There's a magical light show dancing around the South Pole between March and September, and you don't have to brave the icy Antarctic winter to see it. Wouldn't it be incredible to capture stunning photos to be able to treasure this breathtaking moment?
Join Chimu Adventures and CameraPro on our journey to photograph the rare aurora.
A few weeks ago, a couple of the CameraPro team were invited to join The Southern Lights by Flight organised by Chimu Adventures. It was to be a flight from one of Australia’s Capital cities down over the Southern Ocean with the promise of witnessing one of nature's most elusive photographic experiences: the Aurora Australis. Like its northern counterpart, the Aurora Australis consists of bands of shimmering lights in the high latitude regions and can be seen as far north as Tasmania, New Zealand and parts of South America.
For the best experience, you’d want to be closer to the magnetic poles, such as in Antarctica itself or out over the Southern Ocean. Since outdoors at midnight in Antarctica is outside most people’s comfort zones, Chimu Adventures hosted us aboard a Qantas 787 to make the 12 hour round trip to witness this amazing natural phenomenon. We hope our experience can give you an idea of what to expect when shooting an aurora, either from the surface or the air.
Photo by Lachlan Tang from the Team CameraPro
Our flight departed in early April. Getting there was simple as there was no need to check in any luggage. We just headed straight to the gate where we received our boarding passes. The experience was split into two parts to allow everyone equal access to a window seat. The aurora and aircraft are constantly shifting and changing.
There is no benefit to seeing it first or second, as the intensity of the light will depend heavily on the night itself. It was a reasonably standard flight with meals, snacks, drinks, and inflight entertainment. Don’t hesitate if long flights aren’t especially your thing; the excitement of the aurora will take up a big chunk of the flight.
If possible, we recommend trying to attend with a friend so you can share the window seat more freely. That way, there will be no sticky misunderstanding when you’re shooting over a stranger's shoulder. There are additional cabin windows at the emergency exit doors and a couple at the rear galley. You can also use these to see the auroras, albeit with a smaller angle, if you need views from the other side of the plane.
There is a photographer on the flight whom we spoke with before boarding. Their job is to give assistance and take photos of the aurora for Chimu so, if you’re having trouble with your manual settings, you can track them down and get some help. They graciously helped set up many of the guests’ cameras before boarding.
The aurora that we saw was extremely spectacular! The onboard astronomer informed us that it was one of the best examples he had seen on a flight with Chimu. It was strong, well defined and had the rarer red and blue hues. We were really lucky to have experienced it. The aurora is not a single defined object; it shimmers, drifts and dissipates through the atmosphere over time. New formations are being formed as old ones fade away. Keep your eyes open and try not to get too sleepy if you can help it.
Photo by Peter Wallis (Instagram: @petewallisphoto)
As landscape enthusiasts, seeing and photographing an aurora has always been one to cross off the list. Being able to experience the Aurora Australis from the comfort of an aircraft and at altitude without travelling to the northern latitudes has been a fantastic experience. The exciting, electric feeling as the plane nears the viewing area.
The lights dim, and you spot the first tantalising sight of the Earth's aurora as your eyes adjust to the darkness. It’s certainly something we won’t ever forget. Whether from the sky or the ground, we hope that everyone gets an opportunity to enjoy nature here at its most awe-inspiring.
Great photography requires the best gear.If you need any more landscape, wildlife or travel photography tips, just ask our knowledgeable team.