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Saturday, May 15, 2010

Ramblings on Storm Photography...

Howdy Folks,

Been kind of busy here on the farm lately. I added a new section of chicken pasture since the chickens were none too happy that I eminent domained part of the chicken yard for the garden spot this year. Unlike the politicians I will give it back to them once I am finished!

As some of you may know, I have been seriously messing around with my digital SLR camera and it has become quite the addiction! The power of capturing a never changing moment in time, to be able to relive it at any time in the future is IMHO one of man's greatest innovations.

Anyway, this photography thing is how I like to spend my free time, so I apologize for the long time between posts. Also for those that think I am on the sheeple band wagon because I have a hobby, don't worry I am still prepping.

So to make a short story long, I have been having problems with my super cheap (but paid for) video tripod staying still enough to take night shots and other low light photographs. I decided to pick one up at my local big box store and I now have a steady platform to take some pics with long exposures.

After a rough week at work, I was noticing how the sky looked like it was ripe for a few boomers. The Wx radio confirmed that we might get some storms at night. I worked on the chicken coop and came inside. I was playing with the kids when I noticed that to the North and West the sky was getting dark. A quick check of the radar loop on the iPhone confirmed there was a slow moving line of storms. These storms would be visible North before the rain came from the West so I would stay dry taking some pics.

Out came the new tripod and I mounted my trusty Canon (no not a cannon for you non camera folks! LOL) and took some test pics to set my focus and lock it before the sun went down.

I aimed the camera mostly North to where I could hopefully catch some long streaks of lightning and not get any junk in my back yard in the frame.

It took about an hour and a half for the storm to get near, but it was pretty awesome watching the fireworks. Eventually the lightning strikes came in to where the trees were not blocking them (cotton fields provided long distance sighting of storms, but on a tree farm that view is reduced a whole bunch!) and I started capturing them on the camera.

Before you check out the pics and if you are interested, here is what I was using : Canon D-SLR, 18-55mm kit lens (needed the wide angle), carbon fiber tripod, time value of 15-30 seconds (I left the shutter open for that long to capture the streaks) and a IR remote control to trigger the shutter.

For those that are wondering, most lightning shots are captured by opening the shutter for a certain amount of time and hopefully the film or sensor will capture those streaks. On my favorite shot, those streaks did not occur at the same time but over a period of about 30 seconds... I am showing some in B&W because they are a little more striking (pun intended) that way...


Here you can see the lightning illuminating the underneath of the cloud. Earlier I took some pics were it was illuminating the clouds from above, even though it was dark outside it appeared on the pic that the sun was behind clouds.


Another pic. The house that shows up is an old farm house on the property...


Storm is getting closer. On my viewfinder, I saw the big streak on the left but not the multiple strikes right of center until I saw it on the computer!


Even closer still. Streaks are getting longer!!!

Finally my favorite shot of the night...


When I started taking photos years ago (started with film and Minolta 35mm SLR's) I was under the assumption that with EVERY pic I would take an amazing shot... I would be upset when they we just sorta good! Maybe some folks can, but the vast majority of us may snap a 100 and have only 1 or 2 great ones in that bunch. So when I snapped about 50 last night, I was thrilled that I got one decent lightning shot, I am happy with it (mainly that I was at home and had time to set it all up as that can be a challenge sometime!). All I can say is that hopefully when the next storms roll through (maybe tonight!!! YEAH!!!!) I will be trying again to get an even better image of lightning streaks!!!

To wrap things up, I will try my F 1.4 50mm tonight instead of the 18-55mm if the storms do happen. Luckily for me, the storm came to me, but I need to scout some (SAFE) locations in my area that give you a better vantage point... With working all the time that can be hard to want to head out away from home to set up a lightning shoot that may or may not be productive!

And the final finale... Next to ice storms, lightning/severe thunderstorms do more damage to things in my area than anything else. You do have surge protectors on your precious electronics, or unplug them when storms are coming I hope??? An uninterruptible power supply goes a long way to keep your DSL/cable mode/DVR running. We have one on our DVR to prevent 'holes' in our TV shows since it takes about 5 minutes to reboot when the power is interrupted! Generators have come in handy several times when lightning has wrecked the power grid for a few hours...

If you do decide to photograph lightning or have to be outside in it, be CAREFUL!!!

Thanks for reading!


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