Rainer Wengel’s Photos of the Aurora Borealis on Film Will Captivate You

All images by Rainer Wengel. Used with Creative Commons Permission.

Of course, one of the best things for landscape photographers to capture is the Aurora Borealis–but capturing it on film the way Rainer Wengel did is a whole nother different level of magic. While this seems really simple to a lot of photographers, take into consideration that Rainer didn’t do this on 35mm film. Instead, it’s on 6×9 and 6×17 medium format as well as in a 6×17 format using a large format camera. What this requires is a proper tripod, exposure settings, processing, etc.

According to Rainer’s description:

Just a small selection of my analog northern lights work, done with my Silvestri S4 large format camera on 6×9/6×7 film (last 2 done with the Dayi 6×17). It´s really hard to get that intensive colours the digital ones have, but I think these ones are much closer to reality… 

Used film materials: Fuji Provia 400X / Kodak Portra 400″

Technically speaking to get the best results, Rainer would need to overexpose the Portra to ISO 200 and then develop to ISO 320. Though we’re not sure if he did this or not in order to get the absolute best exposures that he was able to accomplish.

Artistically speaking, I believe a lot can be said for how he composed and balanced the images. The photos are a combination of textures and colors. The dominant colors are green, blue, and white often in the photos along with blacks. Providing and finding some sort of balance in the scene is very tough to do when you also incorporate the clouds and the mountains into it all. Part of this has to do with finding and capturing just the right moment.

Rainer specifically states that digital photos will give him more vivid colors when shooting; and arguably that’s very true. However, if he had used Fujifilm Velvia 50 or CineStill 50D, the story might have been very different. Another technical issue here also has to do with color balance. You see, film is balanced to Daylight and at night, you’re best off using Tungsten film sometimes or balancing the scene with some sort of color filter over your lens. But that means less light and therefore you need to compensate with an even longer shutter speed. However, it’s usually very worth it.

To see more from Rainer, visit his website or his Behance page.