How to Photograph the Southern Lights

How to Photograph the Southern Lights

Written by Kimberly

Most likely you have heard and/or seen pictures of the glorious Aurora Borealis, or the Northern Lights. But have you ever thought about the Southern Lights? The Aurora Australis, or the Southern Lights, are often forgotten about but they are just as beautiful. Looking at this part of the Lights gives you a different perspective as you are able to see above the auroras, giving the appearance of a wall or curtain of lights. Photographing the Southern Lights in New Zealand is just as amazing (and impressive). Hire a campervan and learn how you can capture this phenomenon.

Locate an Aurora

First, you will need to find an aurora as your subject. The best way to find one is to have a good view of the southern horizon, which may require that you climb some hills or mountains. You’ll also need to check the forecast to make sure that there will be solar activity. You can check this at sites such as Spaceweather, Spaceweatherlive and Service Aurora. Fortunately, the Southern Lights are visible all through the year, however, for best viewing try midnight during the winter months (March to September). You’ll also need a dark, clear sky- the darker the sky, the brighter the lights. So you’ll want to make sure that you’re as far away from artificial light as possible.

Bring the Right Equipment

The best camera to use for taking night time shots is a DSLR. A full frame or a crop sensor DSLR will work and you will need a fast lense. Something with an aperture of 2.8 or faster would be best. You will also need to make sure to bring a tripod. Without one, your photos will most likely be blurry. It is also wise to bring an extra battery for the camera along, as you never know how long it will take you to find that perfect shot and the cold night air can drain a battery quickly.

Use the Right Camera Settings

One of the trickiest parts about getting a great shot of the Aurora Australis is that it is constantly moving. Getting enough light in the shot without it becoming too blurry is a struggle. It is a balance of getting the right shutter speed and enough light to the sensor. You will have to adjust as the aurora moves. Using the manual setting is most effective, and manipulate the focus until you have a good shot. If you choose to use the ISO setting, it is suggested that you use 1600 or 3200. Take multiple shots, as it is a trial and error process.

The Southern Lights are a beautiful sight to behold. And what a wonderful memory to be able to photograph to remember for years afterward! Plan your photographing adventures through New Zealand at