How to See (and Photograph) the Northern Lights on a Weekend Trip to Fairbanks, Alaska

Note... this is a guide on how to give yourself the best possibility to see and photograph the Northern Lights. We can't guarantee you will. The phenomenon that is the Aurora Borealis is fickle, and it does what it wants. We had the privilege to visit Fairbanks, Alaska in March, one of the best months for Aurora viewing. During our trip we saw just enough of the Northern Lights to feel extremely lucky... but we definitely came away craving more! The following is a guide to prepare you for your upcoming trip to Alaska, and how to make the most out of chasing the Aurora Borealis. 


For how to get there, get around, and where to sleep, check out this more comprehensive blog on our trip... Here we're specifically talking Aurora Borealis. 


Seeing the Northern Lights - For the Non-Photographer

Okay if you are just there to view, then you should probably go on a tour or get a guide. We'll recommend two: Fairbanks Snow Sleighers and SkyFire In Focus Tours. Snow Sleighers may be the better choice, because you can do a snowmobile tour in search of the northern lights. On our next trip you will ABSOLUTELY find us here! SkyFire in Focus Tours is a great option too, because they will pick you up at your hotel, provide camera equipment if you'd like, and hot drinks to keep you warm while you're viewing. 


Seeing the Northern Lights - For the Photographer

We encourage you to stay in one of the epic spots above and still go on a tour (because locals will take you to the best spots), but here is some information on what you need to take photos once you're lucky enough to see the northern lights.


  • Make sure you have the right cold-weather gear. Standing out in sub-zero temperatures while waiting for your shot can be miserable if you aren't prepared. 
  • A high quality-camera and lens (renting is okay if you know how to use it) is a must. More specifically, you want a camera that can provide good image quality at high ISOs. Full-frame DSLRs or mirrorless cameras (Sony and Fuji) are solid. 
  • When it comes to lenses, you want a fast lens with an aperture >f 4.0. A lower aperture will allow for your images to have less noise and better quality. 
  • Invest in a tripod. You need something strong and sturdy that will stand up (hehe) to all types of weather. Make sure it has a solid ball-head so it can quickly maneuver to wherever the aurora may be. 
  • Don't plan on getting a good picture with your iPhone. 

Before you go out

  • Charge your batteries and bring extras. Extreme cold can drain your batteries quick, so keep them somewhere insulated (inner coat pocket). 
  • Check that your memory card has plenty of space on it, and bring a back-up.
  • Pack your extra lenses, your tripod, a shutter release, a headlamp, flashlight, snacks, water, extra layers, and anything else you might need. 

Getting the epic shot

  • Be patient. 
  • Shoot in RAW so you can have more flexibility when editing the photos later. 
  • Prepare to shoot in manual mode.
  • Set your aperture to the widest setting possible setting, or one stop down - around f 2.0. 
  • If you are going to do manual focus, then get any objects in the foreground really sharp and in focus. 
  • In terms of ISO, try not to shoot above 3200. We prefer to be in between ISO 800 and ISO 1600. 
  • For shutter speed, we used between 5-30 seconds. Check out your image, and adjust accordingly. 

These are some things that worked for us. Adjust based on your experience and let us know what you think!

Lastly - Pray, cross your fingers, clinch your lucky penny, or do whatever superstitious thing you think will help you... we hope that you get a spectacular show while you are there! Good luck!

Capturing Maui with Fuji's X-T1 and 10-24 Lens

During a recent trip to Hawaii we were able to try out the Fujinon 10-24mm lens and Fuji X-T1. We want to take some time to reflect on these remarkable Fuji products, and show you some of our sweet shots too!

First, let's look at the Fujinon 10-24 lens. This small, sharp lens is an absolute dream for travel. It is amazing for hotel rooms and landscapes when it is zoomed out, and the tele end is good for a variety of other shots. While I haven’t quite become a photography guru, there are a few things that stood out to me that I really appreciate. First, with such a wide zoom, I expected a little distortion in the corners. The 10-24 surprises with extremely clean corners at 10mm. Check out some of these shots that look incredible!

I also like how you can control aperture with a built in auto switch on the lens. I know you can’t have everything right there on the lens for you, but I like that you don’t have to go digging through the menu to find the setting you want.

I thought I would have an issue with the aperture of this lens being limited to f4, but I found I was primarily using this for ultra-wide (and would switch to my Fuji 23 if needed). While the 10-24 isn’t super fast, it gives you some good low light controls to keep it valuable when you are without a tripod- which is often when you are traveling.

Overall, this lens is the most convenient that I have found for travel photography. It will definitely be the next lens I add to our kit. It is relatively compact (easy to pack) and it takes beautiful photos. Great job Fuji, may we keep it?


Next, the Fujifilm X-T1. When shopping for a camera, we were told this was the best mirrorless body out there. We opted for the X-E2 to save a little money, and because we didn’t think we would notice a difference. But we did. And we want one. (Are you seeing a trend?)

The Fuji X-T1 body looks pretty awesome at first glance. Compared to the X-E2, it has more controls, a more pronounced handgrip, and (like the X-E2) has amazing overall design.

While I was overwhelmed by all the dials at first, I quickly appreciated having more control on the body instead of looking through the screen menu (like the 10-24 lens). The dedicated shutter speed dial has a lock on it that keeps it in the automatic setting, but once taken off can rotate all around. I really value having the ISO dial on this camera, as I am prone to using Auto ISO on the X-E2 since it is more difficult to toggle with. My fear of all the dials turned to gratefulness, as every major function that I need to change mid-shoot is at my fingertips.


I didn’t realize how much I would love having the handgrip of the X-T1. The X-E2 has a minimal handgrip, but I figured since it is such a small camera it wouldn’t’ matter. I found that the X-T1 was much more comfortable, and the grip gave me peace of mind as I walked up and down the beach looking for the perfect photo.


The beautiful look of this camera is backed by a control scheme that is easy to navigate, and an image quality that is incredible. Combine it with any of the X-Series lenses (we want the 10-24) and you have a compact photo kit that is perfect to take with you on a journey to Hana, or to capture a breathtaking sunset from your Lanai! Aloha!