This article discusses my attempts to shoot Northern Lights over a suburb of Reykjavik. The suburb is called Gravavogur (Cemetery district) and is the suburb in which I live.

Being a purist nature landscaper, I tend to avoid photography anywhere near Reykjavik – even though Gravavogur is where I learned my craft. I constantly advise photographers to get out of the city and away from the city lights to get the best aurora images. But, seeing as I am here, I thought I would give the challenging conditions a try.

Here is the problem…
Reykjavik Aurora

With a regular Aurora exposure, the city lights become blown out.

One solution is to simply take 2 exposures…

Reykjavik AuroraExposed for the Aurora
City AuroraExposed for the street lights

Merge them together in photoshop…

Grava Vogur Aurora

The result is quite pleasing, but you might want to attempt to get both elements exposed correctly in a single frame, i.e for competition purposes.

Using the Magic Cloth in this situation is almost the opposite of using it in the nature, where photographers struggle to expose the unlit foreground. Here, the Aurora is dark in comparison with the street lights, so the cloth needs to cover up the bottom of the image quickly and allow the sky a little longer. I experimented with various techniques…

City Northern Lights

In this shot I covered the whole lens very quickly after the onset of exposure (split second), then carefully lowered the cloth to about the mid way point to give the sky a little more exposure.


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