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Magical Iceland Northern Lights

comet and northern lights
This night photograph, from Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon in Iceland, captured a comet disappearing into the North sky over Iceland. This was the comet which promised to swing quite close to Earth, but this was as close as it got. Not sure what caused all that green blurring? Maybe it is comet gas? Or green Goblin Fire. This was new moon time at Jökulsarlon which is great for Northern lights photography.

Learn how to photograph the Northern Lights.

Magic Cloth Photography

Magic Cloth Photography is a fantastic method to capture a high dynamic range scene.

When you like to balance the highlights in the sky with the shadows on the ground like a regular Northern lights photography, the Magic Cloth Photography is a free tool for your camera bag and flexible for your needs.

Camera Accessories:

No Filters: It is important to shoot your Aurora scenes without filters.

strong Tripod:

Such a long exposure with stars – it’s important to have a perfectly still camera.

Sometimes a tripod has a hook , suspend something from it to give better strength. Many travel photographers carry a special harness to place rocks and stones to give a better stability which will support the tripod well – fine for Magic Cloth photography.

Remote release:

Exposure times can sometimes be longer than the 30 sec the camera will let you do. Having a Remote release (sometimes called “Remote) will allow you to open the shutter: as long as your power allows.

Black cloth:

Pick a big cloth like a mouse-mat, or black card of similar size. Must be large enough to totally cover the lens. Better to be Black. A dark colour is preferable. You can normally make a straight edge out of any cloth.

Magic Cloth Technique

Settings

Use a dark filter or low light for a for a slower shutter speed, then over expose the image by two to three stops.

Exposure time

When you have established the correct exposure for the Northern Lights (say 20 seconds), you can then multiply that time by 3 to allow extra exposure on the landscape. It is important not to allow any further exposure on the sky, once you have covered up. This can lead to undesirable star ghosts.

Magic Cloth Movement

Normally, I use very fast downward motion and slow, controlled upward actions.

Variations

Change the Movement to allow a dozen short exposures of the clouds, rather than one initial exposure (30 seconds and over exposures only).

Use your spot meter for the highlights and {multiply that shutter speed by |then times four to get the total exposure time.

Some more Long Exposure photography tips…

“To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place… I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.”
— Elliott Erwitt

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