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Thread: Capturing Lightning

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2016
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    Default Capturing Lightning

    Could anyone shed some light (pun intended) on capturing lightning at night? I will be using the 450D that I wrestled back from the eldest as we have some storms forecast. I have popped a ND8 filter on, set the shutter to bulb and ISO to 100. Focus is infinity but is there a f stop I should be using or is it a case of press and pray? Obviously it is on a tripod with remote shutter release.

    Thank you for any advice!

    JJ
    A man of genius makes no mistakes. His errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery.

  2. #2

    Default Re: Capturing Lightning

    I've only ever got one shot at catching lightning. It was in 2015, about 2 in the morning, so the last thing I was thinking about when I got out of bed and set about putting the camera on the tripod was what settings I should be using. I just winged it in my fuzzy state.

    The strategy I adopted was using bulb and opening the shutter for a few seconds, and if a bolt didn't happen, closing it, and then opening it again and giving it a few more seconds. Needless to say, most of the good ones happened during the interludes between closing one and starting the next. Doh!

    I didn't use any filters. I guess you could use one and go really long - like 30 seconds. You might filter out the light of the lightning, though??? I think if you catch one strike during the exposure, it's best to close the shutter and start a new exposure. On the night I took my shots, some folk were doing who knows how long - a minute or more, and capturing multiple strikes in the one exposure. But they just looked a complete dog's breakfast - flashes all over the place. Some folk thought they looked amazing because they thought they were looking at what actually happened, but of course it was totally false. So, you run that risk of creating a fake scenario... You only see them one at a time, I reckon, so catch one in an exposure at a time... but it's up to you...

    This is what I got...

    50 mm, 4 sec, f5.6, ISO 400



    50 mm, 4 sec, f5.6, ISO 250



    55 mm, 4 sec, f5.6, ISO 250


    40 mm, 4 sec, f5.6, ISO 250


    40 mm, 4 sec, f5.6, ISO 250


    I can't remember exactly what I did about focusing. I suspect I will have focused on the furthest building, which will have been just this side of infinity, and then trusted that to be close enough.

    Good luck.

    Col
    Please note that any views expressed in this post may be those of the
    originator and do not necessarily reflect those of the reader.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2016
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    Default Re: Capturing Lightning

    Thanks for that Cap'n. It looks like I was miles away with my assumptions! I was thinking along the lines of longer exposures 30 sec plus hence the ND. Though you are probably right in saying the ND will cancel out the flash itself. This is all assumptions of course, I could sit there all night and the storms could all be miles away from my location! Thanks though, food for thought should one come close enough to shoot and another option for me to try.

    JJ

  4. #4

    Default Re: Capturing Lightning

    Quote Originally Posted by j j View Post
    Thanks for that Cap'n. It looks like I was miles away with my assumptions! I was thinking along the lines of longer exposures 30 sec plus hence the ND. Though you are probably right in saying the ND will cancel out the flash itself. This is all assumptions of course, I could sit there all night and the storms could all be miles away from my location! Thanks though, food for thought should one come close enough to shoot and another option for me to try.

    JJ
    Like I said, I was put on the spot with no time to Google how best to do it. There's sure to be a better approach than I used. I wasted so many good strikes to catch a few. I didn't want to do 30 sec exposures and have the background look like it was daylight. Who knows - your ND filter might be a good way - the lightning might be bright enough to do with a ND in place. I think I would probably just have gone with bringing ISO down to 100 and stopped-down the aperture a bit if I was going to do longer exposures without making it seem like daylight. Try Googling it while you have the chance.

    Col

    - - - Updated - - -

    Hah! What do you know - I no sooner put that last post up, than there was a mighty rumble and flash and it started tipping it down here. Better check me battery is charged!

    Col
    Please note that any views expressed in this post may be those of the
    originator and do not necessarily reflect those of the reader.

  5. #5
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    Oct 2016
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    Default Re: Capturing Lightning

    That's just typical of my luck! I have taken shots using the ND @ 20 sec and all looks good to go. Apart from the fact the storms are not here...

    JJ
    A man of genius makes no mistakes. His errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery.

  6. #6

    Default Re: Capturing Lightning

    Quote Originally Posted by j j View Post
    That's just typical of my luck! I have taken shots using the ND @ 20 sec and all looks good to go. Apart from the fact the storms are not here...

    JJ
    Passed by here as well - just a quick 5 minute burst.

    I was going to say - the extent to which you need to keep exposure down will depend on the amount of background light you have. I am in the city, so there is a lot. But if you are in the countryside, you will get away with much longer exposures.

    Col
    Please note that any views expressed in this post may be those of the
    originator and do not necessarily reflect those of the reader.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Capturing Lightning

    Well there have been storms and plenty of them but none have come close to me... All have been East and North and too far away. So I am hoping that tonights Blood Moon Eclipse might just be visible. It looks unlikely though given the cloud cover here but as always I am optimistic. The longest lens I have is only 100mm so I will just have to make do and see what happens. Knowing my luck there will be the mother of all lightning storms that will finish just as I have changed the lens, filter and settings!!

    JJ
    A man of genius makes no mistakes. His errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2006
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    Central Scotland
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    Default Re: Capturing Lightning

    The East coast of the UK is getting hammered tonight.

    Lightning & Thunderstorms - United Kingdom, England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland
    Don't worry, be happy.
    Sandy
    Carried it in full, then carry it out empty.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Location
    White City, Oregon, USA.
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    22,373

    Default Re: Capturing Lightning

    This is where the 'old style' 3mmm camera's were King. Many had a 'cable release' function where you screwed in a 'hypo needle' sort of cable thing. Push the cable release 'button' and click. On 'Balm (?) you could hold the lens open as long as you wanted. What killed off, for most, was the advent of the digital camera. Instant results looking at a photo ... don't like .. just take another.

    Up load to your computer and if something you like just print same. Don't like just delete. On line photo albums (many free) are my main storage area. These can be public or private in many cases.

    fae
    Fred Evans - White City, Oregon

  10. #10

    Default Re: Capturing Lightning

    Quote Originally Posted by fredaevans View Post
    This is where the 'old style' 3mmm camera's were King. Many had a 'cable release' function where you screwed in a 'hypo needle' sort of cable thing. Push the cable release 'button' and click.
    News for you Fred...

    Digital works exactly the same way! As referred to above... using Bulb mode, you have a cord plugged into the digital camera, with a button on it. Press button in to open the shutter. Release the button to close the shutter. My shots above were done that way, with me choosing to close the exposure after counting 4 'elephants'.

    Photographing something like lightning is a thousand times easier with digital - because you can take so many and bin 99% of them. Anyone who pines for the days of film because it was all so much more difficult to get good results is mad!

    Col
    Please note that any views expressed in this post may be those of the
    originator and do not necessarily reflect those of the reader.

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