The Aurora photos shot by Äkäslompolo resident Markus Kiili have been published in various European media, including the Express (UK), Der Spiegel (Germany) and 20 Minuten, Central Europe’s leading free newspaper.
Markus has also appeared in a French documentary filmed at Ylläs and shown in 10-minute episodes on French national TV over Christmas 2015. During a flying visit to Ylläs, a Japanese film crew shot an Aurora Borealis feature, and once again Markus was involved.
“The film crews were very excited about the Northern Lights. Both French and Japanese crews were surprised just how bright the Auroras really are. Their preconception that impressive Aurora photography is simply due to long exposure times was overturned when they themselves experienced Auroras as clear as moonlight,” explains Markus.
The Northern Lights are an incredible visual experience, especially for the first time, but how about the photographer who hunts them down year after year?
“My own enthusiasm depends on the forecasts. If some highly active and spectacular Aurora nights are in store, then I get fired up and ready to go.”
Markus’s archives are overflowing with Aurora Borealis photos.
“Off the top of my head I’d guess that I have about 100 000 images. Still, I take a lot of time lapse shots. First I set everything up and then the camera automatically records a specific series. I usually take about 400–1000 shots on an Aurora night. I must have gone through tens of thousands of images one at a time. Perhaps I’ll get one good shot from a night’s photography,” Markus estimates.
For Northern Lights forecasts, Markus recommends the following sites: softservenews.com, spaceweather.com and noaa.gov.
“NOAA is a site from which everybody else effectively gets their data. I also use the FMI (Finnish Meteorological Institute) Aurora forecast site.”
Markus also uses various apps.
“For example the Aurora Forecast app displays activity and various graphs.”
Markus is always on the lookout for suitable photo shoot locations.
“In practice it’s the same as looking for landscape photo shoot sites. The compass points are not so critical when there’s a chance to see some really bright Auroras.
Photographing the Northern Lights is just one of this man’s occupations. Markus also works as a veterinarian and is active in the local community. Doesn’t the day job suffer if you’ve been up all night?
“Luckily it’s cloudy every so often, so I even get to sleep at night,” remarks Markus.
You can find more useful photography tips and advice in English on Markus’s blog site at markuskiili.com.
Five tips from the
1) Use the manual settings in your camera. Shooting at night with automatic settings is almost impossible, because they’ll try to turn night into day...
Use a supportive tripod. Without one, the long exposure times of several seconds and more will result in blurred photos.
Select raw image format for your shots. Raw format is easier to post-process than JPG. If the shots are too dark, it’s easier to ‘open up’ the shadows in raw images.
Be prepared for cold weather. Take a spare battery along and keep it in a warm place. I often keep mine inside a glove. When the battery starts to lose power, I’ll swap it for the fresh one, and warm up the first battery in the glove.
Look after your camera after coming indoors. Put it back in its case or an airtight bag when you’re outside, then let it warm up gradually indoors. After bringing a camera in from a hard frost, moisture builds up and when that melts, there’s water inside your camera.
And finally the most common question of all: What settings should I try at first?
“That really depends on your camera if you want good results. Choose a high ISO rating and a wider lens, so that exposure time is as short as possible. For an average camera on an average night, you could start with ISO 3200, f3,5 aperture and a 15 second exposure time. If the camera lets you, select a higher ISO value, a smaller aperture and a shorter exposure time.”
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