TPB #89 – Help Design the Best Lightning Photo Tools

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This video shows a work in progress of some great software that Dan and PTB have been working on to improve the ability of the Camera Axe to photograph lightning. While the Camera Axe was already pretty good at photographing lightning this makes a number of significant improvements to that software. I encourage others to join the forum thread below and help design the best possible software update to photograph lightning. Some of the major improvements are an easier to use menu, a floating average threshold mode, and only triggering on a rising edge.

* Here’s the forum thread where Dan and PTB helped design this software update
* The software used in this video
* Directions on how to update the Camera Axe software
* The lightning images where from John Groseclose

I expect there to be more updates in this area going forward so keep an eye on that forum thread.

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About the Author:

Maurice is a computer engineer, photographer, and all around renaissance man.

Discussion

  1. Volker  August 26, 2014

    Dear Maurice!

    Please forgive my ignorance (never tried microcontroller-assisted lightning photography and no Camera Axe at hand), but: Isn’t a lightning bolt just a long and powerful plasma discharge, quite like your air gap flash? If so, it should just glow a few micro- to milliseconds (1/1000s). Given that the Camera Axe is able to trigger on the rising edge of the photodiode’s signal without any delay, there’s still the shutter lag of the camera – if in mirror lockup mode (“Mup”) something around 20-50ms. So the phenomenon causing the trigger is gone, long before the shutter is open.

    So what is the intention behind the menu in that case and what images do you expect?

    Of course, it’s also possible that I have a false impression of what the lightning menu really does. If it initiates some kind of a “brute force” long time bulb exposure of predefined maximum(!) time which is shortened by the event, it would make sense. So you’re running an interval recording, but with variable interval length, depending on the frequency of lightning bolts.

    If I were to write software to assist in this, I would probably misuse the photodiode as a very basic light meter (by linearizing and then integrating the values) or use a TSL2561, BH1750 instead. The software would instantly open the shutter (prefocus is OK) for a bulb exposure, long enough to get the background illuminated correctly lit. If lightning strikes during such an exposure, the integrated value rises by a considerable amount and reaches the limit to close the shutter earlier. This avoids over-exposure by lightning. Then, the whole process would be repeated for another n cycles.

    Of course, you wouldn’t have a lightning bolt on each picture (but just a series of perfectly exposed and perfectly boring images of a scenery instead), but if lightning strikes, it would be exposure corrected.

    Does that make any sense to you?

    Cheers,
    Volker

  2. Maurice  August 26, 2014

    You’re understanding of what lightning does is what I used to think, but then I learned that’s incorrect. If you look at one of my earlier lightning videos I explain lightning in detail, but basically what happens is each bolt of lighting isn’t a single string. It’s a series of 10-15 micro strikes each being a few microseconds long, but the whole series taking around 150 ms.

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  4. Peter Kirk  December 13, 2014

    Hi Maurice,
    Is this new lightning trigger software update available? We are in peak lightning time here in Aust and would love to try it.
    Peter

  5. Maurice  December 14, 2014

    Peter, you can get the latest lightning software update here: http://www.dreamingrobots.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=8&t=1979