The story behind the photo. With spring comes thunderstorms and I had been paying attention to the weather reports and thinking about possible vantage points. I was looking for some place with enough elevation to get a good view without being at the top of a mountain myself. I also wanted a view that was going to be fairly clear or artificial light, with longer shutter speeds those lights can really ruin a scene. Though there are plenty of shots with cityscapes and lightning, but the area I am in doesn't really offer that. I used my knowledge of the area and Google Earth to scout potential vantage points settling on a location that gave me a good view of the Connecticut river valley.
I brought my 5D Mark III, tripod and Triggertrap app on an iPad. Now I don't have any pictures of the setup in the car, I was shooting out of the car window with the tripod spread around my lap. It was not the most comfortable and roomy setup but I could live with it. Truthfully I didn't end up using the Triggertrap app, for no reason other than I pulled up and lightning was happening so I rushed to setup everything. I should have taken a moment to plug in the app, the Star Trail Mode would be perfect for lightning photos.
Yes, contrary to popular belief you don't try to capture lightning by watching for a bolt and quickly pressing the shutter button - you will not be fast enough. What you do is shoot long exposures - anywhere from 6 seconds to 30 seconds can give you good results. So the shutter is open, the sensor is recording a fairly dark scene and hopefully during the time the shutter is opening a strike will happen. I have heard from one of my readers that if a strike happens in the middle of an exposure it is a good idea to throw a black cloth over the lens to keep any more light from entering and potentially ruining the image. I may try that in a future shoot.
Now when I first set up I took a few long exposures to get a sense of my composition, it was quite difficult to get a sense through live view or the view finder, so you can raise your ISO way up for a few test photos, this way your shutter speed only needs to be a few seconds - these aren't keepers, just trying to get a feel for what the camera will capture.
I was shooting around 40mm on a full frame camera. That is about 22mm on a crop sensor camera like the Canon T4i/T5i.30 shots later I captured what would turn out to be the best of the night- Rollover to see the unprocessed straight out of the camera shot. 38mm on full frame at ISO 400, f/10 and 20.0 seconds shutter speed.
I continued shooting for another 30 minutes, another 40 shots and captured a few more bolts but the storm fell apart and low level clouds rolled in making it difficult to capture individual bolts[gallery ids="3623,3622,3621,3620,3619,3624" orderby="rand"]SO if you read all of this, or skipped to this point let me give you the moral of the story.
- Be Safe
- You have a higher probability of making a cool photo with planning. Gear, Location and Knowledge all need to be considered in your planning.
- Be patient - I sat in my car, rain coming in the window for over an hour, in this case I was enjoying myself so it wasn't a hardship but you can't expect to roll up/show up to someplace and instantly snap something magical. Don't count on luck. Anytime I think about luck I think about Las vegas, none of those casinos are hurting for money, luck is NOT on our side most of the time.