If you follow me on Instagram, I apologize. Whenever I go away, I have a tendency to blow up everyone's feed with pictures from my vacay. But how could I not? I've been going to some pretty photogenic places, amirite?
I've already gone over the clothing packing list. Now it's time for the tech gear since I plan on taking epic photos in extreme conditions. My main goal is to capture the northern lights, which I've heard can be tricky. First and foremost, it requires a tripod. Since I'm not one for carrying around camera gear, I found a travel tripod that will fit well enough in my backpack. I'll also be needing extra batteries since they conveniently die quickly in cold temperatures. Same with memory cards. Technology can get funky when the temperatures drop, so it's always a good idea to have backups.
We'll be dipping into a couple hot springs, so I'm also packing my waterproof HD camera. Also perfect for use in extreme rain or blizzard conditions. The waterproof pouches for my phone and wallet items will also come in handy should the weather turn wet. Yes, everyone laughs at the selfie stick, but it's convenient for those times you don't want to lend a stranger your phone. Finally, HAND WARMERS. Taking pictures can get cold! Fingerless gloves just aren't going to cut it.
Here's the gear I'll be packing:
1. Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7 Digital Camera, $397.99 B&H
One of the best reviewed digital cameras out there. I took it with me on the UK trip and got some great pics.
2. Kodak PlaySport HD Waterproof Pocket Video Camera, $199 Amazon
This little camera is basically indestructible and takes high quality HD video and pictures. It's waterproof up to 10 feet! Perfect for the hot springs.
3. Ravelli APLT2 50" Light Weight Aluminum Tripod, $14.96 Amazon
I'm not usually a huge fan of tripods (since most of my snaps are taken while on the move), but this is a requirement when it comes to the northern lights. It folds down to 16 inches and comes with a travel bag for easy packing.
4. InnoGear Extendable Wireless Bluetooth Selfie Stick, $15.58 Amazon
Adjustable, lightweight, and wireless. Sure to make anyone look like an asshole.
5. Wasabi Power Battery for Panasonic Camera, $16.99 Amazon
Standard, rechargeable camera battery.
6. SanDisk Extreme 64GB, $34.99 Amazon
Stardard, trusty memory cards.
7. DRY PAK "Alligator" Wallet, $6.49 Amazon
Great for having all of my personal items on my wrist in the hot springs.
8. Hand Warmers, $8 Amazon
Since my hands will be out of my mittens and pockets to take the pictures, I'll be needing these so I don't freeze.
I'd love to say I'm also bringing an amazing lens, but since I don't own any, I probably won't be.
Now for the "fun" part. I've done a decent amount of research on the best way to capture the Aurora Borealis on camera and here's what I've gathered:
- Be in “manual” mode
- Shoot RAW (or RAW + JPEG) file format
- Switch off noise reduction
- Attach to tripod
- Select the widest aperture (i.e. f/2.8) and leave it fixed
- Adjust ISO & Shutter Speed as needed (something like ISO 800 and Shutter Speed 15 sec)
- Select “manual focus” on lens and turn the focusing ring to ‘infinity’. Focus on the brightest object in the sky and center on it through the viewfinder. Zoom in as far as you can and adjust the focusing ring until it is sharp. Once you’ve found the “sweet spot” tape your focus ring so it doesn’t move.
- Set the LCD display to low so its not misleading
- TAKE THE PICTURE (Use the timer to make sure your hand doesn't move the camera!)
Basically, its all about the ISO, shutter speed, and focus. Oh, and obviously dumb luck. If the weather isn't cooperating then none of this really matters.
Photo nerds -- got any tips?