Northern Lights captured by Z 6II / Z14-24
I’ve been fortunate enough to see Northern Lights but this is the first time I traveled north just to photograph Northern Lights. The timing was based on no moon and dark skies. When the sun went down at 14:47, it was dark until 10:18 and with the darkness, came the cold. The lowest we shot in was -37 the second night, it was warmer the first night at -34! With those cold temps, I went with the simple idea of keeping it as real simple as possible.
I started by setting all the Z 6II settings BEFORE I left the lodge. I shot in Aperture Priority, f/2.8, ISO 1600 with -1 Exposure comp. Lens was set to Manual focus and with the lighted readout on the Z14-24, it was easy to set and check the lens was set to Infinity before and in the field. The last thing, made sure the Z 6II was connected to Snapbridge. Hard warmers were activated just before I went out the door and inserted in pockets and gloves. Just seconds before heading out the door, dawned long underwear and fleece-lined Duluth pants (I overheat inside with those layers). With that, I we went.
I used the app Aurora and Aurora Forecast to determine when to head out. We scouted areas around Fairbanks that had minimal to no light pollution and good foregrounds during the limited daylight hours. At the appointed time we were in place and howling, literally at the Northern Lights. It was really really simple from there. Set up the tripod and camera with gloves on (never take them gloves off at those temps and touch metal!) and then frame up your shot. Even with no moon, lots of starlight, and Northern Lights to see by. The Platyball made setting up the shot a snap with gloves on. Then, I took the first shot and looked at the exposure. You want a fast shutter speed. The first night I shot at -2 and the second night at 0 comp and both nights the shutter speed was 1.6sec. That’s because of the brightness of the Lights.
One of the locations required us to ascend stairs to shoot so we were standing out in the balmy weather to shoot for a couple of hours. I set the camera to Self-Timer, 2sec, 9 exposures so the camera would fire off nine photographs for every one time I took my hands out of my pocket. The Northern Lights are NEVER the same frame to frame. How they pulsate through the heavens is a thing of beauty! On the second night, we were closer to the vehicle so, almost ashamed to admit this, we sat in the vehicle with the tuchus toaster on full blast and fired the camera (still in self-timer mode) with Snapbridge. The Z 6II was attached to the MB-N11 and one battery lasted about the three hours the Lights were dancing. The only challenge in the whole affair were the overcast skies. Otherwise, it was a slam dunk and real easy to shoot the light at -34 degrees!
You can see more from me trip here. Planning on going back, it was way too much fun not too! Real easy to shoot light at -34 degrees!