TPB #1 – Lightning Photography

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Hello, this is Maurice and I welcome you Tech Photo Blog.  This is episode #1.

When you see a lightning strike, it is actually many micro-strikes.  Each micro-strike is very short with a duration of less than 1 ms (1/1,000th of second).  The time from the first to the last micro-strike (or the overall duration of a lightning strike) is about 100 ms.

Camera shutter lag is about 60 ms.  Here’s a page with actual shutter lags for different cameras.  This means at most we have 40 ms to capture a strike of lightning.

The response time for humans is about 160 ms.  Obviously that’s too slow to capture lighting.

Often people capture lightning by using a long exposure of many seconds.  This has problems like having most shots being black pictures of the night sky, it requires lots of user setup, and it won’t usually work during the day time.

The solution is to use an electrical triggering system.  Here’s a link to an old DIY lightning trigger I made years ago.  It is cheap and works well for those who like to assemble electronics and solder things together.

Described how to use the Camera Axe to photograph lightning.

Credits

Lightning photos used with permission from John Groseclose

Lightning photo used with permission from Jorge Puente

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About the Author:

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

Discussion

  1. Hatch  April 24, 2011

    Looks like a great product. Thanks for posting the video on DPreview.

    Hatch

    (reply)
  2. Lightning Protection  May 11, 2011

    Well as sod’s law would have it… I’ve finally got a digital camera which allows long exposures… and on Saturday night we had some spectacular lightning over Lancaster (UK)… but my tripod, being an essential bit of kit for lightning photography is still on loan to a friend, so my first proper chance of getting a good lighting photo went down the pan quicker than a flash of lightning :( note to self…. your tripod is of no use in somebody else’s house!

    (reply)
  3. Mickey Oberman  April 29, 2012

    Maurice,

    Thank you for your wonderfully lucid explanation.

    I may, at last, finally be able to get some lightning pictures.

    Mickey

    (reply)
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