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Old 16th December 2012
shirley shirley is offline
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lenses for Iceland/aurora trip

Hi folks, I wonder if anybody could offer any advice regarding the best m4/3rds lens/s to take on a trip to Iceland in February. I am hoping to catch the aurora, but there will be lots of landscape opportunities. I am thinking of hiring an additional wide lens, I have the 12 -50 butwonder if iI need a faster lens to catch the aurora. What do you think?
Thank you
Shirley
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Old 16th December 2012
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Re: lenses for Iceland/aurora trip

Hi Shirley

My wife and I went to Iceland in June this year - magical place, and we were lucky with the weather too! You should enjoy the experience.

There are plenty of wide vistas, and I generally got by with my 14-45 Lumix. Occasionally I could have done with a much longer lens as I wanted to catch the puffins. So if you are after taking pictures of the wildlife then a long lens might be useful. Obviously at that time of year the northern lights wouldn't have been visible, so I can't offer any advice on that score. And of course, the light levels would have been much better. Hmm, so after all that I'm not sure I'm providing you with useful information

One thing's for sure though, it could be darned cold and you'll need every layer of clothing you've got! And I guess that the battery will fade rapidly unless kept warm. Perhaps others have got practical experience of that.

I'm envious.
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Old 16th December 2012
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Re: lenses for Iceland/aurora trip

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Originally Posted by shirley View Post
Hi folks, I wonder if anybody could offer any advice regarding the best m4/3rds lens/s to take on a trip to Iceland in February. I am hoping to catch the aurora, but there will be lots of landscape opportunities. I am thinking of hiring an additional wide lens, I have the 12 -50 butwonder if iI need a faster lens to catch the aurora. What do you think?
Thank you
Shirley
Shirley, it sounds like you have a fantastic trip to look forward to at February half term. Presumably you will use a tripod for night shots of the aurora so a fast lens won't be essential. For long exposures just make sure that Noise Reduction (not Noise Filter) is turned on. The 12-50mm lens is extremely versatile and should be ideal for a trip like this. However, the fast 12mm f2 would help keep long exposures to a minimum and no doubt would aid creative compositions in other situations. Alternatively, the slower 9-18mm would give you a much wider angle of view to help capture Iceland's massive open spaces. The 45mm f1.8 would be great for portraits of the locals and for isolating details.

Which one(s) you decide to hire should perhaps depend upon what type of pictures you envisage taking in addition to the aurora. It would be sensible to have an extra lens or two as back-up to the 12-50mm anyway, and a spare body (Pen?) would not go amiss for a trip like this.
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Old 16th December 2012
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Re: lenses for Iceland/aurora trip

Thank you John and Ian,

I was lucky enough to visit Iceland in August in 2010, I fell in love with the place and was determined to return. I had read that this year is a good one for Aurora spotting so we decided to give it a go.

Yes John, I will be using a tripod so a fast lens isn't absolutely necessary. However, I had read that keeping exposures to a minimum helps with the quality of the image. I am happy with 12 -50 for daytime but would not want to miss the opportunity of taking some decent aurora images, should the lights come out to play when we are there. As regards a back up I do have E30 I could take and I will have a canon (G10 I think). Not sure about the E30 as I do not want to take a separate set of lenses, perhaps hiring a pen, or another OMD, would be better.
Mmmm lots to mull over.

As for the cold, I have already started collecting thermal underwear and base layers...see, I even have the jargon!

Thanks again
Shirley
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Re: lenses for Iceland/aurora trip

It certainly doesn't hurt to keep long exposures minimized and a 12mm f2 could be useful in many other ways. It depends on how much you are prepared to spend on hiring equipment - a 12mm for 7 days is 46 and if you added a 45mm f1.8 it would be a further 25. The cheapest Pen on the hire list is about 60 for 7 days - just a thought, you should be able to pick up a E-PL1 body for just over 100 and sell it for about the same when you return.
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Old 16th December 2012
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Re: lenses for Iceland/aurora trip

My favourite lens is the 11-22 for aurora ( I intend using it on the epm-2) so if you can get a 12mm. You do not need autofocus as you will manual focus, probably on Jupiter
ISO 1600 will be okay on the EM-5 and should allow a 5-15 second exposure... there is no set exposure for aurora...experiment on the fly
Set WB to daylight
Usual things I forget are to turn IBIS off and anti shock to 2 seconds and to check the lens is not fogging up.
...and remember to look rather than just taking photos!!
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Old 16th December 2012
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Re: lenses for Iceland/aurora trip

One thing to note - take off any filters as these will negate the the light effects. I have a noddy guide somewhere and if time permits, will post it in the next day or two.
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Old 16th December 2012
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Re: lenses for Iceland/aurora trip

As per usual... TV was crap, so no time like the present.
How do I photograph the Northern lights?

General settings for Digital Cameras:

Flash: - OFF
ISO: – 400, 800 or 1600 (the darker the sky, the higher the ISO needed)

Shutter Speed: Might not be adjustable on some cameras.
Good exposure times for this are 20-40 seconds per picture (the tripod will help you eliminate shaking of the camera - you can't hold the camera by hand).
A sample exposure time for ISO 800 with f/2.8 would be 30 seconds.

Noise reduction: ON

White Balance: Daylight Setting

Focus: = Manual Focus - (set to infinity)

Self-timer: Set to 2 seconds (reduces camera shake

LCD: Low brightness

Additional Settings for Digital SLR cameras

Shooting mode: Manual (M)
Aperture: (Av) Lowest possible (depends on your lens)
Lens: Wide angle (below35mm)
UV or Polarising Filters: Remove

Additional tips
Have your gear ready to go – battery/batteries charged. Remember, cold weather drains batteries very quickly – keep spares inside coat. Sufficient space available on memory cards? Cold weather gear = warm clothing etc.

Use a sturdy tripod, preferably with remote trigger – remember IS settings?

Be patient, conditions can change rapidly and the lights often change their intensity and appearance throughout the night.
Include a part of the landscape to make the photos more attractive and as a visual reference for size.

Most important tip of all… experience the beauty of the Aurora with your eyes and your heart first, before you do so through the lens of your camera.

A quick recap

Batteries don't last as long in cold nights. Bring spare batteries.

Try lots of different exposure settings; night photography is challenging. Test your setup first.

Do not use any filters, as they tend to distort the beauty of the Northern Lights and degrade the image.


Hope this helps???

The following offer a rough estimate to start with

400 ISO @ f2 = 15 secs – @ f2.8 = 30 secs - @f4 = 60 secs

800 ISO @ f2 = 07 secs - @ f2.8 = 15secs - @ f4 = 30 secs

1600 ISO @ f2 = 04 secs - @f2.8 = 07 secs - @ f4 = 15 secs
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Last edited by Wally; 16th December 2012 at 11:18 PM. Reason: added more info
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Old 16th December 2012
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Re: lenses for Iceland/aurora trip

Wow, 400 ISO and higher. How did photographer manage to photograph the Northern Lights in the days of Kodachrome and Velvia?
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Old 17th December 2012
JonSchick JonSchick is offline
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Here's an off the wall suggestion, but the Samyang 7.5mm fisheye may be quite an interesting possibility too! Cheap with astonishingly good reviews. I'm picking one up on the 'States next week that I got on a gold box deal, and am planning a few star trail shots in Vermont, weather permitting.
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Old 17th December 2012
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Re: lenses for Iceland/aurora trip

Thank you all for your replies.

Wally, brilliant, that is really helpful, I will print it out and have it with me.
John, food for thought re a pen.
Chris, you have obviously done this before. Do you think it is worth hiring a 12mm or 45mm prime as I have the 12-50? Faster/sharper lens etc etc
Jon, I have the 8mm fish eye, now there's a thought!

Thanks guys
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Old 17th December 2012
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Re: lenses for Iceland/aurora trip

Actually, I'd probably take a film camera specifically for the Northern Lights. There's something about digital results that never seems right to me, maybe the sensors response to certain colours compared to film.
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Old 17th December 2012
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Re: lenses for Iceland/aurora trip

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Originally Posted by David M View Post
Actually, I'd probably take a film camera specifically for the Northern Lights. There's something about digital results that never seems right to me, maybe the sensors response to certain colours compared to film.
Ah, David, you obviously like the effect of colour shift caused by reciprocity failure - all part of the film's signature.
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Old 17th December 2012
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Re: lenses for Iceland/aurora trip

Better to shoot in RAW with a digital doodah, that way you have more control of the final item/masterpiece whilst retaining all the original info. As for film, the only drawbacks are the wait to see what you actually got / processing issues - swings and roundabouts unless you DIY.
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Re: lenses for Iceland/aurora trip

That may be part of it John. But I've found you don't get the subtlety of colours with digital, especially the reds, purples and blues. It' almost as if the sensor 'sees' the greens more predominantly.
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