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Thread: WB settings for Northern Lights

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    Default WB settings for Northern Lights

    I'm processing images from a trip to Finland. I photographed the Northern Lights for the first time, but find it hard to get the colors right. Auto white balance in the camera has made a mess of it (way to grassy green than what was visible in reality). Are there any standard WB settings that you know of for this sort of light to start working from? None of the PS preset ones seem to be useful.

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    I was curious to see a response from someone that knows from experience. I'm planning to go to Iceland next winter, for this. I will shoot in Raw, but I'd be interested to see solutions. I can always adjust "to taste" but is there a way to nail it? I can't imagine a grey card working in the dark.

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    Not planning to go myself, but my curiosity was raised and found this http://photo.net/travel/iceland/aurora-borealis/ which may be of interest.

    David.

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    Quote Originally Posted by David Stephens View Post
    I was curious to see a response from someone that knows from experience. I'm planning to go to Iceland next winter, for this. I will shoot in Raw, but I'd be interested to see solutions. I can always adjust "to taste" but is there a way to nail it? I can't imagine a grey card working in the dark.
    Hi David, I do have some tips on other aspects of the shooting:
    Set your camera completely to manual, including the focus.
    Before your trip, make some test images during night time at home to determine the highest ISO level with still acceptable noise levels with your camera. Use those settings when you're shooting the lights.
    Be sure to scout for suitable locations during the day (or even before your trip by looking at images on Internet), that are also easily accessible during the night. Preferably, you'll have an attractive FG and/or BG for the lights and sufficient open space to see the lights (which can be up quite high). When you're there during the day, already find the right settings for hyperfocal distance or sharpness on those parts of your composition that you absolutely want to be sharp at the widest aperture. Mark this setting with tape on your lens (one on the focus ring and one on the lens to line up with). You don't want to be experimenting with this once the light show has commenced in pitch dark. Be aware of light pollution. Either avoid it or make use of it in your composition.
    Be sure to bring a flashlight or headlight to quickly set up your camera. A red light won't blind you in the dark, but I'm not sure if you have that choice.
    Make some test images once the lights are there to find the right shutter speed. This depends on the brightness of the lights as well as your preference for capturing a still of the movement (you'll want that if you're in the middle of the corona) or want to capture the movements of the 'curtains of light' .
    If you'll work in RAW anyway, be sure to switch of the high ISO NR. If you have that setting activated, it will take a very long time after each capture before you can take a new one, because the camera will take a reference image for the noise pattern, with equal exposure time as the actual capture (which can add up to 30 sec).
    Regularly check out spaceweather.com to see the aurora forecasts and the display of the current aurora oval to determine when to go out. Try to figure out what the more detailed data mean. There are a few indicators that will quite accurately tell you that the lights will show within 30 minutes.
    Hope you have a wonderful trip! Don't forget to also just look at the Northern Lights, instead of only focusing on photographing them. It's a unique experience that you don't want to miss.

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