How to get the perfect northern light holiday snapshots: Professional hints from an insider

In case anyone’s missed it, 2013-2014 is expected to offer some spectacular Northern Light displays in Jukkasjärvi and Kiruna. Photographer Paulina Holmgren who’s shot the images for the ICEHOTEL #23 Art & Design Book shares her best insider tips on how to catch the lights on film.

The solar activity which creates the northern lights peaks every 11 years, so the aurora borealis tends to be more frequent and intense during the peaking and the immediately following winters. Experts have forecasted the peak for this winter (2012/13) and so far the Aurora Borealis has not disappointed. Jukkasjärvi has witnessed Northern Lights taking over the clear winter skies several times every week over the last couple of months and many ICEHOTEL guests have had the fortune to catch it during the Northern Lights excursions by snowmobile or mini bus.

We asked photographer Paulina Holmgren to share her insider tips with us on how to best capture the lights on camera for the family photo album. With the quality of today’s digital cameras, it is possible for anyone to succeed in this – but be prepared, it isn’t easy.  Paulina says: “My best tips are to be patient and to dress well – getting the perfect shot can take time so don’t be scared to experiment with the camera and dress up in warm clothing so you don’t get cold. A good pair of gloves that allows you to access the buttons and settings without having to take them off is invaluable!”

Paulina is a Swedish photographer and recently finished shooting for the ICEHOTEL Art & Design Book 2013, featuring all the areas of the hotel as well as history, facts and figures and the ICEHOTEL brand beyond Jukkasjärvi.

Here are Paulina’s tips and hints on how to photograph the Aurora Borealis with a digital camera:

  1. Try to use a camera that allows high ISO-settings and minimal noise levels.
  2. Use optics with maximum aperture for shooting at night
  3. Take the photos in RAW-format so you can reduce noise afterwards.
  4. Long shutter speed – the northern lights can vary greatly in strength so the best guidance I can give here is to experiment with various shutter speeds.
  5. Shorter focal lengths and if possible wide-angle shots as this allows for better sharpness despite longer shutter speed and it also makes nice photos as you fit in as much of the sky as possible.
  6. Use a tripod for stability.
  7. Try to find locations and angles where you get something in the foreground of the image, this can make for very interesting shots.

ICEHOTEL offers a range of experiences focused on the search of the northern lights, including dog sledding, snowmobile, mini bus and horseback excursions. Since last year, ICEHOTEL also offers the world’s first northern lights flights.

Paulina Holmgren is a photographer with a background in art and design, but photography was too hard to resist. Since 1999 she has been working as a photographer in Sweden as well as in US, Dubai, Japan and Spain. Paulina has worked for ICEHOTEL for several years, taking pictures of both ICEHOTEL and our ice bars all over the world.