Tips & Tutorials

Composing a Shot of an Aurora with its Reflection in the Lake

If you chance upon a magnificent view that is nearby a body of water, you can make good use of this opportunity to bring your photographic work to a higher level. The following article offers useful hints from a professional photographer for composing a shot that captures an aurora spread over the sky in combination with its mirror image in the lake.(Reported by: Tatsuya Tanaka)

EOS-1D X/ EF16-35mm f/2.8L II USM/ FL: 23mm/ Manual exposure (f/2.8, 15 seconds)/ ISO 2000/ WB: Auto

A symmetrical scene of an aurora as seen from the lakeside. I chanced upon this rare opportunity to capture both the calm lake surface and bright aurora within the same shot. I determined the composition, accentuated it with the small, run-down boat near the shore, and waited for the right moment when the bright aurora in front of me started to move.

Step 1: Choose a symmetrical composition with the aurora reflected on the lake surface

Step 2: Make use of manual exposure and look for the optimal exposure setting suited to the scene you are capturing

Step 3: Aim for the moment when the aurora starts moving and take continuous shots of the view

 
 

Step 1: Choose a symmetrical composition with the aurora reflected on the lake surface

I have carried out countless shoots at this lake before. As I am already rather familiar with the patterns in which the aurora occur, I chose a composition that emphasised the scenery on the ground. Since it was not possible to predict how large or bright the aurora would be until the time of the shoot, I selected a wide-angle zoom lens to make it easier to adjust the viewing angle.

To compose a symmetrical shot that also includes the reflection of the aurora on the lake surface, it is important to consider the camera angle and height when you direct the camera toward the lake surface. Also, having found a little, run-down boat at the same location, I included it to create a point of interest (“accent”) in the composition, which helps to pull all the elements in the composition together.

Step 2: Make use of manual exposure and look for the optimal exposure setting suited to the scene you are capturing

Adjust the exposure manually during the actual shoot, and select an appropriate aperture and shutter speed setting. For this example, I selected ISO 2000 and an aperture of f/2.8, and set the shutter speed to about 10 seconds to enable adjustment suited to the brightness and movement of the aurora. After dusk set in and stars appeared in the sky, I took test shots and did a final check.

To adjust the focus in a dimly-lit condition, I made use of the Live View function. With the aid of display magnification, I used MF to establish focus on the stars. I also taped the focusing ring down to prevent it from moving.

Step 3: Aim for the moment when the aurora starts moving and take continuous shots of the view

Once the aurora got brighter and started moving, I took continuous shots using a remote switch. As the aurora kept changing its shape and moving, I needed to assess the situation and adjust the composition accordingly.

Must-have Item
Remote Switch RS-80N3

When photographing the aurora, a scene that requires a long exposure, the use of a tripod and a remote switch is indispensable. For the electronic level to check the horizontality of the composition, I personally like to use an external level.

 
 
Tatsuya Tanaka

 

Born in 1956, Tanaka is one of the rare photographers who produce works across a wide variety of genres from an original perspective. These genres range from objects in our daily lives, such as insects and flowers, to landscapes, skyscapes, and celestial bodies. Besides photography, Tanaka has also developed his own approach in post processes including retouch and printing.

 
Digital Camera Magazine

 

A monthly magazine that believes that enjoyment of photography will increase the more one learns about camera functions. It delivers news on the latest cameras and features and regularly introduces various photography techniques.

Published by Impress Corporation

 
 
 

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