I constantly advise photographers to get out of the city and away from the city lights to get the best northern lights photographs, but that is not always possible. Sometimes there are great Aurora Borealis conditions when you are stuck in the capital.
This article discusses my attempts to photograph Northern Lights over a suburb of Reykjavik. The suburb is called Gravavogur (Cemetery district) and is the suburb in which I moved to in 2004. Being a purist nature landscaper, I tend to avoid photography anywhere near Reykjavik – even though Gravavogur is where I learned my craft. I constantly advise photographers to get out of the city and away from the city lights to get the best aurora images. But, seeing as I am here, I thought I would tackle the challenging conditions and try to photograph the northern lights near my home in the capital of Iceland.
Dynamic Range issue
Here is the problem…
One solution is to simply take 2 exposures…
Merge them together in photoshop…
The result is quite pleasing, but you might want to attempt to get both elements exposed correctly in a single frame, i.e for competition purposes.
Using the Magic Cloth in this situation is almost the opposite of using it in the nature, where photographers struggle to expose the unlit foreground. Here, the Aurora is dark in comparison with the street lights, so the cloth needs to cover up the bottom of the image quickly and allow the sky a little longer. I experimented with various techniques…
In this shot I covered the whole lens very quickly after the onset of exposure (split second), then carefully lowered the cloth to about the mid way point to give the sky a little more exposure. The result is maybe not as powerful as the HDR, but it was achieved in a single exposure.
This brown landscape scene captures the essence of the Vestrahorn location during the thawing season.
This was the worst weather I had seen at this beach. The terrific winds were blasting sand at the backs of our necks as we struggled with our cameras.
This photo was taken on a mild September morning with slight chances of gaps in the clouds for the Sunrise at Jökulsarlon glacier ice beach.