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Archive 2012 · Aurora Northern Lights Shooting question
  
 
Langran
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p.1 #1 · Aurora Northern Lights Shooting question


I'm looking at making a trip to Iceland to (hopefully) see the northern lights. I've done a fair amount of looking through threads and online about how best to shoot but wanted an opinion on gear from people with experience shooting them.

I've got the budget to pick up 1 more lens/upgrade a lens if necessary. Camera bodies are staying as they are.
My gear:
5D2
7D
17-40L
24-70L
70-200L (f2.8)
50mm f1.4
85mm f1.8

I've been considering the 35L for a long time now but with this trip coming up I'm swinging toward a 24L for the wider angle. The other option I figured would be upgrade the 17-40 to a 16-35.



Nov 17, 2012 at 04:01 PM
BrianO
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p.1 #2 · Aurora Northern Lights Shooting question


Either the 35L or the 24L would be a good choice, and you'll find plenty of use for them after this trip, too.

You might also want to look into borrowing or renting a fish-eye or ultra-wide angle lens to put on the 7D (with the 35/24 on the 5D) for some really sweeping vistas.



Nov 17, 2012 at 04:27 PM
Dave Bachrach
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p.1 #3 · Aurora Northern Lights Shooting question



I'm using a 7D with the 17-55 f/2.8 which works pretty well most of the time. I look for two things in an "Aurora lens". A wide angle and fast (f2.8 or better). However of the two, the wider angle is what you cannot compensate for in the field. You can always increase your exposure time or increase your ISO, however you cannot zoom open up your lens any wider that it was designed for.

Here's an image taken last week in Fairbanks, Alaska with the 7D and 17-55, as you can see I lost some of what was happening around the edges of the image because I could not open the lens any wider. So my next investment will be a full-frame body for auroras.

I'm not sure if it answers your question, but it might give you something to consider that you had not thought about.

Hope you get some great images on your trip!

Dave




  Canon EOS 7D    EF-S17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM lens    17mm    f/2.8    4s    400 ISO    0.0 EV  




Nov 28, 2012 at 12:06 AM
matt4626
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p.1 #4 · Aurora Northern Lights Shooting question


Nice image...


Nov 28, 2012 at 12:18 AM
splathrop
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p.1 #5 · Aurora Northern Lights Shooting question


You might consider the Zeiss 21mm instead of the 24L. Not only wider, but more aurora color friendly, and with a hard focus stop at infinity, which is helpful at night, when it can be very hard to know if your stars are tack sharp.


Nov 28, 2012 at 12:19 AM
jimbob
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p.1 #6 · Aurora Northern Lights Shooting question


Hello Langran,
Looking at your gear I see the 7D. Dave has mentioned wide angle for the aurora. I have a 40D and although it is not F2.8 the 10-22 EF-S lens that I have is a real sleeper. It is not designated L but it should be. I traded my 17-40 for it and if I were ever lucky enough to go North it would be the first thing into my bag.
Regards
Jim



Nov 28, 2012 at 12:40 AM
PIOK
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p.1 #7 · Aurora Northern Lights Shooting question


http://vimeo.com/21294655

I remember this guy explain somewhere how he shoot... with his 5DmII



Nov 28, 2012 at 12:50 AM
Rajan Parrikar
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p.1 #8 · Aurora Northern Lights Shooting question


A wider, faster lens is most useful. Example, Canon 14L II or Zeiss 15mm f/2.8.

See -

http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/topic/1168316

and

http://www.parrikar.com/blog/2012/01/23/bridge-to-the-heavens/

for examples with both the lenses.






Nov 28, 2012 at 01:06 AM
Scott Stoness
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p.1 #9 · Aurora Northern Lights Shooting question


My favorite lens for aurora is zeiss 25mm f2. For aurora:
1) I prefer it over 21 f2 zeiss because 2x fast - 10s at ISO 1600 vs 10s at ISO 3200.
2) I prefer it over canon 24 f1.4 because its sharper than canon f1.4 at f2 and it has a hard stop at infinity that canon does not have. The lack of hard stop makes 24 1.4 not great in night. If you get the canon set it on f2 and tape it at infinity or good luck on chroma distortion and focus - stars are small.
3) I have the zeiss 35 1.4 and although it is better than 25 for speed, I think 25mm is a better choice for wide. If you have to choose wider vs faster go wider given your other lens.

I would Expect to use 2 lens - 50 1.4 and 25f2 and 1 body 5dii because:
1) 7d is a stop worst than 5dii in low light. Eg iso 1600 is equivalent to iso 800 on 7d.
2) one camera in the dark is tough enough. All the good pictures you see are in really dark nights when moon is not out.

I use a radio frequency remote shutter - sometimes its cold and I can sit in the car and take pictures once I get the exposure and composition down.

In the cold, remember to hold your breath near the camera - its hard to get the frost off when it freeze on the lens.

Bring lots of batteries and put them in your pocket to keep them warm.

Memorize the 400/mm rule for shutter speed and divide by 2 for quality.

Scott



Nov 29, 2012 at 11:08 PM
David Baldwin
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p.1 #10 · Aurora Northern Lights Shooting question


" it has a hard stop at infinity that canon does not have. The lack of hard stop makes 24 1.4 not great in night"

Don't agree at all. I use the 24L at or near wide open and focus using live view at 10x on a 5D2. No problem focusing on brightish stars:

http://www.nightfolio.co.uk/subpages/ar22.html
http://www.nightfolio.co.uk/subpages/sm001.html
http://www.nightfolio.co.uk/subpages/la31.html
http://www.nightfolio.co.uk/subpages/la29.html




Nov 29, 2012 at 11:19 PM
 

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Pixel Perfect
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p.1 #11 · Aurora Northern Lights Shooting question


David Baldwin wrote:
" it has a hard stop at infinity that canon does not have. The lack of hard stop makes 24 1.4 not great in night"

Don't agree at all. I use the 24L at or near wide open and focus using live view at 10x on a 5D2. No problem focusing on brightish stars:

http://www.nightfolio.co.uk/subpages/ar22.html
http://www.nightfolio.co.uk/subpages/sm001.html
http://www.nightfolio.co.uk/subpages/la31.html
http://www.nightfolio.co.uk/subpages/la29.html



, my stupid work filter has blocked your site for pornographic content, What on earth are you really shooting Dave?



Nov 30, 2012 at 01:15 AM
Scott Stoness
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p.1 #12 · Aurora Northern Lights Shooting question


David Baldwin wrote:
" it has a hard stop at infinity that canon does not have. The lack of hard stop makes 24 1.4 not great in night"

Don't agree at all. I use the 24L at or near wide open and focus using live view at 10x on a 5D2. No problem focusing on brightish stars:

http://www.nightfolio.co.uk/subpages/ar22.html
http://www.nightfolio.co.uk/subpages/sm001.html
http://www.nightfolio.co.uk/subpages/la31.html
http://www.nightfolio.co.uk/subpages/la29.html



David does a good job with 5dii and 10x focussing on liveview. Skill and practice can overcome challenges.

However, Rent a 24 1.4 and try it to see if you like focussing with live view x 10x at -30. I have and found it to be challenging. Sometimes simpler is better. Sometimes the stars are obscured. You will find the 24 to be sensitive (you move and have to refocus) and more challenging then just moving to hard stop of the zeiss.

However, on the other hand if you want to use either for indoors handheld the 24 1.4 is better. It has autofocus and 1.4. And its $400 cheaper.



Nov 30, 2012 at 03:17 AM
David Baldwin
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p.1 #13 · Aurora Northern Lights Shooting question


Scott, I think your suggestion about renting first is great. We are all different and so is the kit, renting the lenses and perfecting the techniques BEFORE going on a trip is definitely the best advice.

Pixel, that is a problem I have come across before. Sadly I don't have the opportunity to shoot anything adult and must regretfully advise no dodgy images on my website! More seriously, yes I am completely baffled how some work place internet filters work, my trees and stars are blocked yet I would bet you money the same filters would let workers access very adult sites indeed (of course don't try it to see if I am right!) Weird.



Nov 30, 2012 at 09:20 AM
sperraglia
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p.1 #14 · Aurora Northern Lights Shooting question


Go for wide and fast. I was up in Churchill a few weeks ago and never really thought we would get auroras so I had medium and long telephotos for polar bears and threw the 40mm 2.8 pancake in the bag for just in case wide. Of course we had 2 good clear nights of auroras and I wanted wider. The 40mm pancake did a nice job, but a little bit of trial and error since it has no focus window to see if you are at infinity. My lessons - put camera in manual, open up lens, manually focus to infinity - I set up at 1600 iso on the 5d3 and was averaging 8 sec exposures.

I have 2 of the aurora shots here http://laurieexcell.com/lauries-blog/musings-of-a-fellow-adventurer-churchill-polar-bears/ (sorry I don't have any at the website yet because I have a million polar bears shots to go through - so scroll to bottom of the link)



Nov 30, 2012 at 02:25 PM
David Baldwin
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p.1 #15 · Aurora Northern Lights Shooting question


Yes, whatever else you do, never, ever trust the infinity mark in the focus window!. A hard infinity stop might be accurate, depending on the individual lens of course, but I have never seen a single lens with perfectly accurate focus on infinity just using a scale. Not once.


Nov 30, 2012 at 07:16 PM
Caleb Williams
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p.1 #16 · Aurora Northern Lights Shooting question


David Baldwin wrote:
Yes, whatever else you do, never, ever trust the infinity mark in the focus window!. A hard infinity stop might be accurate, depending on the individual lens of course, but I have never seen a single lens with perfectly accurate focus on infinity just using a scale. Not once.

Even manual focus-only lenses? I haven't had a ton, but they seemed better at it. I don't trust my 16-35 though.



Nov 30, 2012 at 09:29 PM
David Baldwin
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p.1 #17 · Aurora Northern Lights Shooting question


I suspect that older manual focus lenses which have a hard stop at infinity (for example the Nikkor AIS type lenses that I was using in the 1990s) are much better than modern AF lenses which are designed to focus beyond infinity, relying on electronic AF or more recently live view to get things sharp. But such old school lenses were designed on the whole for film, which is alot more forgiving of slight focus errors than digital.

I would treat any lens with great suspicion until its infinity focus has been verified by actual test shots on stars. As I say, I have never seen any AF lens by any manufacturer give perfect infinity focus on stars just by using the scale . I suspect this is a by product of the AF era, and is perhaps also an acknowledgement that some lens designs have focus which changes with the ambient temperature.

Only trust a lens' infinity position after actual stellar photography. I don't believe that perfect scale infinity focusing is of much interest to lens makers. Most photographers just don't need it, but any errors will be painfully apparent on stars and digital at f1.4/2.

As Ronnie Reagan once put it (I think) "Trust, but verify". Certainly personally I only abandoned film for my own night photography once live view came out. Before that focus at wide apertures on digital was a form of russian roulette, very hit and miss. Live view or stringent pre trip testing are the only ways to be sure.



Nov 30, 2012 at 09:59 PM
Scott Stoness
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p.1 #18 · Aurora Northern Lights Shooting question


David Baldwin wrote:
I suspect that older manual focus lenses which have a hard stop at infinity (for example the Nikkor AIS type lenses that I was using in the 1990s) are much better than modern AF lenses which are designed to focus beyond infinity, relying on electronic AF or more recently live view to get things sharp. But such old school lenses were designed on the whole for film, which is alot more forgiving of slight focus errors than digital.

I would treat any lens with great suspicion until its infinity focus has been verified by actual test shots on stars. As
...Show more

David. The canon goes way beyond infinity at the end stop. It is also geared to be much more sensitive which makes it harder to focus manually. When you go to infinity stop on both my zeiss's it is as sharp as focussing manually. I move back a wee tiny bit on the 25. This is not possible by memory in the dark with the 24 because you have to move back a lot. The zeiss are calibrated for focus stop at infinity. But as you say, its best to test it in good light. But I still say the zeiss are way easier to use in the dark because the canon goes way way past infinity at the stop.



Dec 01, 2012 at 05:31 AM
David Baldwin
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p.1 #19 · Aurora Northern Lights Shooting question


Scott, sounds like your hard stop manual lenses are perfectly calibrated and tested. Thats great, we are agreeing on the bottom line which is that testing is everything here!


Dec 01, 2012 at 08:21 AM
ChrisCoy
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p.1 #20 · Aurora Northern Lights Shooting question


Dave Bachrach wrote:
Here's an image taken last week in Fairbanks, Alaska with the 7D and 17-55, as you can see I lost some of what was happening around the edges of the image because I could not open the lens any wider. So my next investment will be a full-frame body for auroras.

Dave




That is something that I'll probably never be able to see in person. AB-SO-LUTELY amazing.



Dec 01, 2012 at 09:01 AM





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