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07-21-2012, 09:40 AM   #1
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Tips for Photographing Lightning?

We've had a lot of electrical activity lately and I was hoping for some tips on how to shoot lightning strikes.

I have a K-5, FA35 f2, f50 1.7, and an M85 f2. Guessing the FA35 would give the best FOV for this.

Now what else? Do I need something like a lightning trigger? Is there any other way?

07-21-2012, 09:59 AM   #2
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Simply using bulb mode with a wireless trigger works. Stop down to around F8, open it up, and close it once you've seen lightning...trust me, it will turn out.

Here's one I snapped with that setup. Came out blurry because I was standing in a torrential downpour, and that tends to soften up photos.(Though the lightning is crystal clear!)



Pro Tip: Merge images taken from the same position to get a more dramatic effect. Did that with this one, just to add some of the smaller bolts.

Last edited by Eulogy; 07-21-2012 at 10:06 AM.
07-21-2012, 01:28 PM   #3
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@Snake, best thing to do is to use long exposures like 15 o 30 sec, a wider FOV is preferable, but not imposible to get something good with a longer lens, just means that either the lighting has to be further away or you have to be luckier. Use manual focus set at infinity (if lighting is out of focus using infinity then it is way too close and you shouldn't be there).
Try to compose an interesting image; use trees, buildings, hills or fields that will add a focal anchor to your image. The long exposure will allow you to capture several bolts or at least make it posible for you to catch at least one. Disable long exposure noise reduction, otherwise you will be waiting for 15 or 30 sec between shots, possibly missing some good ones. Fire a few test frames to ensure you get a properly exposed composition, the lighting flash is quite bright so if your aperture is too wide open it will blow out too much.
I use a cable release, set the exposure time to 30 sec, continous mode then I lock the release and enjoy the show. It will shoot for 30 sec, close the shutter then rapidly fire again again for 30 sec and so forth.

@Eulogy, that is not blur from rain, rather it looks like your image is out of focus. Would have been a pretty awesome shot if it hadn't been unfocused.
07-21-2012, 05:06 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by jase036 Quote
@Eulogy, that is not blur from rain, rather it looks like your image is out of focus. Would have been a pretty awesome shot if it hadn't been unfocused.
Nah, I assure you it's rain.(Pre-focused to infinity @F11, not that it helped much) You know your mention of not needing to be that close? I was. (25mm of rain that night, in a 2 hour span...it was pour so heavy that *only* my K-5 was protected, I was drenched.) Probably should've gone filterless so I could let that SP coating kick in, but I was just in a rush to setup. Also didn't help that the only way to shoot that was at a slightly upward angle, thus turning any lip on my lens into a cup.

07-21-2012, 06:55 PM   #5
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Nope, it's out of focus.
07-21-2012, 08:07 PM   #6
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How I get mine is pretty much, Tripod, Remote trigger (wireless), shooting in manual. I usually use F4/F5 and I try to keep the ISO low but I've gotten some pretty good shots at like ISO400 and only doing 2-5 second exposures at a time. The ones I took the other night (seen here) I used 10-30 second exposures ISO 100 or 200, F4-F8, I shoot in raw so I don't worry about white balance but if you set it to different settings you can change the color of the lightning (Fluorescent setting makes it a vibrant purple for instance). My best advice is to always take a few minutes and analyze where exactly the most activity is in the sky. I say this because essentially you'll be aiming your camera at a small section of the sky, and then just spraying and praying exposures hoping something happens in that small section of the sky. So basically it's have the right equipment, be prepared to put everything away and run back to your car/house at any time, and be really really lucky :P Here's a folder with some of the random one's I've gotten over at photobucket. Storm Pictures pictures by TAD_Dark_Prince - Photobucket

-Side note, as alohadave and others mentioned...you're bound to get a few out of focus shots (I get a ton) so you'll want to check every once in a while to make sure they are in focus...or use a small aperture and loooooong exposure.
07-21-2012, 09:28 PM   #7
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Here's my "process" for lightning with my K20D.

Tripod, no grip, shutter release cable.
Manual focus, set to infinity.
Aperture f/11. ISO 400~800. Bulb shutter.

I hate missing strikes because I'm waiting on the dark frame subtraction frame to complete, so I try to keep my exposures between 4 and 8 seconds. As soon as I get a strike in frame I close the shutter. And, I try to establish a rhythm with the storm so I'm not simply clicking non-stop.

Pick a vantage point where you can get some ground in the shot. Lightning all by itself isn't terribly interesting, in my opinion; it needs context.

Here are a couple of my better shots. They're 3 frame composites, manually stacked in CS4. The first at ISO 800, the second at ISO 400. All at f/11 with exposure times between 3 and 8 seconds.
Attached Images
   
07-22-2012, 07:49 AM   #8
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I have had some luck with the following settings:
ISO 100 or 200
F 5.6
Continuous shooting hi with wired remote locked on
10 seconds
AWB
Manual focus to infinity

The exposure time depends on the amount of ambient light and the intensity of the storm.
Knowing your lens and where it achieves infinity focusing is a must, practice in daylight helps.
And the most important thing, stay safe.


Last edited by Ex Finn.; 11-11-2014 at 05:47 PM.
07-22-2012, 07:51 AM   #9
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Thanks for all the great tips to try out. For a while, I thought I'd need one of those triggers one can find on ebay and elsewhere, but Bulb seems doable if I don't go that route.
07-24-2012, 02:50 AM   #10
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Very nice examples. I tried to hear out the other day, but didn't have anything, so tried my first session with astrophotography the next day. Tried Bulb and didn't realize that I needed a remote to get it to work properly, so I went back to Manual and tried to keep exposure to under 25 seconds.

This is highly compressed, and not the best, but was a good learning experience:

07-24-2012, 09:37 PM - 1 Like   #11
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I took my first go at shooting lightning on Sunday night. Around here (California), lightning is extremely rare...in the 18 years i've been here, i recall seeing an electrical storm maybe 5 times.

Anyhow, this was a storm some 20+ miles to the east. Didn't have time to drive after it, so set up in a cornfield with the FA 77.

07-25-2012, 10:48 AM   #12
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Wow, nice capture! I like the framing the power lines and tower provides...

Jim
07-25-2012, 10:36 PM   #13
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Here was one of my first attempts at capturing lightning. This strike was about a 1/2 mile away. Didn't take me long to get back in my house.


07-26-2012, 05:30 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by cwhans Quote
Here was one of my first attempts at capturing lightning. This strike was about a 1/2 mile away. Didn't take me long to get back in my house.


That is a good one, more than 1.21 Giga Watts I bet.
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