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How To Snap Noctilucent Clouds

The summer is a great time to be out and about with your hipster camera bags, as there is so much to snap.

Often this is due to the quality of the light as the sun shines brightly and the flowers display their full glory, while people themselves can provide ample material from scenes of seaside merriment to weddings.

However, there is one element of summer photography that is not based on bright daylight, yet is one of the most spectacular and awe-inspiring sights of the season - noctilucent clouds, which literally means ‘night shining’.

These are a spectacular feature of the midsummer sky, although they can be seen in the UK as early as late May and even into August. These are shimmering, silvery skies hundreds of miles up in the mesosphere that are illuminated by sunlight reflecting off ice crystals. This requires a combination of midsummer sun peeping over the top of the planet and a sky clear of clouds at lower levels.

Such a sight makes for incredible pictures, but you have to get the technique just right. Firstly, you have to take practical steps like checking the weather forecast for a clear night. You also need to avoid moonlit nights and light pollution; go somewhere clear and keep your own torch / headlights off. Then look north.

From here you should get a shot of them, but to get a truly outstanding picture you need to judge things just right. An article in the BBC astronomy magazine Sky at Night advised taking several shots at different settings and shutter speeds in order to get the right exposure and capture the full range of colours.

This way, you may also capture tinges of sunset orange on the twilight horizon below the shining noctilucent clouds. But don’t be afraid to look higher and get the most extraordinary-looking pictures.

Midsummer is the very best time to grab a picture, so check the weather and be ready to go spotting tonight.