It’s not surprising that astrophotography and night photography are exploding in popularity, particularly with landscape photographers – last week saw some of the most amazing aurora displays of the last few decades. Here are some tips for getting great shots if you missed it, or were disappointed with the results.

One of the biggest lessons I have learned about photography is that sometimes, you can find everything you need locally. Depending on what you like to shoot, a keen eye can deliver great images in your local neighbourhood – you don’t need to drive miles, or jump on a plane. This is better for the planet and your wallet, too.

The recent stunning aurora displays around the UK provide a great example. To be honest, news of the anticipated displays passed me by on Friday, and I didn’t even realise there had been an amazing aurora performance that night until I saw all the social media posts from my friends on Saturday. Gah!

Blinded by the lights

I am lucky enough to live in Glastonbury, Somerset, famous for its Tor, festival and colourful indie high street, so the idea of missing out on a stunning display just down the road caused me to kick myself, big style.

Fortunately some talented local photographers, notably the landscape specialist Michelle Cowbourne, were much more on the ball than me, and she captured some amazing shots of aurora displays around Glastonbury Tor.

Aurora photography michelle cowbourne

‘All the images were taken on a Nikon Z7, using a 14-30mm Nikkor S lens,’ she explains. ‘No filters were used, and I shot at F/4.5 and ISO 800, with an exposure time of between 10-15 seconds. I also used a tripod and remote shutter release and there was minimal editing in Lightroom.

Glastonbury Tor is such an obvious element to include to add interest to night photography shots, but there might be some interesting or historic buildings in your area too,’ Michelle adds.

‘These images have been very popular with news agencies so don’t get so obsessed with traveling to photogenic destinations that you neglect what is happening down the road. Or feel that you need a ‘cutting-edge’ camera. The Nikon Z7 came out six years ago.’

Aurora photography Michelle Cowbourne portrait format

While last Friday’s displays were particularly good, don’t despair if, like me, you missed it. The aurora will return again, and I for one will be installing the Aurorawatch UK app for iOS and Android to ensure I am ready next time.

In the meantime, enjoy Michelle’s amazing images and check out the rest of her oustanding work on Facebook, Z/Twitter and Instagram. Please also share any of your aurora images on our social media channels too – see links below.

Further reading
Northern Lights Photographer of the Year winners
Best UK landscape destinations
Art Wolfe on his approach to night photography