The northern lights are one of the great wonders of the natural world. If you’ve never witnessed this other-worldly phenomenon, then find the time and information to do so! Fluorescent green curtains pierce the dark night sky, sometimes accompanied by deep reds; it’s a sight you won’t forget quickly.
Here in the Cairngorms we are further north than most but crucially, there is little light pollution. When the show is particularly strong, the lights can be seen across the UK, but you vastly increase your chances heading north and getting out into the wilds.
For this shot I was actually just outside Ballintean Mountain Lodge, from where we run all of our Cairngorms tours. Very often at night, the camera will pick up a lot more than the naked eye and the image appears more vibrant on the back of your screen than in the sky in front of you. This is mainly down to the amount of time the shutter is open; for this shot I had a 30 second exposure and the light is essentially piling on top of itself for half a minute. A tripod is of course essential. Coupled with the long shutter speed, a wide aperture and a high ISO setting (often around 1600) is needed to capture the light in the sky.
During this particular exposure, I also “light painted” the alder tree with a strong headtorch, casting a cool glow across the bare branches and adding a bit more interest than just a basic silhouette.
The winter months usually offer the best chances of solar activity, with February and March being the most productive in the last few years. It can never be guaranteed of course, but if you take a gamble and it pays off, the reward will be remembered for years.
Canon 7D, 15mm, ISO 800, f/3.5, 30 seconds.