Eighteen of the Best Photos of the Northern Lights

One of these just might help you prepare for your dream shot.

Is it just a few days before you take that trip to catch the Northern Lights..?

Or one of those days you are checking your progress till you take this trip in your bucket list?

Whichever, it would be great to have an idea how they were photographed in various terrains or situations. One of these could be similar to what you might find yourself in when you finally make that trip, and help you prepare, so that you can bring home that dream shot.

From Over 600 Photos 

You may find at least 39 Facebook Groups on Aurora Borealis, and 22 on Northern Lights, all created with the purpose of sharing photos and videos at the very least. Some Groups also feature regular discussion threads on KP forecasts, as well as where she is showing up real time. Some, even safety guides and photography tips. 

Alberta Aurora Chasers (AAC) Facebook group is currently the biggest with 143,000 members. It carried about 600 photos of  March 2022 sightings of Aurora Borealis. Kudos to Chris Ratzlaff and the rest of the members for sharing and inspiring.

The photos here are from the March 2022 posts in AAC.

Poetic Foreground 

A solitary church, a national monument, a lake lodge, even utility poles, reed or a person, added into the frame, made for poetic Aurora Borealis images.

Photo by Hugo Ernesto Sanchez. March 12, 2022.  Orthodox Church in Fedorah, AB, Canada. Shot with a Canon R, 16-35mm at 16 mm, f 2.8, ISO 2000, 5 seconds.

Take out the church from the frame and of course, the Aurora Borealis by itself, will still make a beautiful shot like it always does, but, with the church, that almost spiritual feeling you get when you see the Lights moves several notches higher. I also like how the rule of thirds was used here. Its random waves and often fleeting display make shooting the Northern Lights mostly unpredictable. 

Original post here.

Photo by Marybeth Kiczenski for Shelby Diamondstar Photography. March 30, 2022. Devils Tower, Wyoming, USA.

After a brutal 20-hr drive from Michigan, In which 850 of the 1000ish miles were in some sort of freezing rain, sleet, snow… Even white our conditions… Made it over to Wyoming….The CME* hit around 9:00 PM. While not the hit we were hoping for, it still pushed auroras high enough to see them over this iconic location – which is sacred to some, and also America’s first National Monument.” 

*hyperlink mine

With 6.5K reactions, 257 comments and 1.1K shares as of this writing, this composition shows the power of having an iconic landmark in your photo. Add to that the story behind the shot. And, special mention on the red tones of Aurora, and more on that later. 

Original post here.

Another photo by Marybeth Kiczenski. March 6, 2022. Emerald Lake Lodge, BC, Canada.

“Well, we went over to Emerald Lake Lodge when the data looked ok last night, but really just saw green skies and not much definition. However, the green sky does look kind of eerily cool!”

The first time I saw this photo I could not take my eyes off it. 

What a magical scene. 

The soft lights, the reflection, the shapes and textures on the foreground, then you noticed that the “small house” stands at the foot of the mountain and on the edge of the woods… And then the sky. It’s green! Altogether, they gave the same vibes I remember whenever I receive those Christmas postcards, only that those had deep blue skies and this one had that enchanting green.

Original post here.

But what if, you could not find any such picturesque foregrounds? 

Because to begin with, you never really know exactly where the Aurora will appear on a given night. 

Perhaps these three can inspire you.

Photo by Frank Calesso. March 30, 2022 at 11:00 PM. NE of Bassano, AB, Canada.

Then temperature was approximately 0 degrees C.  I used a Nikon D810 with a 28mm lens, f/1.8 and a 10-second exposure to ensure the stars would appear as pinpoints.”

How clever, were my first thoughts when I saw this picture, which is quite striking in its simplicity. 

What a nice way to add scale and depth. 

Most Aurora shots have mountains or woods or lakes or rivers, each one giving context to the size of the sighting. While all of these undoubtedly emphasize the vastness of the Lights display, none of them are as relatable as a utility pole, no matter which country you are from.

I also loved how this photograph captured the stars and the various colors of the Lights that night.

Original post here.

Now, not all the roads that will lead you to the Aurora are lined with such poles. 

What to do when you find none of the above, and the Lights start dancing while you are in the middle of nowhere..?

This is another beautiful take.

Photo by Yeison Garcia. March 25, 2022, 1:30 AM. Near Lloydminster, AB, Canada.  Temperature was about – 10 C.  Shot using Sony Alpha 1, Tamron 17-24 (f2.8 -5.6) ISO 800.

“Photo was shot in raw while driving on the Highway 16 and noticed the Lights were out so we found a good spot away from highway lights. Photo was processed in lightroom.”

I love the way the reed looked like they are shooting the Lights towards the sky. And being very slender, they make for a good silhouette that enhances, rather than cover, the Aurora image.

Original post here.

Still, what if, just what if, after driving the whole night, you have yet to chance upon the Northern Lights and so you decided to head back to the city and beat the sunrise, when, suddenly, she appears. And nothing around you at all for a foreground. And the last location you saw a potential foreground is 5 minutes away. 

Here’s a brilliant idea.

Photo by Dre Erwin. March 30, 2022. Pinehouse Lake, SK, Canada. Temperature was -35 C.

Even if all you find is a ribbon and not a curtain of colors like in this photo, this composition will still work as long as you follow the proportion here and frame your shot so that your model is below the Aurora and within the dark.

Original post here.

A Heartwarming Story

On the other end of the spectrum, what if, you’re unable to drive around and have to remain where you are? How do you create art with whatever available foreground..?

“If only checking cows could always be this spectacular,”

…says Ashley MacEachern of this photo, which she shot with an iPhone on March 30, 2022 at Apex Mountain Ranch, Cold Lake, AB.  Temperature was around 0 C.

The story behind makes this snap heartwarming, and you might agree with me, that there is always art in heart. But, what also makes this work is how it captured the Aurora hovering above the canopy of trees, almost following the varying heights.

“When this show started, it started out looking more like a receding sunset… with streaks through the sky… as the night progressed it got more vivid. Sometimes they will come out of seemingly nowhere, other times they will slowly build up,”

Original post here.

Reflection

Photo by Yyc Charlie. March 6, 2022,  5:30 AM. Blaeberry River, BC, Canada. Temperature was -5 C. Shot with a Sony A7iii, Sony 20mm prime 1.8, f 2.2, 14 sec, ISO 6400.

I just love reflection shots, and this remains a frustration with Aurora. During my trip in 2019, I remember asking the Guide if he could take us somewhere I can get a reflection. Sounding annoyed, he said there’s none because it’s winter. I told him about the posts I have seen, but he didn’t seem convinced, and said that those must have been taken in previous months. I decided to stay calm and be thankful that he was able to get us to a couple of places where we got to see and shoot the Northern Lights. Later, when it was almost time to go back to the city,  he said probably yes, at Tanana River, where there is a portion that doesn’t freeze over. 

That flashback hit the moment I saw Charlie’s shot. 

He shares the story behind:

“I made my way over to Golden for clear skies and a Milky Way Panorama attempt.  When I was happily surprised to find some green peeking over the mountains just as I was finishing up….

I was dressed super warm with heavy-duty Sorel boots.   I hate having cold feet.  I always look for the darkest sky I can get.  I use clear dark sky.com for that.  I also love a good reflection so if I can find a body of water, mountains and dark skies that’s a win.   Then the trick is to line up a stunning location with new moon, no clouds, and Aurora.   Definitely easier said than done.   I got lucky this morning.”

Original post here.

Fisheye,  Plus..

Another photo by Dre Erwin. March 17, 2022. Pinehouse Lake, SK, Canada. Shot with a Nikon D850, Sigma 14mm fisheye f1.8, 8 sec, ISO 1250.

This is by far the most stunningly beautiful image of the Aurora I have seen.

“I had some fun learning how to put this wide angle fisheye together.”

And that fun has since been spreading. As of this writing, this photo already has 3.2K reactions, ~ 600 comments, and 1.3K shares.

More from Dre:

“Being in the correct place at the right time, experimenting with different foregrounds, playing with light painting, and always having a nice composition are all principal factors in creating amazing Aurora photographs. When photographing the Northern Lights, excellent exposure (not too bright or too dark), proper framing, and the use of leading lines and forms are all important.

When you look through a camera lens, you block out the rest of the world, including misery, agony, and grief. It’s just you and what you’re seeing right now. Practice focusing on taking the perfect shot, and you’ll find that even without the camera in front of your face, you’ll be seeing the good in life a lot more clearly”

Original post here.

Aurora With Star Trail

Photo by Steve Mumert. March 30, 2022, West of Valhalla Centre, AB, Canada.

“….seems to me it was around -5 degrees Celsius with a bit of a breeze, so likely around -10 to -15 degrees C with the wind chill. I used a Sony A7R4 with a Sigma 14mm f1.8 lens.

I have always been fascinated by star trails but, not too excited about the whole process of stacking. Or the 2- to 5-hour exposure time. Here, Steve shows how to capture the best of two phenomena – – in one beautiful shot.

“It was a single 12-minute exposure, ISO 50, f/1.8. Many times people will take multiple exposures over a span of time and then stack them in software to make star trails, but this was a single shot. I always remind myself, the single most important thing to successful night photography, whether it’s Aurora, star trails or Milky Way, is to get out there!”

Original post here.

Fluorescent Green Swirl

Photo by Valerie Pond. March 5, 2022. 11:45 PM. Prosperous Lake, NT, Canada. Shot with a Canon R6, 16-35mm lens, f 2.8, 16mm, ISO 1600, 4 seconds.

“It was approximately -24 Celsius that night which felt unusually warm and made for a beautiful night beneath the Aurora.”

The grandeur of this light display is beyond words, and this is certainly one of those rare images you wished you photographed.

But what did it take to take this shot?

Valerie drove 15 km on the lake and found this cove where she set up her gear and waited for the Aurora.

 She adds:

“Have a really good tripod. You want to avoid shake from the wind but you also want it to hold up to the cold.  I’ve broken my share over the years.  Hand warmers are a must-have item if not for your hands then for your batteries.”

Original post here.

Multicolored and Pastel Auroras

Photo by Jerry De Guzman Pestano. March 5, 2022, 1230AM. Russell, MB, Canada. Temperature was -40 C. Shot with a  Canon EOS R,  16mm , f 2.8. ISO 3200, 5 sec

This photo and the next one stood out from a sea of vibrant green Auroras (which I have no complaints about and absolutely love). Red and yellow turn out to be rare, as the next photographer will share. And indeed, I do not recall having seen these colors before.

I also like the way negative space was used here, giving it a subtle, almost-Silent-Night feels. 

Original post here.

Photo by James Baker. March 30, 2022, 11:12 PM. clear sky, KP7 Looking E, NE . The Willows Rustic Retreat, The Willows Observatory, New Norway, AB, Canada. Temperature was -3 C. Shot with a Canon D70, Rokinon 8mm f3.5, 30sec, ISO 800.

Now this one’s on fire. 

Having deciduous trees for foreground was so spot on. They complemented the flames of Aurora that filled the night sky, resulting in a powerful image that reminds you of the Burning Bush.

“I think I have seen red and yellow only 3 or 4 times. Usually, you see fluorescent green, pink and dark red. Occasionally, the lower edge of an Aurora will have a pink or dark red fringe, which is produced by nitrogen molecules at altitudes of around 100 km. Red: A bit higher in the atmosphere (at altitudes of 300 to 400 km ), collisions with oxygen atoms produce red auroras.”

James has been observing and photographing Auroras for over 50 years.

Original post here.

Another photo by Jerry De Guzman Pestano. March 30, 2022, 1045PM. Russell, MB, Canada. Temperature was -10 C. Shot with a  Canon EOS R,  16mm , f 2.8. ISO 3200, 5 sec

Red and yellow are already a wonderful surprise, but pastel! This night’s display made the sky look like an exquisite watercolor painting. 

Original post here.

Captivating Clouds

You will read everywhere that clear and dark skies are a must for an ideal Aurora viewing.

But these 3 photos might just change your mind, making you actually welcome clouds when you chase the Northern Lights.

Photo by John Andersen. March 30 2022. Shot with a Canon 6D Tamron 15-30, f2.8.

“It was about 5C with a ferocious wind around 10:30 PM. I made an hour’s drive to try to get away from the clouds. This location is near the historic Bar U ranch. The trees were essential for shelter and keeping the tripod from blowing over. The only clear skies were found 2 hours away from Calgary.”

True, the clouds left little of the Aurora for viewing, but in return, it gave texture and depth, and mystery, as it concealed the transition from light green to fuschia. Add to that the dynamic composition thanks to the diagonal orientation of the clouds. Beautiful shot.

Original post here.

Photo by Joel Weatherly. March 30, 2022. 10:33 PM. East of Edmonton, AB Canada.

“Temperature: 5.7°C, feels like 3.6°C with windchill (14.8 km/h wind gusts). Camera and Lens: Canon EOS 5DS, Sigma 20mm f/1.4 Art Lens. Settings: ISO 1600, f/1.4, 2.0-seconds. Other details: G1-class (minor geomagnetic storm), altocumulus undulatus clouds.

While inclement weather often hampers aurora chasing, clouds can occasionally add to the scene. Last night rippling altocumulus undulatus clouds drifted in front of the auroras, creating a dramatic backlit display.”

Couldn’t have said it any better.

Original post here.

Photo by Steph Harmony Gregoire. March 30, 2022, 9:51 PM, Bashaw, AB Canada.

“Temperature was 6°C, slightly windy. But the wind did pick up when the clouds rolled in….Taken with an S21 Night mode”

These clouds remind me of dazzling sunsets in Manila. Their textures and patterns give character to an otherwise blinding glow. Set against the Northern Lights, they do the same great job.

Original post here.

From A Plane

You just might get your chance even before you have landed in your chosen Aurora (Borealis or Australis) destination. With luck and preparation, you might get your dream shot early on.

Photo by Andrew Pelletier.  March 30, 2022. Taken on a flight from Kearl Lake to Edmonton, AB, Canada, around 9:30PM. iPhone 13 Pro Max, night mode, 3 sec.

“For stabilizing I held the phone right against the window, that way it further reduced any possible shakes caused by myself trying to steady the phone. Also, a dark environment helps, as I draped my coat over top to try and reduce any cabin lighting into the shot”

No wonder this shot is technically better than many others I have seen. I also like the way the wingtip was included in the frame and added to the sense of location.

“I would recommend any transatlantic flights or even within Canada that you look for a window seat facing north. So if you were flying east, you would want to be on the left side of the plane. And if you were flying west, you would want a seat on the right side of the plane.

I have been lucky to see some Northern Lights before, but never this vibrant. It was some very light green colour and also very hard to see.”

Original post here.

Your Best Shot

There is almost always at least one or two nights in a month from September to April,  when the Northern Lights show up in its unforgettable and absolutely awe-inspiring. In fact, while working on this blog, FB posts from across the Auroral Oval about the  April 20-21 light shows, came popping one after another.  Many could not help but gush about how spectacular spring Auroras are. Or how they compare with similarly spectacular sightings last November 4, 2021.

So who knows, if you will be chasing Auroras next season, you might just get lucky and come across one of those dazzling displays and come home with your dream shot. Although we know better now, thanks to the photographers here who showed us how, that even in a less-than-ideal scenario, there are ways to capture the magic of the Northern Lights.  Of course, they also apply to the Southern Lights.

Here’s wishing you all a good season of Lights in your first Aurora hunt.  And that goes to you, too, Joey and Niña.

I would welcome your posts here, and am sure the photographers here who gave permission and their valuable insights and advice, would be happy to hear about your adventure, too. They’re such great and very supportive folks and I could not thank them enough. Thank you very much again Hugo, Marybeth, Frank, Yeison, Dre, Ashley, Yyc Charlie, Steve, Valerie, Jerry, James, John, Joel, Steph and Andrew!

I am also most grateful to Rose R, Ayan, Becca, Mau, Ka Lito, Mam Edi, Mon C, Danvic, Tin, Lloyd, Benjie, Rob, Joel, Jundio, Irma, Lemuel, Jing, Maris, Geena, Tonette, Gilbert, Mandy, Phoebe, Ernie, Dave, Chris, Abner, Rhiz, Anyel, Benny, Eric, Gem, Peter, Marge, Ka Pepe, Teddy, and the rest of SLR Camera Club for my photography journey, and to Rose V for the mentoring on Auroras.

Till next.

Gina C. Meneses is a photography and Aurora enthusiast working from anywhere as a freelance writer. When she is not  shooting or writing, she loves to read or travel whenever possible. Six of her photo credits here.

6 thoughts on “Eighteen of the Best Photos of the Northern Lights

  1. Wow very beautiful aurora from many places in Earth. Northern lights are magical and they come in all sizes colours and shapes. Great article and thank you for sharing this.

  2. Great compilation of shots and I relish your commentary. I saw your shot of children in floodwaters in Pampanga and I thought that was indeed great! Congrats!!!
    Please post more Auroras Borealis shots and hopefully you’ll also capture Aurora Australis from the Southern Hemisphere on your own!

    1. Thank you for the kind words, Rom!
      Coming from you who posts good content (both words and images), that means a lot.
      Thank you. 🙏
      And thanks for reading till the end, that you got to see that shot of children 🙂

      I guess you will see and shoot Aurora Australis ahead of me (or you already have …)
      Will look out for your post on that!
      And yes, that is another bucket list

      Would be happy to make you one of the first to know about a next Aurora blog
      Thank you again and stay safe

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