Before you leave home, charge your batteries, preset your manual focus to just less than infinity and brew a strong flask of coffee. Set up to get as much of the sky into the picture as possible and don’t be afraid to turn your camera up on end to compose vertical shots.
Start by taking a 15-second exposure at ISO 800 and F2.8. The ISO 800 setting keeps image noise down without the need for overly long exposures; apertures between F2.8 and F5.6 will also keep your exposures below 30 seconds, enabling you to clearly define the aurora. With longer exposures, the aurora can show up as a green haze rather than distinct, vibrant bands. On bright moonlit nights shutter speeds as low as 5-7 seconds at ISO 400 work well.
After taking a shot, check the viewfinder or review display for possible problems. A dark image means you might need a longer exposure; a blurry image indicates your focus is not set properly. Experiment with your settings to get the best shot.
While using a fisheye lens allows you to get the entire sky in a photo, zoom lenses can help you focus in on a distinct band, or foreground element, as your artistic senses dictate. Fast lenses, such as the Canon EF F/1.4 50 mm prime, capture really fast shots on those nights when the aurora are particularly bright or are moving rapidly across the sky.
Once you’ve mastered the art of imaging aurora on their own, give some attention to your surroundings. My million dollar tip is to liven up flat scenes by including something of interest in the foreground, which you can light up with a torch during lengthy time exposures.