Eyes adjusting to the dark is very important to keep in mind when thinking about the final outcome of a picture.
I served in Lebanon back in 98, and every time we had to go on night patrols we were dropped off and then we just sat there for 30 minutes to let our eyes adjust to the dark, and what could appear as pitch black at first slowly started to reveal more and more details.
When it comes to photography that is one thing I have brought with me from my time there, how the eyes adjust to the dark.
I am going to illustrate this with a set of pictures, pretty much as close to the level of details as I can remember from shooting this evening.
And just to complete it all, here is an image that reflects the colours of the aurora as it was seen.
Keeping this in mind is especially important if you are going for shooting it as you see it, I am not talking about putting your personal touch on the image, like making it slightly cooler cause that is your taste, but the level of detail you can see in the image.
Many times you would have to resort to several images to get it as you saw it, it can be a pain when it comes to night photography, you may do a 30 second image to capture the milky way, but you might need 8-10 minutes for the foreground.
Most of the times you don´t have to think about it, but you may stumble upon a place in the night where the foreground, midground or even background just looks amazing and you want to capture the details that you see, then keeping in mind how you actually see it when your eyes have adjusted can be of great help in the decision making.
And when constantly checking the images your eyes gets flooded with light from the camera and your night vision suffers a little, it is important to get the checking of images out of the way early and try to reserve displaying your images only when you change composition, that is of course if you have control of the exposure and focus.
Also keep in mind usage of flashlight, my personal recommendation is using flashlights designed for astrophotography with low level red light that does not affect your night vision.
I am not going to say that I remember every tiny detail when I am out shooting, there can be surprising elements like the aurora flaring up like mad in just a few seconds, then you do not have time to think about every little thing and you have to react.
Such instances is the reason why I bought the Zeiss 15mm F2.8 distagon with hard stop infinity focus cause when I get caught off guard I just twist the focus ring until it stops and I know everything will be in focus and since I have shot so many images at night I have a good idea about the exposure time for most situation.
Some things night photography will always be based on experience, but if you do those small things enough times, before you know, it will become something you just to automatically.