Home Lifestyle Northern Lights in Pensacola?

Northern Lights in Pensacola?

Photo: David Young

Everyone is talking about the majesty of the Northern Lights, but Pensacola has its own version of a magnificent sky. It’s not the Northern Lights, but it is just as breathtaking.


On a dark, clear night from Opal Beach, east of Portofino, you can see the Milky Way. And with a little patience and good equipment, you can photograph it as well.

Having a tripod is important as it steadies your camera from any vibration that will interrupt the exposure.

In the extreme night sky or dark settings, the point is to open up your shutter to let in the most light. This is best done in manual mode so you can control the camera’s shutter speed, ISO, and aperture.

The aperture controls the amount of light that comes into the lens. Think of your own eye opened wide – it lets in more light. So, if you squint your own eyes on a night sky, you will see very little. If you open them wide, you will allow more light in, thereby illuminating and making more objects visible. The same concept applies to a camera lens. When photographing the night sky, you do not want to be smaller than f/2.8.

The shutter controls how slowly or quickly you capture the photo. A 25-second shutter speed with give time to get all the light from as many stars as possible. If you have a longer speed, you will catch the blur and motion of the stars.

The ISO refers to how sensitive the “film” was to light. Now it is the camera’s ability to sense a photo’s need for being lightened or darkened. A setting of 1600 – 3200 would be necessary for a very dark night sky.

Setting your camera to autofocus will make sure that there is minimal shaking or vibration of the camera. A remote shutter release will also minimize any interference from shaking.

For taking night sky with your iPhone, you will need a tripod and the ability to control the format of the photo by using an app like ProRaw, which is available on iPhone 12 Pro and later models.

Shooting in Jpeg or the even greater compressed HEIC will not provide a great result in trying to capture the night sky.

So, face your nighttime fears and try something new. Head east and tell me it is not one of the most extraordinary sights in the entire Pensacola area.

If you decide to try it, send us your best shots of the night sky and we will feature them in our stories!

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Dana is an Arkansas native and a seasonal resident of the Gulf Coast since childhood. She was a Pensacola resident for 13 years, before moving to Gulf Breeze. Dana attributes her Mayberry-esque childhood in Warren, Arkansas, as enormously influential in honing her definitely Southern style of storytelling. She earned a degree in Journalism, Advertising/Public Relations from the University of Arkansas (Woo Pig Sooie!). In addition to writing, she loves photography, art, adventures in the great outdoors, and spending time with her three children.