Over the years I have received hundreds of pictures from amateur photographers attempting to capture aurora borealis, or the Northern Lights as they are more commonly known.

Some have had extremely successful results, as you can see from our selection here and online at heraldscotland.com, but more often the results are blurry, out-of-focus pictures with dark skies and a lot of camera shake.

I am often asked what is the best way to prepare to photograph the northern lights, so here are my tips.

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First, I would strongly recommend a quality digital SLR camera, a good lens and sturdy tripod. Simple point-and-shoot or camera-phones are unlikely to get good images. Location is key too. Choose a spot where they are commonly seen. In Scotland further north is best, but as we have seen from some of these pictures you can get lucky and they will appear closer to the central belt. Avoid the city and light pollution. March is the most common month in which to capture the Northern Lights.

A good tripod is essential. I would recommend a wide-angle lens - 16-35mm with a large aperture of f/2.8 or wider. If you have one, a cable release is a good idea too as this will help avoid shake and allow for long exposures of over 30sec.

Focus your lens before it gets dark, choosing a focal point in the far distance and switching the lens to manual focus. The rest is luck, really, and a lot of experimentation. Thankfully, with today's digital cameras it is easier and quicker to see the results and make any necessary changes.