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The Split Second Photograph – How to capture lightning

Alright, it’s time for a tutorial on one of my favorite things to photograph! Lightning. Many people (even physics professors) think that it’s impossible, but it’s actually not that difficult. With enough patience and the right equipment, any one can do it.

You’re going to need:

  • Camera with a manually settable shutter speed, and manual focus.
  • Tripod
  • Wired/wireless shutter release (optional)

triplelightning

How it’s done: 

You’ll have to wait till it’s reasonably dark outside before this will work. You can take lightning photos in the day, but you have to buy some expensive equipment. (You can create a “darker” sky by using Neutral Density filters.)

Put your camera in Manual mode. Set the aperture to somewhere around f/9, and the ISO to anywhere from 100-400, depending on how dark the sky is. The lighter the sky, the low you want your ISO to be. If possible, set your shutter speed to Bulb. If your camera doesn’t have that option, set it to the longest shutter speed possible, (Probably something like 15 or 30 sec.)

Mount your camera on a tripod and point it in a direction, where the lightning strikes are reasonably consistent. Be sure that you’re in a safe location! (Shooting through clean windows, or on a covered porch works well.) Set the focus to manual, and focus on the horizon, or wherever the lighting is striking. If there’s nothing to focus on, set it to a little bit less than infinity.

Now you’re ready to shoot. If you have a remote trigger, use it. Otherwise set the shutter drive mode to a 2 second delay. Leave the shutter open for as long as possible, or if your using Bulb, leave it open until you get a strike (unless the strike is more than about 2 minutes in coming).

Now just be patient, and keep taking pictures till you get what you want. The above photo was shot late at night out of my bedroom window. I hadn’t taken anything good all evening, and I was about to call quits, when that triple strike happened along. 🙂

How it works: 

Instead of taking a picture the moment a strike happens, you let the strike take the picture. That’s why it’s got to be dark. When you open up your shutter, only minimal light hits the sensor. When the strike happens, it throws it’s light on your sensor, and the picture is made. As long as the camera is sitting still on a tripod, there should be no motion blur. Just an awesome photo.

Have fun, and don’t let the weather destroy you or your camera.

 
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Posted by on December 21, 2012 in Photography

 

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