Lightning Tips

Dinardy

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For the last couple days, our area has been experiencing thunder storms. I have read tutorials and general write ups, I believe I get the gist of it.
I'm just interested in hearing from those of you that may have any helpful tips from personal experience.
Should I be posting this on a stormchaser forum?

Heres one from tonight, before it got a little too crazy for me.
C&C is welcome as always.

1.
 
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Dinardy

Dinardy

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I guess I'll bump for C&C?
 

manicmike

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I don't know anything about shooting lightning, but it was crazy down here in Oregon too. The thunder was shaking our house.
 
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Dinardy

Dinardy

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I don't know anything about shooting lightning, but it was crazy down here in Oregon too. The thunder was shaking our house.

Yeah, I didn't last very long out there. This is the only capture I got before one hit too close for comfort. Way too sketchy for my taste.
 

Gavjenks

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I would suggest blending more than one exposure.

For the lightning itself: probably about f/5.6, run the shutter for a couple seconds at a time on bulb over and over until you capture one.
Then for the rest of the scene: meter it to well expose the landscape. Maybe even more than one bracketed if it's high contrast even without lightning.

Then take your landscapes (HDRed or whatever if more than one bracketed, or however else you'd get a landscape normally), and throw it in photoshop with the lightning shot as two layers.

Then just play with the top layer's transparency until you get a blend you like. Play aroudn with different blending modes too, not just additive. One of them should be able to easily maintain the brilliance of the bolt but without washing out the landscape with all the black from the bolt exposure either.


Or if you're more adventurous and willing to spend more time editing, you could erase everything in the lightning exposure except the lightning (using a feathered selection that includes the bolt plus some gradually fading pixels around it. This will actually serve as a source of acutance and make the lightning look sharper, as well as blending smoothly with the other layer).
 

H4X1MA

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I have a great spot to try and get these, you can see forever... but it's up in a tower... made of steel... on top of a mountain. Maybe someday I'll set the cam up there on burst then run away into a rubber bunker.
 

Gavjenks

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You don't want a rubber bunker. You want a big metal bunker. Rubber is actually more conductive than air usually, but not by nearly as much as metal.

So a rubber bunker will just work as a crappy, ineffective version of a faraday cage (routing lightning along the walls, but not by enough. The high conductance of your body is still likely to attract a bolt within a certain distance instead). Metal will do the same thing, but much more effectively, routing virtually all current through the walls.

Just make sure the interior walls are NOT metal! Or it might arc across between walls and through you. Metal bunker with wooden interior walls. Preferably with no electrical wiring in interior walls either.




If you want a bunker that protects you via the opposite strategy of insulating you, then you would need something less conductive than air. Such as solid teflon walls or solid fused-quartz walls. Obviously not the most cost effective solution, though...
 
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Dinardy

Dinardy

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I would suggest blending more than one exposure.

For the lightning itself: probably about f/5.6, run the shutter for a couple seconds at a time on bulb over and over until you capture one.
Then for the rest of the scene: meter it to well expose the landscape. Maybe even more than one bracketed if it's high contrast even without lightning.

Then take your landscapes (HDRed or whatever if more than one bracketed, or however else you'd get a landscape normally), and throw it in photoshop with the lightning shot as two layers.

Then just play with the top layer's transparency until you get a blend you like. Play aroudn with different blending modes too, not just additive. One of them should be able to easily maintain the brilliance of the bolt but without washing out the landscape with all the black from the bolt exposure either.


Or if you're more adventurous and willing to spend more time editing, you could erase everything in the lightning exposure except the lightning (using a feathered selection that includes the bolt plus some gradually fading pixels around it. This will actually serve as a source of acutance and make the lightning look sharper, as well as blending smoothly with the other layer).

Thank you! I had thought to do multiple exposures, but my setup was a tripod wedged between seat and door of pickup. I was getting movement/stressed about getting fried, so I dumped the idea.
I hope I can make it back to the east coast one of these days for a real show
I was running:
f/11
iso @ 100
Bulb, exposures between 5 and 20sec
 
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Dinardy

Dinardy

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I have a great spot to try and get these, you can see forever... but it's up in a tower... made of steel... on top of a mountain. Maybe someday I'll set the cam up there on burst then run away into a rubber bunker.

I was headed to a highpoint in our area, about 2,500ft above sea level, it would have been awesome overlooking 3 lakes and my city. I reevaluated and chickened out when I realized I was the only one on the highway headed towards the storm...
 

Gavjenks

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A serious post about safety:

Your best bet to not get zapped is your car. BUT cars arent perfect. You need to know how to use them protectively and how to make sure they are maximally protective:

1) Make sure your car isn't made out of fiberglass or cloth (the roof of a convertible). It must be metal, all the way around.
2) If at any point you are electrically connected to the car body (leaning on the window, etc.), you are defeating the whole purpose of a faraday cage and could get zapped. No leaning your arm on the window sill, etc. No metallic steering wheels
3) At the very least, your windows should be up.
4) Do not come into contact with the car electrically while setting up your tripod, or whatever you're doing. Do not use the car for support, unless it's a leather seat or plastic dashboard only, etc.
5) You will be less likely to get hit in your car if you are near, but not immediately next to, a large radio tower or high tension power tower. The tower will offer some protection up to roughly a radius around it equal to its height. This protection decreases gradually as you go out to the radius's edge. So you would want to be as close as possible but without being within yards of the tower, and without being in between it and large metal fences. Also avoid being in between two towers (off to the side of the line of towers is better).
6) Avoid having wires and things in your car connected to the frame, like your cell phone plugged into the cigarette lighter, for instance.

If you wanted to be really hardcore, you could reinforce the car's non metal vulnerabilities with heavy gauge uninsulated wire, running down in intervals across your windshield and side windows (every 3 inches or so maybe), and waterproof taped to the metal on top and bottom (assuming you have a car you dont mind taping stuff to). Lightning will ignore the thin layer of paint in between, but this would drastically reduce the already very small chance of lightning going partially through a window and hitting you, without reducing visibility. I would seriously consider doing this only if I was planning to drive to the top of a hill with nothing taller than me nearby, in a desert, or something.


If you do all that, you would be extremely safe from lightning injury. Though if your car gets hit you may still need to walk home, you almost certainly won't die.
 

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