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Nature photographer Pertti Turunen gives tips to Northern Lights photography

10/24/2018 12:00 PM

Pertti Turunen, an experienced nature photographer of the High North in Finnish Lapland was discussing the Northern Lights photography in a lecture session on October 23 at the Rovaniemi City Library.

Revontulet Pertti Turunen julkaisulupa vain engl juttuun.jpgPhoto: Pertti Turunen

The event was held in collaboration with the Astronomical Society of Lapland (Pohjan Kruunu). 

We asked Pertti Turunen for some tips to photograph Norhern Lights.

Tripod, good location, warm clothes and a little bit of luck

Pertti Turunen has been shooting the nature of the High North in Finnish Lapland for the last 30 years. 

Pointing out some key factors for getting a good shot of the Northern Lights, Turunen says, “You should find a location as open as possible. Such a suitable place may be a lakeside, a field, a treeless hilltop or a fell in Lapland. Visible light is often what ruins the photos, which is called light pollution. North is almost always the best direction for a shot, as usually the Northern Lights appear in that direction, except during the so-called ‘Northern Light storms’.” 

He recommends a SLR camera with a high aperture lens for shooting the Northern Lights, but a regular camera could do the job too, depending on the photographer’s skills.

“Always use a tripod, because the exposure time can be as long as 20 seconds, depending on the lights. A headlamp is also an important gear for a Northern Lights photographer,” he advises and then says finding the right exposure takes a number of trials and errors, “because you need to adjust the ISO and exposure time, keeping the aperture at a maximum.”

Turunen so far has authored five books on photography and of photographs – the Inarijärvi book was released in 2009, ‘Lapin valot’ in 2011, the ‘Inari Year, Lights of Lapland’ in 2012, and the ‘Lapinmaa = Lapland’ in 2016.

As a veteran nature photographer, he emphasised selection of a good location, besides the degree of beauty of the subject, the patience and perseverance required to stay up in freezing nights, for instance, on a frozen lake, to capture a good image of the Northern Lights. 
Revontulet Pertti Turunen julkaisulupa vain engl juttuun2.jpg
Photo: Pertti Turunen

Thinking about the basics of nature photography, he says, the genre of photography “is very popular nowadays. But becoming a good photographer takes a lot of work, imagination and vision, and your works should be outstanding, too; different. You need to know the photographic techniques of your camera as well as your target. Everyone can get a few good shots, but on the long run photography takes a lot of moving through wilderness and skills.”

Although he admits that luck sometimes plays its part, “a good photographer usually has plenty of work and experience behind his shots. So add in the luck, and you’re great,” Turunen quippes.


City of Rovaniemi – Daily Finland Report