Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Lightning strike in Kuala Lumpur

                                Canon 7D ISO 100, f/16, 30seconds

Lightning is supposed to strike at the highest point. This lightning bolt appears to emerge directly above Petronas Twin Tower. Then it curves away from it and miss all the tall buildings to strike at a lower ground while making small zaps at the surrounding building. Hmm..????

                               Closer look at the strike.

What you need to take lightning photo.
1) A tripod
2) Remote control or 2 to 10 secs self timer depending on how stable is you tripod.
3) Camera with full manual exposure control.
4) Manual focus
5) If DSLR, mirror lockup or live view to reduce vibration due to mirror slap.
6) Lens focal length equivalent to 28 to 70 mm on a 35mm full frame. If you are using 1.5x to 1.6x crop sensor, it is around 16 to 40mm. Most compacts (point and shoot) are within that range.
7) An electrical storm at night! The meaner the better. But make sure you are at a save distance.
8) Lots of luck

Camera setup:
1) ISO 100
2) Switch the camera to manual exposure and on a DSLR, set aperture to f/16 and shutter speed at 30 sec for a cityscape like above. If you are using a compact, set aperture to f/8 and shutter speed at 8 seconds. Anything smaller than f/8 will be too soft.

After setting the camera on a tripod, point it to the general area where lightning strikes is most active. Focus manually at far object near the lightning strike. In the case above, the Petronas Twin Tower building. Recompose. Wait for about five seconds to eliminate any camera movement or vibration. Now all you have to do is press the remote switch and hope for a strike within the 30 seconds. If there is a strike, you must wait out the the remaining 30 seconds before you press the remote switch again. There might be no strike at all for many frames. All you can do is hope for the best. You may have to recompose if the lightning area shift.

About manual focusing:
The best way is to focus using live view with 10x magnification. If it is not available, some camera shows confirmation green dot when focus is achieved. If that is also not available, use normal auto focus, after achieving focus, switch focus mode to manual on the lens or the body (depending on camera make). After that, don't touch any control on the lens. If you use zoom lens and change focal length, you must refocus.