Hint av Nordlys

This image was taken on a very cold winter night in late December 2020 in very far north in Norway, outside of Tromsø. There was a bright moon for much of the night as it was one day past full, but it would also disappear behind the mountains or the clouds, depending on what location I was in. This was the first appearance of the aurora that night - it would go on to produce a huge show a few hours later, but this first view created a lot of anticipation and excitement.

While the green aurora is a keypoint in the photo, I think the landscape is just as important, with a balance of the beach, sea, and sky… as well as the moonlight.

Type of Critique Requested

  • Aesthetic: Feedback on the overall visual appeal of the image, including its color, lighting, cropping, and composition.
  • Emotional: Feedback on the emotional impact and artistic value of the image.
  • Technical: Feedback on the technical aspects of the image, such as exposure, color, focus and reproduction of colors and details, post-processing, and print quality.

Specific Feedback and Self-Critique

This is an image that I have had a client request for print… likely for a conference room in southern California, which makes me giggle slightly at the juxtaposition- but I am also very gratified of course that they like my work. I have utilized the spyderx monitor calibration device so feel reasonable sure that the lighting will be appropriate for a print on metal or acrylic.

The critique I am looking for is how to make this photo look its absolute best for printing. I also plan to use this as an “artist proof” for a new collection I am putting together and hope to eventually show in a gallery here in Norway, so all around would like to get it as good as possible. What things do you see that I may have missed? What would you change or do differently?

Technical Details

Sony a7iii
Sigma 14mm
ISO 800
4 second exposure


Hello Amber and welcome to NPN!
Most photographers would dream of conditions like this and I’m sure you were very excited to see this in person! Woohoo!
When I am evaluating night images I am always looking first at the balance between the foreground and the sky, not only in terms of visual weight but also in terms of realistic light. When the ground is super bright it is always a red flag for me. So I would first try to make sure you darken up the sandy beach a bit. It should not be brighter than the Aurora, in my opinion.

Next, I know this is hard but in my experience its hard not to wash out the Aurora since its moving - so a shorter exposure might have worked a smidge better at a slightly higher ISO.

As far as the color goes, I’m not a fan of the magenta/purple clouds - so I would rebalance the color in the sky a bit to make those clouds more white, keeping an eye on the snow on the peaks to stay white too - you may need to work that part of the file separately using a luminosity mask or sky selection in LR. I would also try to brighten up the black sky at top left.

Compositionally speaking, the rock at lower right is a bit heavy in terms of how much weight it has in relation to the rest of the scene given how little visual interest it provides… you may consider cropping a little bit.

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Hi again, Amber! :slight_smile:

That’s great!
I recommend not changing anything about this image because you might change something that your client wants “As presented”, even minor changes can cause your client to become disappointed with the print.

Making sure that your monitor is calibrated is the best thing to do to make sure you’re seeing the right colors, contrast, saturation and brightness, so it’s great that you have done that already.

I assume that you are having a printing company do the printing for you and if that is the case, there is one sure fire way to make sure the printers duplicate everything as you see it on your monitor.

Things to do:

  • Make a test print using your printer, then make sure your printer matches what you see on your monitor.

  • Once you are satisfied that the test print matches your monitor, print two “Proof” prints, one of the proof prints will go in your files, the other proof print needs to be sent to the printing company so they can color match with their printers. All reputable printing companies have a color scanner and will happily take the necessary steps to insure they match your proof print as close as possible.

I had to start sending proof prints to printing companies long ago to prevent inconsistencies.

You could also contact the printing company to see if they have any preferred type of proof prints they may need to be able to scan them with their scanning systems (just to be sure).

The image you have presented here is gorgeous! Again, having been in that area myself, this is very representative of that region IMHO.

I’d like to study this image further but I need to run some errands at the moment. I will come back to this later this afternoon.

Hope this helps.

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Hi Amber! I dont feel like i see much aurora photography on the site, so its nice to see someone posting some. As i look at the image im impressed by how well you kept everything in focus. I usually find when i get some good stars, my foreground is somewhat blurry. Im still practicing i guess. Look forward to seeing more of your work.


HI again, Amber

I think what really made this scene even possible was your choice of lens, that 14mm f1.8 is an amazingly sharp lens, I haven’t used one myself yet but I just spoke with a friend who has one and he was able to show me some images from his.

That wide open f1.8 aperture allowed you to shoot with a pretty short exposure time so you could capture the stars nice and sharp.
And that almost fisheye, single element glass does a nice job!

You have pin sharp stars most of the way through, and very few with the “Coma” effect (slightly elongated effect), there are a few but the effect is very minor comparatively.

The amount of what I call “Big Sky” is just amazing!

That one bright star captured in the green aurora tops it off for me.

The colors are amazing, too!

I would tell you if there were something that I think would make it better but I can’t see the need for improvement suggestions IMHO.

Wonderful scene and well done, Amber! :slight_smile:

Just keep doing what you do and share with us!

P.S. My friend with the Sigma 14mm lens says to tell you he likes it very much as well!

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This is an arresting scene that borders on being flamboyant. I like that about it and would not try to make it look natural at this point in time. You took liberties with reality and you got the results you were looking for. Having said that, I would vote for a deep blue sky without the tinge of purple that’s there now. I think I’m seeing purple but could be wrong.


Really enjoying your Northern Lights displays. This is is unique in a couple of ways. First, while I’m no expert and have not witness myself, most Aurora images show the fleeting patterns in the sky that are quite wild, almost random. but this one is interesting and unique because it’s spread across the sky like a shallow rainbow or somehting - no vertical deviations, etc. Very cool!

You mentione a near full moon - and so with a 4 second exposure, the luminosity of the landscape in my view is quite believable. I have no idea how close to the experience, but we’ve all seen landscapes lit by the full moon and know that the light acccumulates - So this works for me!

The magenta below the green aurora seems a bit off to me, as mentioned by others. Again, no idea if this is how you saw things, but to me it’s just not fitting with the scene.

And I’m sorry, but I’m not much help on printing. I haven’t printed something on my own for many, many years. No more room in the house, and I’m not selling anything… But one comment, or question is, have you run this through any noise reduction sw? I think something like Topaz AI would be helpful - but again, I can’t speak to what noise reduction does in the whole printing process.

Congrats on the sale! I’m sure this will be a gorgeous print on metal or acrylic!


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