A portable Platypod rig for filming the aurora

Words by Dave Williams
Edited by Eryka Bagwell

Caption: Finnish, Lapland

Filming the northern lights in real-time has been high on my agenda for a long time, and I finally have the ultimate solution. The best part of it is that it’s so portable, I can hide from the cold inside my van, Kofifernweh, and put the rig on the roof to film whilst I warm up. I won’t leave you with any suspense, I’ll get straight to it – here’s my rig: 

Caption: Finnish, Lapland

The set-up overall comprises several key parts and those are: 

  • Platypod eXtreme: forms the sturdy foundation of the entire rig
  • Platyball Elite: is the mounting point, allowing me easy redirection
  • Sony A7S III featuring a great sensor with high performing ISO
  • Sigma 20mm f/1.4 DG DN Art lens, wide and fast
  • DJI Mic for off camera sound recording

Reviewing this list backwards, the DJI Mic is important for my videos because I want to be able to use a sort of ‘fire and forget’ sound solution. The DJI Mic is my primary option because I can use it with a wind-shield to help keep the sound crisp in an Arctic environment.

Caption: Finnish, Lapland

The camera and lens pairing is ideal for shooting video of the northern lights because the Sony A7SIII performs very well with low light and at high ISO, whilst the Sigma 20mm F/1.4 allows plenty of light to hit the sensor whilst retaining a focal length that isn’t too dissimilar that it appears un-naturally wide.

The Platyball Elite is perfect for the cold, allowing us to easy manipulate the controls whilst wearing thick gloves. Its chunky controls are intuitively operated and make it extremely easy to manipulate the camera for the optimum perspective.

The Platypod eXtreme gives me a stable, solid foundation so that I can easily place the camera on the ground or any other surface. The Platypod acts as a counterweight to help me stabilize when I’m filming but even better than that, when I place it down it’s low to the ground and therefore allows me to keep a certain amount of foreground whilst showing the sky as the hero of the scene.

Caption: Lofoten, Norway

The depth to the videos by having foreground against the sky adds interest, but being low to the ground achieves the effect of ‘flattening’ it out, much in the same way that a Platypod is a great tool for shooting internal architecture at a place with a beautiful ceiling such as a museum or cathedral. In this case the ceiling is switched with a sky full of northern lights and the Platypod gives me a stable platform to film or to switch to photo mode for a long exposure.

Caption: Lofoten, Norway 

The ability to film the northern lights is a relatively new concept in the consumer market. Cameras such as the Sony A7SIII that have the sensor capabilities to practically see in the dark open up this new medium to more people. In the case of this camera we have 12MP which sounds low, but in fact it allows the cameras processor to dedicate more power to each individual pixel, giving us much better video. The northern lights this year and all the way through to 2025/2026 are going to continue getting stronger as we approach the announcement from NASA of solar maximum and the advent of a new solar cycle. The aurora is present in most clear, dark skies at polar latitudes and there are apps to help forecast the northern lights if you’re planning to go and see them. The biggest light shows happen during a geomagnetic storm, so keep an eye out for those!

Caption: Lofoten, Norway 

Having the right camera gear to shoot the northern lights is only half of the puzzle. Being well dressed to remain warm and dry will keep us focused on our creativity rather than being concerned that we may be cold, so be sure to wrap up warm with layers, protecting the feet, hands, neck and head in particular, and make sure you always have your Platypod on hand to help create the most stable video footage and a rock-steady platform for long exposure photos of Lady Aurora.

To view more of Dave Williams work visit his websitehis YouTube channelHis personal Facebook page, Platypod Official Users Group on Facebook andhis Instagram page

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