Ah, panoramas. They work so well on flickr due to their weird layout algorithm.

Let’s explore which conditions suit an Aurora panorama then we will consider some techniques to help to get the best results.

Milkyway Aurora Panorama

Milky way and Auroras at Jökulsarlon, South Iceland.


Northern Lights photography.

Just like regular panoramas, aurora panos require planning and correct judgement (in other words, the photographer has to decide that this is the best way of representing the scene). The main challenge for any Panorama photographer is changing conditions, i.e. conditions which change while you are in the process of taking a panorama. In regular panorama photography, this could be waves on a beach or clouds in the sky. With regular panorama photography, the photographer might deal with moving clouds by taking the sky frames quite quickly to minimise the movement between frames. For the waves on the beach, the regular panorama photographer might take a range of shots to improve the chances of a good match. This is a decision which has to made by the photographer at the location, it requires judgement and forethought.

Jökulsarlon - Smooth Aurora Pano

It can be even more difficult to keep the camera level in the dark, so invest in a Vello Three-Axis Hot-Shoe Bubble Level. Even better to have a camera with a built in electronic level. The system on the Canon EOS 5D Mark III DSLR Camera Kit with Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM Lens is fantastic.

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If possible, I try to make each frame a composition in its own right. With Aurora panoramas, it is best to avoid close foreground objects. Firstly, they add an extra challenge of multiple exposures if you want to present the object well. Unless the object is way off to the right or left of the panorama, i.e. in only one frame, you could have issues with parralax (unless, of course you have a panorama head).

Here are the un-processed frames from the above shot.

panorama photography

I exported these as TIFF files from Lightroom with a reduced contrast – this gives me more post processing control. It is important to create the panorama before all post-processing, therefore it makes sense to minimise early Lightroom processing for better photoshop control.

This was a shot from the same evening with 2 horizontal frames.

And another from a year later.

aurora panorama

2 horizontal frames to create a long panorama.

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