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YakMotor
06-04-2009, 05:01 PM
Went out on deck to give Mom a call about 9:15pm and was also treated to the most AWESOME display of lightning ... EVER! *A cell hit Amador about two hours earlier with 15 minutes of pelting rain, but only a couple rumbles of thunder. *Seeing lightning in my past has been like watching for falling stars. *Look the right direction and wait. *Not last night! *It was like a grande finale fireworks show. *I wasn't seeing many actual bolts nor hearing thunder as the cells had moved far north. *Low clouds across my whole horizon were being backlit by rapid fire flashes. * Trees obscure most of my sky view, but between them an occasional bolt burned through. *I tried to describe it to Mom but then realized I ought to try to get some pictures.

I've had a couple successes in the past shooting lightning ... but with film cameras. *The challenge of capturing a bolt is having the shutter open when it happens. *Best way is to anticipate the area of sky, put the camera on a tripod, and set the shutter to stay open for as long as possible. *Ambient light illuminating the sky will determine how long you can leave the shutter open. *Bright city lights under clouds will shorten the time while a dark rural location will allow long time exposures as only flashes of lightning will add to the exposure.

Film cameras with adjustable mechanical shutter and lens opening and have a much wider range than digitals. *A typical film camera will have numbers like these on the lens barrel. *

1.4 * *2 ** 2.8 * *4 * *5.6 * *8 * *11 * *16 ** 22 * *32

These are the f-stop settings with each full "stop" doubling or halving the light allowed through the lens. *Small numbers let in more light. *High and the aperture hole gets smaller. *My digital Panasonic FZ50's range is only f-4 to 11 and is controlled with a rotary electric switch. *It's manual mode shutter speed is also set using a rotating switch. *Maximum time I can set is 60 seconds.

A bolt is so bright it will register on film or digital sensor no matter how small the lens opening. *The shutter and f-stop combination should allow maximum open time before the overall scene is overpowered and washed out by ambient light. *With film you won't see results until it's back from the lab. *With digital you can do instant replay to evaluate results.

I started with 10 seconds at f-11 and got pure black frames with no bolt caught. *At 20 seconds and f-4 I was getting clouds illuminated collectively by distant bolts. *This one is 30 seconds at f-7.1 *(1/3 stop brighter than f-8) *To show the detail of these caught bolts I magnified and cropped one side of the frame.
http://img268.imageshack.us/img268/2449/Lightningboltsthrutree071.jpg

Caught this one with the zoom set for 35mm wide angle to cover more sky. *Shutter was open for 60 seconds at f-7.1 *Got a lot of accumulated cloud flashes but just one distant bolt.
http://img268.imageshack.us/img268/5382/Lightningdistant081.jpg

While my catches are far from spectacular I was at least witness to this most amazing event. *If I'd started earlier when the storm was closer and if I'd had my shooting act together I'd probably done better. *Of course there's also a good bit of luck involved.

This shot is toward the end of a series of fifteen taken over a period of ten minutes. *What's most interesting to me here is the two white dots at the top. *Are they planets, stars, or UFO's? *They moved! *Split the distance between them and that's the distance I could see the upper one move over 10 minutes. *If members of our galaxy they would be shown still in the sky and movement recorded would be earth rotation. *Are there any star gazers out there able to confirm this? * Or ... will I forever wonder if I've captured photos of two strange slow moving orb craft? *Could "THEY" have something to do with this very unique aerial light show?
http://img268.imageshack.us/img268/6742/Lightningwlites058.jpg

Getting a good trial & error exposure was not the only challenge. *I zoomed and aimed and framed in the dark by "ballparking." *I could only see a brief occasional flash in the viewfinder. *Not enough to work with until I recorded a scene I could review and then make framing changes.

And focus. *What the heck is there to focus on? *At first I guessed at that too. *Lenses on my old mechanical cameras would stop at infinity at one end of focus rotation. *My Panasonic digital does not have an "infinity" focus setting though some digitals do. *Infinity is the lens's maximum focus distance and what you'd want to use. *When I saw the leaves looked pretty good in my first few shots I left focus alone. *Later I realized with the red dot gun sight still attached (usually used for sighting long telephoto shots of moving subjects like flying birds and boats) and that I could use it to more accurately center on the sky area I was interested in. *I also figured out I could use it to put me on target to more accurately focus on a distant porch light. *Once I carefully set focus on it I aimed back to the sky.

Most shots I took under protection of my covered deck. *When radar showed another cell moving by I decided to try from my neighbor's deck which has a clear view of the sky. *I took an umbrella to protect my head and a plastic bag for the camera. *A headlamp helped find my way and with it's red LED option (which doesn't ruin night vision) it also helped me see to set adjustments on the camera. * Amador is right of the red arrow near the cross.
http://img268.imageshack.us/img268/3059/radarstormtrack.jpg

I didn't get the "killer" shot I'd hoped for, but with the experience fresh in my mind I'm better prepared for the next show. *Just have to figure out how to get those UFO's back so they can work their magic!

żżż
06-04-2009, 05:53 PM
Nice attempt at catching those bolts! It was a real treat to see all those flashes last night. I can't remember the last time it was that intense.

Found this article on photographing lightning and found it interesting. I've never tried doing that before. Thought you all would find it interesting...
http://www.weatherscapes.com/techniques.php?cat=lightning&page=lightning

maskas
06-04-2009, 06:55 PM
I got some pictures of what was probably the same storm system. I shot photos for half an hour or so before my patients wore thin. I shot something like 300 photos and only 10 or so had lightning in them. Here's a link to my favorite.


http://www.flickr.com/photos/samuelitoargentino/3594782120/sizes/l/

Darin
06-04-2009, 07:25 PM
That was the most amazeing lighting storm I have ever seen. I shot 200 shots and didn't get one bolt. I was ready to throw my camera as far as it would fly. I grabbed my video camera and the battery was dead..I was bummed. I was hopeing someone here got some shots of that show. Thanks for the info guys. Your shots look great.

FFG

Mackattack
06-04-2009, 08:24 PM
I've got some cool shots of lighting from 30 ths feet above in an airplane on the way to the Indy 500 in "89". By far the best show i've ever seen. May have been the speed of the plane or ? cause we were treated to an awesome light show for at least 1/2 hr or so. I'll have to look for them pics.

Mackattack

Chief_Sniffer
06-04-2009, 08:30 PM
It was really going off a little north of us from about 9:30 pm on. I was so wanting to hop in the truck and head that way, but I'd already taken all my chemo pills, and driving isn't the best then. The number of bolts was incredible, but they never really got all the way down to me.

YakMotor
06-04-2009, 11:45 PM
Mooch - That article looks good. *I did a quick "breeze" thru it and bookmarked the link to go back. *Thanks for posting it.

maskas - GREAT shot you got there! *Can you tell us how you did it? *From the EXIF data I see you used a Pentax K200D camera with your zoom lens set at wide angle. *That in my mind puts your captured bolt SCARY close! *How was the thunder? *Were your ears working today? *Thanks for posting!

My best lightning shot ever came using color negative film in a Bronica 2 1/4" camera with a lens that had f-32 as it's smallest lens opening. *I set it on the tripod under a patio cover. *Set the shutter on "B" for time exposure then tripped and held the shutter open with a cable release. *Then I went inside to eat dinner. *Sometime during the 10 minutes or so the shutter was open it happened. *Got a 8x10 print buried in a box somewhere!

A KXTV Sacramento channel 10 photog got some GREAT shots with his brand new Nikon D700 from the Rancho Murietta area. *He shares some in a short video that I hope this link will take you too.

http://www.news10.net/video/default.aspx?aid=75805&storyid=60581

Darin
06-05-2009, 02:35 AM
These are some great shots of the show in Auburn..
http://my.auburnjournal.com/detail/116116.html?content_source=&category_id=&search_fi lter=&user_id=&event_mode=&event_ts_from=&event_ts _to=&list_type=&order_by=&order_sort=&content_clas s=2&sub_type=photos&town_id=

metalmouth
06-05-2009, 04:43 AM
Maskas, that is an incredible shot!

Chief_Sniffer
06-05-2009, 05:00 AM
I got some pictures of what was probably the same storm system. I shot photos for half an hour or so before my patients wore thin. I shot something like 300 photos and only 10 or so had lightning in them. Here's a link to my favorite.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/samuelitoargentino/3594782120/sizes/l/

I grabbed your image and straightened the horizon and ran it through Nik Software's noise removal app Dfine 2, excellent shot.

http://i72.photobucket.com/albums/i171/allenbonslett/lightning1.jpg

This is Maska's shot, not mine with the adjustments mentioned above.

żżż
06-05-2009, 08:21 AM
Nice cleanup! :)

While alot of the noise is gone, it seemed to also soften the lines on the lightning. Guess you can't ask for everything!

That is a picture worthy of a frame. Nice job guys!

maskas
06-05-2009, 10:48 AM
Hey Chief Sniffer, thanks for touching that up for me. I was gonna do it myself, but I was a bit lazy.

As for how I took the picture, it was the first time I have ever tried to photograph lightning and I suppose I got lucky. I wasnt really that close to the lightning. I could only hear thunder for a couple of the flashes, and it was extremely quiet. I used the widest angle lens I have to try and capture the larges amount of sky I could (I only own two lenses, so I used my 18-55mm set at 18mm and the focus at infinite). I set the camera to ISO 1600 (which is why there was so much noise) and used a fairly wide aperture. I experimented with different lens speeds. I started off using a three second exposure, but whenever I got a good bolt, it would completely overexpose the picture. I ended up using a 1.5 second exposure, and it worked fairly well. I just held the button down and took continuous shots during the storm. I dont have a tripod, so I just set the camera on top of my car and held it as still as I could (that's why the horizon wasn't straight). It's a lot of fun, and I was happy with how it turned out. Next time I do it, I'm gonna go for a lower ISO like 100 or 200 and use much longer exposures. That'll take a little bit of the luck out of the game.

GutHookd
06-09-2009, 09:53 AM
Totally cool, and that filter is awesome. Way to go.

żżż
06-09-2009, 10:17 AM
I was nosing around the internet and stumbled upon this photo. Wow.
http://img407.imageshack.us/img407/8007/volcano1680x1050si5.jpg

It's part of a lightning slideshow I'm using as my screensaver. :)

YakMotor
06-10-2009, 12:36 AM
Mooch - "Wow" is totally inadequate to describe that shot. The file name says "volcano." Was there any caption info that tells more about the shot?

żżż
06-10-2009, 01:16 AM
Mooch - "Wow" is totally inadequate to describe that shot. *The file name says "volcano." *Was there any caption info that tells more about the shot? *

Apparently this is what's called a Dirty Thunderstorm (http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2007/02/070222-volcano-lightning.html). Pretty interesting and the first I've heard of.

Too bad there's no EXIF data. :(

SHigSpeed
06-10-2009, 05:51 AM
Here's a few I took during the storm:

http://i160.photobucket.com/albums/t177/shigspeed/Junk/lightning1.jpg
http://i160.photobucket.com/albums/t177/shigspeed/Junk/lightning2.jpg
http://i160.photobucket.com/albums/t177/shigspeed/Junk/lightning3.jpg

_SHig

YakMotor
06-10-2009, 08:43 AM
Those are GREAT! Care to share your technique?

NorCal2500HD
06-10-2009, 02:33 PM
you guys might be interested in something like this......a good friend of mine uses one and absolutely loves it.

http://www.lightningtrigger.com/

żżż
06-10-2009, 03:45 PM
That device is cool! Too bad it cost more than my camera. ;D ;D

YakMotor
06-10-2009, 11:34 PM
NorCAl - The lightning trigger is not the only interesting thing on that site. It also has a bunch of good tips on shooting lightning and SAFETY! Unfortunately clicking the gallery button didn't bring up any photos for me. Maybe I'll go back and try again. THANKS for posting the link.

Darin
06-11-2009, 12:55 AM
Here's a few I took during the storm:

http://i160.photobucket.com/albums/t177/shigspeed/Junk/lightning1.jpg
http://i160.photobucket.com/albums/t177/shigspeed/Junk/lightning2.jpg
http://i160.photobucket.com/albums/t177/shigspeed/Junk/lightning3.jpg

_SHig

Shig its about time you posted something here. One of the best photographers on this board and I haven't seen a thing here from you ;) ;D ;D Awesome shots bro!! Did you get my PM? We have some exploring to do ;) I'm stoked you found this board finally. I will call you later today.

FFG