How do you focus on lightening bolts at night?

Discussion in 'Landscape & Cityscape' started by Jeff Colburn, Aug 16, 2010.

  1. Jeff Colburn

    Jeff Colburn TPF Noob!

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    Hi All,

    I'm having problems getting lightning bolts in focus at night. Here's what I do:

    • Put camera on a tripod
    • Set it on f8, 30 second exposure, ISO 100
    • Set the focus as close to infinity as I can
    • After I get my first lightning bolt, zoom into the images on the screen on the back of my camera to check the focus and adjust as needed.


    While I can get close, it's never as sharp as I'd like. And some times it's just way off.

    Any advice?

    All I can think of is to mark the lens barrel somehow so I know when it's in focus in the dark.

    Thanks,
    Jeff
     
  2. worrptangl

    worrptangl TPF Noob!

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    I set mine for 5 sec exposure, but I had a wobbly ladder and a towel for support also, and let the camera do the rest. I think it was on auto white balance also. It was very impromptu though since the storm popped up while I was living in Hawaii. This storm knocked out power all over the state, and almost 2 days before the entire island of Oahu had power.

    I would have to look at the EXIF, but like I said it was a grab and shoot. I didn't really know what I was doing since I have never done it before.

    [​IMG]
     
  3. Arkanjel Imaging

    Arkanjel Imaging No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Typical lightning settings:

    f11-f16 ISO 200 and 20-30 sec. of exposure should give you a really good start.

    Oh, and focus just short of infinity. ;)
     
  4. kundalini

    kundalini Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    They few times I've gotten lightning, I've used a remote with 5-10 second exposures with the widest lens. This helps keep from overheating the sensor. Back off inifinity ever so slightly and turn AF off. You don't want the lens hunting in the dark. I used an apeture of f/8 to f/11 (sharpest range on the lens).


     
  5. worrptangl

    worrptangl TPF Noob!

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    Ok cool, I wish I would have known that, but then again I wasn't expecting to see that much lightning. I haven't since.
     
  6. Jeff Colburn

    Jeff Colburn TPF Noob!

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    Thanks everyone.

    Usually, I'm shooting in complete darkness. No lights of any kind. I turn the lens all the way (toward infinity), then turn it back a little.

    Here's a shot from last night. It looks okay when small.
    [​IMG]

    But when you see it at 100%, it looks like this.
    [​IMG]

    I'll keep plugging away.

    Thanks,
    Jeff
     
  7. Sachphotography

    Sachphotography TPF Noob!

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    Here are 2 examples.

    http://www.thephotoforum.com/forum/...first-shot-back-oklahoma-latenightlights.html

    http://www.thephotoforum.com/forum/landscape-cityscape/172086-dangerous-midnight.html

    When I shoot lightning I shoot at about 6 sec exposures at about f/16-18. I shoot in RAW. For focusing I pick something off in the distance. Lightning is about impossible to predict the exact distant but if you have an area that is is striking you can focus on something were it hit and 9 out 10 time you will have a good shot. Do no use auto focus. Manual only. In your case I would try to focus on the mountains it is hitting but it will be hit and miss sometimes.

    Good Luck
     
  8. Jeff Colburn

    Jeff Colburn TPF Noob!

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    Thanks Sachphotography I'll give it a try. Very nice photos too.

    Have Fun,
    Jeff

     
  9. Petraio Prime

    Petraio Prime TPF Noob!

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    Set the lens on infinity (no reason not to) and turn off autofocus.

    If the bolt is closer than infinity focus distance, you won't have to worry about the focus. You and the camera will be vaporized.
     
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2010
  10. Polyphony

    Polyphony TPF Noob!

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    Not true.
     
  11. Petraio Prime

    Petraio Prime TPF Noob!

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    Oh yeah? Says who?

    :lol:
     
  12. icassell

    icassell TPF Noob!

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    As with fireworks, I back off just short of infinity and it seems to work better than setting to infinity.
     

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