The Aurora Borealis
Over the past few days I have got several emails and requests asking me how I take photos of the Aurora Borealis and Night Photography in general so i thought I would write up a tutorial on it rather than replying to each person individually.
We’l start with Night Photography..
Kit: I would recommend getting your fastest lens out i.e one with the lowest f stop, I have a f/1.4 lens but tend to use my f2.8 lens as I just prefer it and I feel like I know it better! With camera choice pick whichever one can deal with noise the best, I like to use my Canon 5D Mk II. You will also need a sturdy tripod and a remote to set off the camera (we can get around this if you haven’t got a remote). Make sure your batteries are fully charged as the camera will be working very hard and it drains battery life very quick.
Focus: Once you are happy with your kit, location and composition the single most important thing you have to do is get the camera to focus on something, the most common reason night shots do not come out is because they are out of focus. Find a bright light, the moon, a bright star, anything that will allow you to focus. Sometimes I turn on the torch on my iPhone and leave it somewhere, go back to the camera, focus on it and switch to manual focus. The image below focus by turning on my car lights!
If there is nothing to focus on the only option you have is to set it to manual mode and set the lens to the infinity mark and hope for the best!
Camera Settings: Depending on how much light there is at the scene you will determine the settings yourself. Always shoot on manual mode at night time as this way you can set you aperture to f/2.8 or as low as your lens will allow you and set your shutter speed to 20seconds to begin with depending on the effect you want and the conditions. I usually begin my night photos at ISO800 and move the shutter around to get the effect I want e.g if I want movement in the clouds I will leave it open for 30seconds or more or if there are lots of street lights I might leave it at 10 seconds. My advice here is to play around with your shutter speed and ISO until you are happy with it, I would rarely go above ISO1600 and rarely below ISO400.
If you wanted lots of light trails from cars I would suggest to push up the shutter speed to 30 – 60 seconds and reduce the ISO accordingly, remember the lower the ISO the less noise your picture will have.
Photographing The Northern Lights
There are a few ways of doing this but only a few ways actually work well. The one thing you have to remember when looking for the Northern Lights is that a lot of the time they are there but your eyes can’t see them but the camera can. In all the pictures of the Aurora you see a haze of green and/or purple, this isn’t actually a haze its just how the camera picks it up. Similar to taking light trails of a car the camera picks up the car lights moving this is the same except when the Aurora moves it stays around the same area so the camera picks up a haze of where it has moved around in the 30seconds it took the camera to take the picture. So ideally we would take the picture at 1/100 of a second to catch it with its swords of light but we can’t do this because it isn’t bright enough. The image below shows more of the lines than what you normally see in a picture of the Aurora.
I took the above picture in Iceland, February 2012.
So what settings do I use for the Aurora Borealis? In Ireland the Light Show isn’t as bright as it would be in Iceland so we need to allow the shutter a bit of extra time to gather more light.
The image below was taken at f/2.8 20seconds @ ISO800 and I think it turned out really well. Another thing that you have to do with Aurora images is to push them as far as you can in the post processing and always shoot in RAW.
To see more of my images have a look on here
If you have any questions or anything just leave a comment or drop me an email.
Until next time…
So I won Wedding Photographer of the Year this year which is an amazing achievement and to be the youngest ever to win such an award in Ireland makes it even better! Generally, up to now, when people came to look at my work they thought I was ‘too young’ to be trusted with such a big day in their lives, which is understandable.
I have been taking photos at weddings with my Dad since he bought his first digital camera and I learned the computer side of things. I thought I knew how to edit the pictures quite well but to look at how I process my images now there is no comparison. When I started taking photos as my dads second photographer most of what I took were just back up’s to what my dad was taking and although I considered this very important, as we we heard memory cards can be unreliable, I began to try photos that were different. This was the first one that really stood out for me that I took.. Im not sure when this wedding was but I think I was 15 or 16 years old.
I booked my first wedding when I was 17, the couple were friends of my Dads so thats how I got it… needless to say I was nervous in the run up to it. The wedding was on a Saturday and my exams were finishing on the Thursday before it so I didn’t have much time to think about it until my exams were finished. But it went well and I came out with this image, still one of my favorite from any wedding I was at..
I believe in putting people into positions that I know they will interact with the people around them and make them smile as opposed to saying CHEESSSSSEEEEEE!
If anyone has any questions leave a comment or drop me an email email@example.com
Until Next Time,
All images are copyright of Paul Doherty Photography.
Everyone has been asking me recently to run a photography course but I can’t see that happening for a long time so I’ve decided to write this to help all those of you who don’t understand the ‘maths behind the picture’.
So basically a good picture is one that is exposed correctly right but how do you do that without being in Full Auto Mode… this is where creativity comes into play! (by the way I never expose correctly but thats a way more advanced tutorial!)
There are 3 factors to a correct or balanced exposure
- Shutter Speed
So if you don’t know what any of the above things are, here is a very simple way of understanding it.. Forget about your camera and think of the room you are in now with no windows or doors and you drill a hole in the wall and cover it with your hand so no light can get it – This is what a camera is! Years ago when cameras first came out they used very sensitive paper that once light hit it it changed colour… like if you left a newspaper out in the sun (newspaper isn’t very sensitive paper so it would need to be there for hours and maybe days in Irelands climate!). So what they would do is place this very sensitive paper behind the hole you drilled in your room and allow the light to shine in (in your case move your hand!) for a second or less depending on how bright it was on the other side of the room. So in that case the length of time you keep your hand away from the hole in the wall is the Shutter Speed, the width of the hole is the aperture and the ISO is how sensitive to light the paper was.
Now if that isn’t confusing enough there is more.. these are all governed by numbers, a Shutter Speed (usually indicated by Tv (canon) or S (nikon)) can range from around 1/8000 of a second to minutes or in most cameras 30 seconds, the Aperture ranges from around 1.2 to 32 (this number changes depending on what lens you have on – generally the lower the number the better the lens is), The ISO ranges from around 100 or 50 in some cameras to 16,400(which is ridiculously high and totally useless quality!). So how do we balance all these so that we get a properly exposed image? This is where it gets difficult to teach… the thing is you can’t ring me up and say I’m at a beach here what settings will I use as it depends on how bright it is but here are a few tips to help:
- Shutter Speed – as I was saying it ranges from about 1/8000 of a second to 30 seconds in a lot of cameras so if you think back to the room you are in, if it was bright and sunny outside you will not want the hole to be open for very long so you will go for less than a second, maybe somewhere between 1/100 to 1/1000 but if it was dark outside you will want the hole to be opened for as long as possible to allow the camera to pick up as much light as possible right? Simple to understand…
- Aperture – this is the width of the hole you drilled, and it is tricky to understand because whoever came up with it did it upside down if you ask me! An aperture of 1.2 is a huge hole in the wall whereas an aperture of 32 is a tiny whole so obviously if you had an aperture of 1.2 and its really sunny outside it will let more light into the room so you would not want the shutter to be open for long but if you had an aperture of 32, its tiny, you could let the shutter be opened for a lot longer to let more light in as its so small. Aperture depends on your lens, the smaller the number the more expensive the lens is generally but not in all cases.
- ISO – The ISO governs the other 2 above… it usually go’s up in doubles (eg. 100, 200, 400, 800). If we go back to the room you are in the paper at ISO100 can have light hit it for longer than ISO800 as it is not as sensitive. The higher the number the brighter you are making the place you are in. A good way of understanding this is to place the camera to 1/100 shutter speed, 5.6 Aperture in manual mode and then take the same picture 5 times with different ISO settings and go compare your results on a computer.
Now that you understand the concepts of whats what I can explain to you what each one does, they all have a purpose and control different things to allow you to get creative…
The Shutter Speed controls Motion in a picture and The Aperture controls the depth of field i.e if something had a nice blur in the background. Here are a few examples to help you understand…
Here is an example of shutter speed, this had to be taken as quick as possible to catch the water in the air like that because if I had of left the shutter speed open for 1 second there it would be blurry as the jeep would have moved a lot in 1 second. This one was taken at 1/400 of a second.
The one below is an example of a slow shutter speed. The shutter speed was open for 1.6 seconds here, just enough to show how the waves were moving up and down the beach.
This shows off aperture. This was taken with a ‘big aperture’ or a small number (see what I mean about being inside down!?) the smaller the number or the bigger the whole the more blur you will have in your image. This one for example was taken at 4.5 and as you can see the background is completely blurred which shows off the flower without any distractions.
The black and white shot above was taken on the opposite end of the scale, at an aperture of 22; notice how the rocks at the front of the picture are sharp while the Sea Stack is sharp too even though it is so far away.
Another thing to remember is that the Aperture is called “The F Stop” – why? I have no idea nor do I care to be perfectly honest!
Also if you are to use a very long shutter speed of any less than 1/80 of a second I would recommend using a tripod as the camera needs to be steady while the shutter is open otherwise every movement you make will be captured in the image – not nice!
There are other factors that can influence these things like distance and available light but I think that is enough to get you started. If anyone has any questions leave them in the comments or email me firstname.lastname@example.org
Go get your camera, get out there and start experimenting. The only way to learn is to practice.
Until next time…
Iceland Trip 2012
I had a great time photographing Iceland, everything from Seal’s to The Northern Lights… It was a great experience. The above image is the group I was travelling with who were all as keen as I was to get up early for sunrise and stay up late for the Aurora Borealis, I was seriously sleep deprived!
I was lucky enough to have Geraldine Westrupp as a Tour Guide who runs Wild Photography Holidays, they knew all the right places to go and the right time to be there.
This one was taken at sunrise in a Glacier Lagoon. It is where a glacier meets the salt water from the Atlantic and creates unusually sculpted Ice Bergs.
This is an Iceberg that had been washed out from the Glacier Lagoon shown above and then washed up on a black sand beach by the force of the waves. I took lots of pictures like this with different Ice Bergs and almost got wet several times; very hard to work out how far away things are from you when you are looking through a camera!
The Aurora Borealis.
Words can not describe this spectacle… the photo was taken at the tongue of a Glacier at around midnight. This was without doubt the most difficult thing I have ever tried to photograph for many reasons, for one its pitch black; theres a green sky but despite what you can see in the picture its not bright enough to see clearly and thus get the image in focus, plus the lights are constantly moving or dancing so to see lines of green in the sky as opposed to a green blur is a very hard thing to do. I will post a technical ‘how to’ blog on this again.
This is one of my favourite images from the whole week. It was taken deep underneath the glacier, I had to crawl in to here to get this shot while thinking that there was tonnes of Ice overhead that could fall at anytime but luckily I made it out
The reason there are very dark and very bright areas is because as the Glacier moves it collects dirt and grit but in places where it doesn’t there are clear lines of ice which show up blue when the sun shines through them, the water below is a little stream caused when the heat of the sun melts the top of the glacier and causes sink holes in the Glacier. You can see 2 small ones beginning to appear in the top middle of the image.
I have lots more photos I will share with you another time, if anyone has any questions or anything just leave a comment or send me a message. I will post a tutorial or how to post for any Photographers reading. In the mean time go like my Facebook page and keep following….
Until next time…