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08-29-2018, 08:25 AM   #1
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Planning a cruise to Alaska, may see Northern Lights. Technical tips requested.

That's all there is to it. Camera will be the K-5. Am intending to take the DA18-135 as this is a family holiday and I want to pare my kit down, but I probably have space for one smallish DA or film-era prime. Tripod will almost certainly be a NON-OPTION.

08-29-2018, 09:03 AM   #2
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Aurora shots benefit for wide angle lenses, large apertures, and multi-second exposure times. Although "no tripod" seems like a deal-breaker for auroras, you can often find some improvised way for setting a camera on a table, wall, or held against a pole for stable long-exposures.

Have fun!
08-29-2018, 09:09 AM   #3
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If you are going into Denali as part of a Cruise package, then you will be sight seeing in a Denali Tour Bus (converted school bus).
When critters are spotted, you will not be allowed to get off the Bus. The Guide/Driver will stop the bus, but will not let you get out.
So you will be shooting pictures out through open bus windows, often over the top of your fellow tourists.
There will be no chance to set up a study tripod with a long fast lens.

There will be good opportunity to shoot landscapes at the four bus stops (three are bathroom breaks), where you will be allowed to get off the tour bus for about 20 minutes at a time. A monopod will be useful here.

The vistas in Alaska are vast !
Take the widest lens you have. Your 18-135mm should be great on the K-5

Last edited by Moe49; 09-14-2018 at 06:45 AM.
08-29-2018, 09:22 AM   #4
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The northern lights can really be a sight to see, when I was in the Yukon this summer, they were beautiful and best seen around 0230-0300. The best show I didn't get any photos as my camera was locked in a locker (in barracks) so I didn't want to wake others, also I just sat back and enjoyed watching. Either way, taking pictures or watching, you'll enjoy them

08-29-2018, 09:39 AM   #5
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Sounds lovely. Enjoy!
08-29-2018, 09:44 AM   #6

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I know you said tripod is not an option, but perhaps a mini tripod will be more feasible? I've taken 60s startracer photos with a 100mm lens, camera mounted on a Joby 3k. That one only weighs about as much as a smaller lens, it's under 300g
08-29-2018, 10:23 AM   #7
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I know you said tripod is a non option, BUT they're almost a requirement. At least in my experience. Amazon basics has a cheap $10 one, and if you decide to get rid of it, not much money lost. Its light aluminum and really quite decent quality.
I used this tripod in Iceland shooting the Northern Lights and it worked decently well, even in strong gusts.
08-29-2018, 10:45 AM - 1 Like   #8
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One other key tip: remove any filters from your lenses for aurora photography. The flat glass surfaces of filters can create interference rings in conjunction with monochromatic emissions of the aurora.

08-29-2018, 02:47 PM - 1 Like   #9

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If you can't bring a tripod, try using your camera bag as a support. 18mm should be wide enough. Use the 12 second timer. Crudely aim, press the shutter, and 12 seconds will give the camera extra time to settle into the bag after you've pressed the button.

A table, bench, or car roof can also work for support, with a hat or other small clothing stuck under the lens to angle it upwards.

I've only seen one aurora. It was Pennsylvania and not especially bright. My settings were 20 seconds, f2.8, ISO 1600. You might get much brighter aurora in Alaska.
09-15-2018, 06:14 AM   #10
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No Northern Lights seen, unfortunately, but I did spot someone else on the ship with a Pentax camera on the very first day of the cruise. I think it was a K-1. As this was after we had pulled away from the dock it must have been one of the other passengers, but I did not see him again all week.

If anybody else here was on the Disney Wonder from Sep 3 to 10, I'm sorry I missed you. By inches. Over and over again, LOL.

Of interest, the professional photographers on the ship were all using Nikon. I talked to one of them for a short time, and it appears to relate to compatibility with the app they use to transfer the pics and tag them to your electronic room key. All the cameras had an L bracket mounting the camera, a cellphone, and an attached keyswipe device. Because there are vast numbers of these pics taken every day on every trip, they shoot in JPG SOOC and zip them straight to central storage where they are either given to customers via download or printed out into books for a price. The lighting setups were professional, with remote triggers for studio lights in diffusers (sometimes multiples) except where space was tight or photographer mobility was required. The quality of these pictures was excellent.

There was also a formal studio picture option, and this - of far lower volume - is shot in RAW and edited accordingly.

DSLRs/MILC on the trip were predominantly Nikon with Canon and Sony a little way back and a handful of Panasonic/Lumix. I got a couple of complimentary remarks on my Pentax.

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