongest. A KP index of 6 or higher is usually required for the northern lights to be visible in Wisconsin. At the time of these photos the KP index was 6.33.
You can check the current KP index at the Space Weather Prediction Center website.