Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Lightning Strike – How I did it?

Yesterday, I was standing on the balcony of my flat in Pune smoking a hookah. It was windy and there was some lightning activity. After a few minutes the lightning activities in the northeast horizon increased dramatically. I always wanted to shoot lightning and though this was my opportunity. So I grabbed my E-5 and shot some!

I have never photographed lightning strike before, but I knew that it was not a piece of cake for the obvious reason that you need to trigger the shutter at exactly same time as the lightning strikes. Generally lightning activity lasts about a 1-2 seconds. So its not easy to time your shutter release. Sometimes it helps to do things the old fashioned way and that’s exactly what I did.

My Technique

  • I Set the camera in Full Manual Mode – with aperture f/2.8 (Max aperture for my lens ZD 12-60). I was shooting handheld, so needed a faster shutter. I did not set it at Shutter Priority or Aperture priority because I did not want eaither my shutter or aperture to be set by camera.
  • I Set the focusing on Manual and set it to focus on infinity @ 12mm. Manual focusing to ensure that I am focused on infinity always.
  • I started with 1/25s shutter speed, but found that lightning was overexposed, so increased it to 1/50 @ ISO-400 (increased ISO to get 1/50s)
  • I set the drive mode on sequential shooting @ 5FPS on E-5 (which is max). In-body IS (VR) was ON
  • Since the drive mode was set to sequential, the Noise Reduction on E-5 is automatically set to OFF. I set the Noise Filter to STD and SHADING COMP = OFF
  • I then held the camera and waited for long time for lightning activity on the horizon. Whenever there was a dense lightning I would trigger shutter.
  • I might have shot about 50-60 frames. I got about 7 usable frames of lightning strike. Mainly helped by dense lightning activity (meaning continuous periods of lightning of 2-4 seconds). If lightning strike was not dense, then my hit ratio would have reduced.
  • It took me about 45 minutes to get 7 usable frames
  • I cropped and edited the pics in PhotoShop CS4 Camera RAW editor (contrast and exposure). I applied mild noise reduction using Noiseware professional.

My Results 

Lightning Strike
Lightning Strike
Lightning Strike
Lightning Strike

Note: You can buy triggers which trigger your camera when lightning strikes. It can make your life a lot simpler!