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TOPIC: Night Time lightning photography focussing tip

Night Time lightning photography focussing tip 07 Nov 2012 19:53 #1

  • ShaneE
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Hi All,

Thought I might share a clever little way of making sure your lightning shots are in focus when shooting at night.

Most of you who have attempted night lightning would find that getting the focus correct is a challenge at the best of times. Some lenses have an 'infinity' focus point, but due to temperature variations and moisture in the air, this setting can vary away from the infinity focal point on the lens.

Some methods are manually focusing your lens on a distant light source such as a street light through the viewfinder. This method is hit and miss because it is not always easy to tell if the light is in focus through the viewfinder.

If your camera has a Live View mode, then chances are you will be able to use this to perfectly focus your lens.

Step 1 - Find a light source as far away from you as possible. Generally speaking there should be a street light in view somewhere.
Step 2 - Switch your camera to Live View
Step 3 - Roughly focus the street light in to the center of the LCD Screen
Step 4 - Increase the magnification of the LCD to it's maximum (My 7D goes up to 10x. Refer to your manual if you are not sure how to do this)
Step 5 - If the light source goes out of frame, find it again.
Step 6 - Manually rotate the focus ring of the lens until the light is as clear as you can get it.
Step 7 - Exit out of Live View and you are ready to go!

I hope this has helped you, please feel free to post your comments or tips!
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Re: Night Time lightning photography focussing tip 10 Nov 2012 07:14 #2

  • gsorenson
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yes infinity focus is extremely important and can be found as per Shane's technique. Getting slightly unfocused images, esp when the bolts were amazing can be the pits. I would also suggest keeping your lens to manual focus at all times for lightning and lenses freak out when it can't find edges with contrast.

Other tips:

• a sturdy tripod to keep your camera still during a SLOW shutter speed.

• slow shutter speed - you'll need at least 10-30secs to open up your sensor to allow the lightning bolt to 'write' light onto your image. The issue is that this needs to be done in low light, such as twilight or night time otherwise you'll overexpose your image. It sounds counter intuitive but trust me, slow shutter speed is better.

• the lower the iso the better - depending on what model you have it will vary in terms of 'noise' when shooting in high iso setting. So stick to iso settings such as 100, 200 or 400 - iso is the sensitivity of you sensor to light, so the higher the number the quicker it reacts to light. But, the higher the iso the more data noise you will get

• if you want to shoot daytime lightning, then you will need a lightning trigger. You can buy these on the net from various places. They are useless in low light but are useful for picking up small changes in ambient light during the day, and will trigger your shutter release using a fast shutter speed (as you can only allow so much light in during the day) There are ways to slow down the shutter speed in the daytime, but i will leave that for a another day. From a personal view point i prefer lightning during the evening, as usually it is more spectacular, but having said that coupled with great cloud structure daytime shots can look great.
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Re: Night Time lightning photography focussing tip 12 Nov 2012 20:34 #3

  • bryan
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Very interesting! I will use these tips this summer when QLD WINS ALL THE STORMS!! WOOOO!!! :P
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Re: Night Time lightning photography focussing tip 21 Nov 2012 09:31 #4

  • Russman
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Hi all, can we expand this discussion on lightning triggers, eg. which ones are best, and where to buy etc.

I'm going to buy one but don't want to get a dud.

:)
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Re: Night Time lightning photography focussing tip 26 Dec 2012 12:01 #5

  • bjerrems
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I use these triggers. [url=http://]www.pmgadgets.net/[/url]
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Re: Night Time lightning photography focussing tip 11 Jan 2013 09:17 #6

  • Russman
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bjerrems wrote:
I use these triggers. [url=http://]www.pmgadgets.net/[/url]

I have purchased one from them, haven't been able to use it yet, there hasn't been a hint of a storm since I received it in the mail :(
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