Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Life List: Photography and the Northern Lights

When Transun invited me to their recent #ExperienceTransun blogger event I jumped at the chance to attend, as it featured two things which feature on my life list: photography and the Northern Lights. Sadly the event didn't involve a trip to see the Northern Lights, but on the plus side it was in one of my favourite local venues, Chapter Arts Centre in Canton.

Transun offers numerous Northern Lights experience trips to the Arctic Circle of Northern Finland and Sweden. I thought that the night-time photography workshop was a really interesting way to engage bloggers and to get us all involved.

As I only have a compact camera and iphone to take photos, I arranged to borrow a camera to make sure that I could make the most of the session.

Simon the photographer who was leading the workshop has travelled around the world taking photos, including to the Northern Lights (the lucky thing!). He was fantastic (and very patient!) at handling a room full of enthusiastic but chatty bloggers!

I learned a lot during the workshop and finally understood terms like shutter speed; aperture and ISO and how you can manipulate each of these to take the best photos for the conditions and/or type of photo you want.

Here are some of the images that I took on the night. They aren't great (major understatement!). But I wasn't too disappointed given that I had never used a DSLR camera before or had much experience of taking night-time photographs. Usually any artistic-looking blurry lights are more down to luck than any creative thought process!

In addition to talking us through all of the technical settings on our cameras, Simon also gave us some top tips for taking photos if ever we do make a trip to the Northern Lights:
  • Be prepared. Apparently the freezing cold temperatures in the Arctic Circle can drain your camera batteries really quickly, so make sure that you pack a few spare batteries for your camera. Can you imagine how disappointed you would be if you were there and then your battery died before you could get some good shots?!
  • Whilst we are on the subject of what to pack for a Northern Lights trip (apart from your thermals obviously!), be sure to pack a tripod. In order to get great shots of the movement of the Northern Lights you will need a slower shutter speed which can be tricky if your hands start shaking! In the absence of a tripod I resorted to using traffic bollards when we went on our photography hunt outside Chapter.
  • Don't just take the obvious photos when you go on holiday. Think about taking photos of your journey there and where you are staying to avoid looking like you have just lifted your photos from a travel brochure! Simon also noted that often hotels and travel companies organising the trip might be interested in purchasing the images.
Although my photos weren't great on the night I am determined to keep trying the techniques out so that I can finally take some decent night-time photographs. And hopefully one day (*crosses fingers*) I will be able to put my skills to the test in the surroundings of the Northern Lights. Thereby ticking two items off my life list at once! I am even thinking of signing up for a photography course.

You can find out more about the workshop over on the Transun blog.


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