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How To Photograph An Aurora In The Scottish Highlands

A subject that we're always asked about here at the Gallery is auroras. They're a bucket list experience to witness, but another thing entirely to capture on camera or film! Of course, capturing an aurora can often come down to luck with the right weather at the right time, but there are things you can do to plan and raise your chances of success. If you want to know how to photograph an aurora in the Scottish Highlands, keep reading!

A bright green aurora, captured on a snowy mountaintop, with an orange tent and person in the middle
The summit of Sgùrr na Strì, Isle of Skye

How To Plan For An Aurora

When it comes to planning an aurora, the best place to start is by using websites and apps to help you. There are a few options that try to predict auroras based on geomagnetic activity, alongside sharing the activity in the present moment via charts, graphs, and alerts. Jack's personal choice is Aurora Watch UK.

His advice:

"I use the forecasting to help guide me on possible days/times and then closely watch the app for specifics. This means I don’t have to stand and wait for hours. When the aurora does appear, you might only have seconds to catch it before it fades. Keep your camera/tripod to hand!"

A picture of a bright green aurora outside of a Scottish bothy
Camasunary Bothy, Isle of Skye

How To Photograph An Aurora In The Scottish Highlands

We're passing this one over to the expert!

Jack says:

"For photography, you ideally want to keep your camera as still as possible and use a longer exposure to help pick up the colours and movements of the aurora. A tripod is perfect to give you that fixed position for a clear photo. Exposure will depend on the aurora itself, but I recommend keeping it at 5 seconds. Too long and you’ll be left with blurry lights.
Another tip is to familiarise yourself with the histogram on your camera, which gives you a rough idea of how bright/dark the image is. From your eyes, your perception of how bright/dark the image is will be completely off because you’re in a dark scene with a bright screen facing you. The histogram allows you to find the right balance to capture detail."

An aurora above a snowy Highland mountain, taken from above a small loch.
Burns Night Aurora, Applecross

Take note of our tips, pray for some decent Scottish weather, have a plan in place, and who knows, you could capture an image just like this, which Jack captured on Burns Night 2021. You can take a closer look here. Let us know if you've any other questions, or if you'll be heading on an aurora hunt!

If you're interested in more Scottish Highland photography advice, make sure you're signed up for our monthly Newsletter where we recap everything we share across the month!

How to capture the Northern Lights in Scotland FAQs

Where are the best locations in Scotland to see the Northern Lights?

  • Some of the best locations in Scotland to see the Northern Lights include the remote areas of the Scottish Highlands, the Isle of Skye, the Shetland Islands, and the Orkney Islands, away from light pollution.

What camera equipment do I need to photograph the Northern Lights in Scotland?

  • To photograph the Northern Lights in Scotland, you'll need a DSLR or mirrorless camera with manual exposure settings, a wide-angle lens with a large aperture (such as f/2.8 or wider), a sturdy tripod, and spare batteries and memory cards.

When is the best time to see the Northern Lights in Scotland?

  • The best time to see the Northern Lights in Scotland is during the winter months, from October to March, when the nights are long and dark, providing optimal viewing conditions.

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23 de fev.
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Great article and images Jack

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