Posts Tagged ‘photography’

Photo Tips for Capturing Norway’s Northern Lights With An iPhone

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Norway’s Northern Lights captured on my iPhone 7 plus using the NorthernLights App

I photographed the northern lights with my new iPhone 7 Plus on my recent trip to Norway’s Lofoten Islands. Anastasia Chernykh, this blog’s social media manager, also gave it a go with her iPhone 6. We had some success. As a general rule, the brighter the aurora, the better your chances are of getting a good photo of them with your iPhone. Here are five tips for photographing the northern lights with an iPhone.

Tip #1 Download Camera Replacement Apps to Shoot Longer Exposures

You need to use longer exposure times to effectively capture the northern lights. Since the iPhone’s native camera app doesn’t allow you to manually select your exposure time, I experimented using LongExpo Pro and the NorthernLights app.

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Northern lights near Svolvaer, shot with iPhone 7 plus

I really like the LongExpo Pro app, and I thought it was going to be my go-to for this experiment because it has an intuitive interface which easily allows you to easily change the shutter speed with a simple tap, and an easy-to- locate timer butter.

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Faint Northern Lights (shot using LongExpo Pro on my iPhone 7 plus)

Unfortunately both Ana and I had issues where the focus would lock where we wanted it to and then shift after the timer was set, resulting in blurry foreground. Hopefully this will be corrected in future updates of the app. I had the better luck using the NorthernLights app, which has some easy presets to play with for weak, moderate, and strong aurora lights. There is also a custom option that allows you to adjust your film speed (ISO) and shutter speed.

Tip #2 Use a Tripod or Mount to keep your iPhone still

Longer exposures require you to keep your camera still to avoid shake and blur. This also applies when you are shooting with an iPhone. Since we were both traveling with large tripods for our DSLR Cameras, we used In Your Face ViewBase clamps to steady our iPhones and clamped them onto the legs of our larger tripods.

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Squiggly Aurora Borealis (shot with the NorthernLights app)

Other lightweight options include the Joby Gorillapod Stand which easily fits into a backpack. When I return to Norway in February for a winter photography workshop, I will use an entirely separate tripod setup for my iPhone 7 plus, including the MeFoto Sidekick 360 Smartphone Adaptor for Tripods and a MeFoto Backpacker Air tripod.

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Northern lights reflected near Svolvaer (iPhone 7 plus)

Tip #3 Use the Timer feature

Delaying the shot by a few seconds helps prevent camera shake, which usually results in a better image. Using the timer feature or remote shutter release helps reduce shake and blur. All the camera replacement apps mentioned in this post have timer features. I found a two second delay sufficient. Some iPhone camera replacement apps, like Slow Shutter Cam, are compatible with the Apple Watch, which allows additional remote shutter release options.

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Anastasia got the image above using the Shutter Speed App on her iPhone 6

Tip #4 Include Foreground Interest in Your Shot

The aurora can appear as everything from a green streak across the sky to a rapidly shape-shifting pattern of streaks ranging in color from green to pink and purple. If possible, you’ll want to compose your image in a way that will add some local context. I tried to frame my shots to include the local fishing cabins to add a bit of Norwegian fishing village atmosphere. The northern lights were strongest and easier to photograph a few hours later, when we were near a lake outside of Svolvaer. There I tried to compose my shots to include some of the lake, where the lights were reflected on the water’s surface.

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 Ana got the image above using the Shutter Speed App and her iPhone 6 

Tip #5 Use iPhone Apps to Edit Your Northern Lights Images 

All of the northern lights images I got in Norway’s Lofoten Islands looked better after some basic photo editing. Reducing the noise in the images and making the color pop were the two things most of the aurora photos shot on my iPhone 7 plus needed. I found the most useful app for editing these northern lights images was Adobe Photoshop Express,which has a good de-noise feature. I also used the TouchRetouch app, which was also useful for cleaning up burned out highlights and bleeding from artificial lights. I straightened the horizons in my images using the editing features right in my iPhone’s native camera app.

For more northern lights images shot on our DSLR setups can be found this earlier post, Chasing the Northern Lights in Norway’s Lofoten Islands.

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Chasing the Northern Lights in Norway’s Lofoten Islands

 

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The Northern Lights on display near Svolvær

After first seeing the northern lights in Iceland last year, I’ve become a bit addicted to aurora hunting.

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Aurora hunting in the Lofoten Islands of Norway

Since locations in and near the arctic circle and away from the light pollution you find in large cities are the best places to spot the northern lights, I recently visited Norway’s gorgeous Lofoten Islands with this blog’s social media manager, Anastasia Chernykh, for a photo trip.
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Norway’s Northern Lights reflected

The aurora season runs from September to April. To increase our chances of capturing the mysterious solar phenomenon, we hired photo guide Alex Conu, who is known for his award-winning astrophotography and runs photography workshops. Originally from Romania, Alex understands the northern lights phenomenon very well and was great about explaining them.

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Green and Purple Northern Lights

Norway knows the northern lights are a big draw for tourists and has a Northern Lights Tracker, which is very user friendly. There is also an Aurora Forecast app available for serious aurora hunters, although it requires a bit of knowledge to understand and read.

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Stars, aurora and reflections in Norway’s Lofoten Islands

The northern lights are a phenomenon that runs in an 11 year cycle that peaked about a year and a half ago. If you’re interested in seeing or photographing the the aurora, your chances will be best during the next year before they wane. There will still be northern lights, but scientists think they’ll be more elusive.

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Faint aurora in Hamnoy, Norway

Science (and aurora trackers) can tell when there has been a lot of solar activity and then you have about two days to get someplace to spot them. There was a full moon during our time in the Lofoten Islands, which was helpful for composing shots with some visible foreground interest. The Lofoten Islands are located in the Gulf Stream, so the winters are mild by arctic standards, making them a favorite spot for aurora hunters and photographers.

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Northern Lights Image above by Anastasia Chernkyh

Local weather and light pollution can keep you from seeing the northern lights. This happened our first night in the Lofoten Islands, when we were staying in Hamnoy. The northern lights were faintly visible but the heavy cloud cover made viewing (and photographing) them virtually impossible.

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Anastasia Chernkyh got this amazing shot of the northern lights reflected before they began to dance

We had better luck the night we went out with Alex. Not only did the northern lights show up, but they danced for us! Alex was very good about helping us with photography tips as well as telling us to put our cameras down when the northern lights began to dance. The rapidly moving aurora is harder to photograph with a still camera and was worth just experiencing and taking in the awe of this glorious phenomenon.

Alex Conu

Colors of Lofoten Photo Workshops

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 Note: all the images in this post were shot by me and Anastasia Chernykh on DSLR. Stay tuned for a future post on photographing the northern lights with an iPhone 7 plus.

 

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Exploring the Pacific Northwest: Twilight and Sunsets on First Beach La Push, Washington

 

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Sunset at First Beach in La Push, Washington 

The Olympic Peninsula in Washington State has some gorgeous beaches. Ruby Beach is my usual go-to, so I made a point of heading to First Beach and Rialto Beach to check them out for myself.

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A summer afternoon on First Beach

Rialto Beach is part of Olympic National Park but First Beach is not. First Beach is accessible by car, and is located within the Quileute Nation . The Quileute Oceanside Resort is the nearest lodging. I stayed at the pet-friendly Forks Motel, located about 15 miles away.

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Boat passing Little James Island as seen from First Beach

First Beach is sometimes known as La Push Beach. It has a crescent-shaped swatch of sand as rocky points and views of James Island and Little James Island. It’s a favorite of both surfers and vampires (the location is featured in the Twilight series of books). La Push is one of the most popular destinations for Twihard tourists.

Summer sunset at First Beach in La Push, Washington

The Forks chamber of commerce has seen a 600% increase in tourism since 2000, and Stephanie Meyer’s YA series of books is often credited as a major factor. Fortunately, my visit was vampire free.

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 Stylish totem outside the Lonesome Creek Store in La Push

The Forks Chamber of Commerce has set up a First Beach Webcam so you can visit virtually if you can’t make it in real life.

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Pacific Northwest Surfer Girl

First Beach is a great place to watch the sunset and take in the twilight. I enjoyed watching the sun dip below the horizon between James Island and Little James Island.

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A panorama of sunset seekers enjoying the view from First Beach

First Beach is also a favorite of storm watchers and one of the most popular stops on the Twilight Tours. La Push is where Bella learns the tale of the Cullens and later goes cliff diving and almost drowns

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First Beach driftwood frames trees on Little James island  

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Pacific Northwest Summer evening on First Beach

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Clouds and sunset on First Beach

Only members of the Quileute Tribe are allowed on James Island. But there is a James Island webcam.

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Twilight view from First Beach in La Push

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Dusk view of Little James Island from First Beach

First Beach is easily accessible and open to all. Located near LaPush (about 15 miles west of Forks). Put the Quileute Oceanside Resort in your GPS as your destination and you’ll find it.

Quileute Oceanside Resort

330 Ocean Drive

La Push, WA 98350

 

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Exploring the Big Island of Hawaii: Sunsets at the Fairmont Orchid

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Kohala Coast Sunset on the Big Island of Hawaii

Gorgeous tropical sunsets are the stuff Hawaiian post cards are made of. The Kona and Kohala Coast of the Big Island offer some spectacular spots to watch the sun dip below the horizon and enjoy the last rays of the day. The lagoon at the Fairmont Orchid Hotel  was my favorite sunset spot on my recent trip to the Aloha State.

Big Island Sunset Time-Lapse

I shot the sunset time lapse above using the Time-Lapse function on my iPhone 6s on the lagoon beach at the Fairmont Orchid, which is a popular gathering spot around sunset.

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Last light off the Kohala Coast of the Big Island

After sunset, the Fairmont Orchid hotel offers stargazing opportunities for guests a few nights a week, with giant telescopes set up right on the property and an on-site astronomer.

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Big Island sunset at the Fairmont Orchid

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Sunset at the Coconut Grove 

The Fairmont Orchid’s Coconut Grove is a popular choice for destination weddings on the Big Island. The scenery is pretty spectacular.

Fairmont Orchid, Hawaii

1 North Kaniku Drive
Kohala Coast, Hawaii  96743
TEL + 1 808 885 2000
FAX + 808 885 5778

orchid@fairmont.com

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Exploring the Pacific Northwest: The Palouse in Black and White

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 Dramatic clouds above an abandoned house in Pullman, Washington

The Palouse Region of Southeast Washington is best known for it’s vibrant colors and vivid landscapes, but some of my favorite images from my recent trip to Southeast Washington work better in black and white.

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France photographing her favorite tree near Steptoe Butte

The rolling agricultural landscape of the area can be striking in black and white when it plays up the graphic lines, dramatic clouds, and light of the area.

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Treads on a tractor and striped fields

I like how the treads on this tractor mimic the striped fields in the background.

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Vintage Truck in Garfield, WA

Editing in black in white can also help when skies are a bit flat, like in the shot below of the crumbling grainery just off the Palouse Scenic Byway.

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Crumbling grainery in Pullman

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Photo above by France Freeman

My black and white edits were inspired by this shot my friend, photographer France Freeman, took of me in Pullman. Who knew Pullman had street art?

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