As a landscape photographer based in Wharfedale I have always pictured in my mind the image I have wanted to capture and that’s the Cow and Calf rocks with the Aurora in the background. I had tried many times but have never been able to photograph the scene I have always dreamed of.

Ilkley Gazette: The Northern Lights over IlkleyThe Northern Lights over Ilkley (Image: Tony Reed)

That all changed on night of Tuesday the 12th September. With my Aurora alert apps ‘pinging’ throughout the day I crossed my fingers and hoped maybe this was the time. The skies were predicted to be cloud free and there was little or no moonlight making the skies particularly dark. At around 11.30pm I looked north from my home in Burley and took a test shot. There on the back screen of my camera was a faint green glow on the horizon. I gathered my kit and drove to the Cow and Calf rocks. I set up my camera composing the scene to capture the iconic rocks. The amazing Aurora was visible with the naked eye. By 2am I had managed to capture some of the most dramatic photos I had ever taken. I had achieved my ambition, the Cow and Calf rocks with the incredible Aurora.

I posted my images on local Facebook groups in the morning for the enjoyment of others. I was blown away by the response. Many people commented that they wish that they known they were visible that evening and asked me how to photograph them.

Ilkley Gazette: The Northern Lights over IlkleyThe Northern Lights over Ilkley (Image: Tony Reed)

So, with that in mind I though it would be a good idea to inspire others to see this amazing sight in the future, especially as we move into longer Autumnal nights. I have compiled a short list of tips for those looking to take their own Aurora photos. Interestingly, solar and Aurora activity is increasing and predicted to peak in 2024/25, improving the chances of seeing them again here in Yorkshire.


Choose the right location

Selecting the right location is critical. Identify a location with minimal light pollution away from cities and built up areas if possible. Clouds and bright moons are your enemy, so check the weather forecasts.

Check the Aurora forecast Auroras are the result of solar activity, so monitoring the aurora forecast is essential. Several websites ( I use the Glandale App website) and apps provide real-time data and predications for aurora activity. Keep a particular eye on the ‘KP’ index, which means geomagnetic activity. The higher the number the better the chance of seeing them.

Have the right equipment

Whilst it is entirely possible to photograph the Aurora with a phone camera, you will get better results with a decent digital camera.

• A wide angle lens capable of achieving aperture of f/2.8 or lower allows more light onto the camera sensor and makes for better photos when shooting at night. • A tripod is essential to prevent camera shake as you will need to expose for 10 – 30 seconds or more to capture the Aurora at its best.

• Use a remote shutter release to prevent camera shake.

• Set your camera sensor sensitivity (ISO) to around 800. Mastering your camera in Manual mode really helps to understand these settings.

• Set your manual focus to infinity, or the furthest point on the horizon. Be careful with your composition as anything close to the camera will likely be blurry.

• Take a headtorch and wrap up warm.

• Finally, choose a composition that sets the scene. Try and include a local landmark or building to create the ‘story’ of the image.

Be Patient

Auroras are unpredictable and when they do arrive they can be brief so be prepared. Keep an eye on the sky, look for flickering light patterns and be ready to press the shutter release.

Good luck!

Ilkley Gazette: Tony ReedTony Reed (Image: submitted)

Anyone interested in seeing more of my work including local landscapes can check out my website at or on my Instagram page at