Taking pictures of Northern Lights is always a challenge. Ideally, you would want a short shutter speed and keep the ISO as low as possible. But often this doesn’t work and either of the two, or both, have to go up. I usually tell my guests to start with a shutter speed of 10 seconds, ISO 1600 and the aperture wide open (whatever that may be for their lens). And of course, use a tripod and remote or self-timer.

Aurora borealis in Øfjord, East Greenland

However, on a ship, it gets even more complicated. A tripod works excellent, but that is assuming you put it on a stable platform. Of course, a ship, especially when it’s sailing, is far from a stable platform. Using a ten-second shutter speed will result in very creative scribbly lines for the stars. This year was the first year where I had brought the Sigma 24mm f/1.4. This lens allowed me to use a much shorter shutter speed, down to two seconds. With calm seas, this turned out to be short enough for the stars to be dots (or at worst tiny lines). I was happily surprised by this result. I hope you enjoy.

Arjen Drost

Arjen is a Polar ecologist, nature photographer and full time expedition guide on expedition cruise ships in both Polar regions. With his pictures and stories he likes to show the beauty of these very fragile and threatened places.


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