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Lightning photography tips?
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pattycakes77



Joined: 17 Jan 2008
Posts: 2093
Location: Cedar Rapids, Iowa

PostPosted: Sat Jun 26, 2010 2:02 pm    Post subject: Lightning photography tips? Reply with quote

I've had my Nikon D60 for a couple years now and it's been fantastic. I've done some longer exposure pictures with better than average success but one style of photography I can't get good results with is LIGHTNING shots. I've set up my tripod, locked it in good and found a location that doesn't have much city light and I still get mediocre results. I've googled lightning photography and there are a lot of good sites with step by step info, but I'm still having trouble. I use the tripod, set the D60 to Bulb or a 20-30 second exposure, set the ISO to 100, and use the remote to trigger the shutter just like the instructions have said. The one part of the instructions I'm having trouble with is when it asks me to set the focus to "infinity", and I don't have that on the lens. My old 35mm has that on the lens so I know what I'm looking for, but the manual for the D60 says nothing about infinity and I can't find anything about setting it to infinity on the camera. I have turned the auto focus off since the camera won't take the picture in low light with auto focus ON. There was a big storm producing some awesome lightning just north of me last night and out of the dozens of pictures I took, I only had one come out half decent. The others were either pitch black, out of focus, or turned out grainy like if I used a high ISO in low light. I tried adjusting the aperture all over the place to see if one setting yielded better results than the others, no luck. Does anyone out there use a D60 and have some tips on setting the focus to infinity or any other tips on how to get some decent pictures of lightning or fireworks? Thanks.

Here is the one and only picture that came out OK from last night, the only one worth keeping but still not nice by a long shot.


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ibanezcollector



Joined: 29 Nov 2006
Posts: 1724
Location: Cleveland OHIO

PostPosted: Sat Jun 26, 2010 3:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

heres what you need, lots of luck

haha I used a Nikon D50 on this one.

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Thumposaurus



Joined: 05 Dec 2004
Posts: 1563
Location: Front Royal Va

PostPosted: Sat Jun 26, 2010 6:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yeah luck is important.
I have a few I took that turned out decent. I usually set the timer for 2 seconds and just keep pushing the button. I've taken 40-50 pics to get one shot before.
Does the D60 have a continuous shot mode? That and a remote trigger could let you just hold the button down and let the pics click off one after the other.
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bildo



Joined: 14 May 2009
Posts: 2829
Location: Houston, Texas

PostPosted: Sat Jun 26, 2010 6:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Patrick,

Infinity will be your farthest most focus.
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pattycakes77



Joined: 17 Jan 2008
Posts: 2093
Location: Cedar Rapids, Iowa

PostPosted: Sat Jun 26, 2010 7:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

bildo wrote:
Patrick,

Infinity will be your farthest most focus.


So just back the zoom on the lens all the way out for the widest field of view? I took a beginner photography class last year but this was not one of the field trips. I know that when you have a smaller aperture the depth of field is increased and that is what you set the camera to for landscape shots so you can pick out all the details at various distances and keep them all in focus. I tried this thinking it would give me focus all the way out to infinity and I tried to adjust the shutter speed longer for this since a smaller aperture would not let much light in, just ended up with a completely black picture. However, unfortunately we didn't do much with finding focus with just the lens, we mostly relied on our fancy cameras with auto focus and let it do all the work. Laughing

Thump - My D60 has a feature that I can do several quick shots in a row (manual says it can take 3 pics a second up to 100 pictures in a row), but triggering with the remote in that mode might not be as quick as I would like since it takes a few seconds for the picture to save and the camera to get ready for the next photo. That, and I'm mostly interested in taking lightning shots at night in very low light so I would need longer exposures to capture the light. The picture I posted above was a 30 second exposure and it really doesn't have the detail I was looking for. I will try some shorter exposures though and see if that makes a difference and stagger the aperture on sequential shots to see if that helps as well. I think I'll try doing some shots with more daylight as well, not just sticking to the total darkness storm photos. I appreciate the input. Smile
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Dan Nork



Joined: 16 Jul 2008
Posts: 426
Location: Erin Prarie, WI

PostPosted: Sat Jun 26, 2010 10:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

When I went to photo school, auto cameras were just getting popular, but most of my teachers wouldn't let us use them because then we'd end up relying on them instead of learning how to do it ourselves. THat being said, 90% of the time I use the auto settings on my cameras nowdays. I tried for years to get decent lightning photos, back before digital so I was burning film up to get something so maybe I can help. Most older lenses had a "focussing scale" printed on them so you could see how many feet/meters you were away from your subject, or at least how close you could get to whatever you were shooting. "Infinity focus" is just the setting that whatever is farthest away from your lens will be in focus. Anyway "focus" isn't connected to the ZOOM, it's the actual part of the lens that changes how sharp/blurry the image is. I don't know what lens you are using, but most of the Nikon lenses I've had, the zoom ring is closer to the body, and the FOCUS ring is at the very end of the lens. SOmetimes it's bigger than others, but it's usually farther out from the lens mount. Better yet, try focussing on the farthest-away object you can while trying to get your lightning pix if you don't want to mess with setting the focus manually. Hopefully this made some kind of sense, it's late and it's been a long day. Embarassed

short version:
when it's bright enough to see thru the lens, set the focusing to "M", look to the farthest-away object you can and manually turn the ring until it looks sharp. "Infinity" is just the opposite of "as close as possible" with your lens. Every lens is different as far as how close you can get to whatever subject.
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bildo



Joined: 14 May 2009
Posts: 2829
Location: Houston, Texas

PostPosted: Sat Jun 26, 2010 10:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dan Nork wrote:
When I went to photo school, auto cameras were just getting popular, but most of my teachers wouldn't let us use them because then we'd end up relying on them instead of learning how to do it ourselves. THat being said, 90% of the time I use the auto settings on my cameras nowdays. I tried for years to get decent lightning photos, back before digital so I was burning film up to get something so maybe I can help. Anyway "focus" isn't connected to the ZOOM, it's the actual part of the lens that changes how sharp/blurry the image is. I don't know what lens you are using, but most of the Nikon lenses I've had, the zoom ring is closer to the body, and the FOCUS ring is at the very end of the lens. SOmetimes it's bigger than others, but it's usually farther out from the lens mount. Better yet, try focussing on the farthest-away object you can if you don't want to mess with setting it yourself. Hopefully this made some kind of sense, it's late and it's been a long day. Embarassed

+1

your focus is independent of your focal lenght. So you can do your zoom (focal lenght) to what you want your shot area to be. Then focus to the farthest. If are not sure which way that is on the focus ring, Focus on something a few feet away and then refocus on something 20 or more away then you know which way to turn the focus ring to infinity. Of course more dept of field through aperture settings still appy.
Now go find another thunderstorm to try this on Wink
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Rock-On!!



Joined: 10 Sep 2007
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Location: Crossroads....., Will you ever let him go?

PostPosted: Sun Jun 27, 2010 10:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

If you have a Yahoo account you might want to join one of the flicker groups dedicated lightning.
http://www.flickr.com/groups/storms/pool/



Or a flicker group dedicated to Nikon D60 users
Here is a link of that group using lightning as a search word.
http://www.flickr.com/search/groups/?q=lightning&w=64315324%40N00&m=pool


They also have a discussion area a well as member to member contact to talk about the tricks of getting good shots.
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pattycakes77



Joined: 17 Jan 2008
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Location: Cedar Rapids, Iowa

PostPosted: Sun Jun 27, 2010 12:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

OMG! I can't believe how simple that was! I have settings on the zoom part but I never thought about adjusting the non labeled end part. I've seen that move when I use the zoom so I didn't think there was any adjustment elsewhere on the lens, WRONG! I'm also baffled about why in my photography class there was no mention of this simple but much needed lesson for taking pictures! Mad Anyway, I'll check out the other tips you all have provided, I really appreciate the help. I'll also join those flikr groups since it looks like they know exactly how to get the kind of pictures I'm after, those are absofreaking awesome! Thanks again, and I'll post some pictures of the next outing when the bad weather rolls this way again. Very Happy
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solemn13



Joined: 26 Jun 2008
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Location: On a lost bound train runnin on Rogaine out of control

PostPosted: Sun Jun 27, 2010 12:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

We had some really bad weather here last night and the sky was lit up for a few hours almost nonstop. I thought about this thread but doubt I could get a decent picture with my digital camera.
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Dan Nork



Joined: 16 Jul 2008
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 28, 2010 1:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's actually kinda hard to get nice lightning pix, I shot many many rolls of film to get one or 2 decent images. (I'd have all of my cameras on tripods pointed out the window all at once, and go back and forth snapping them one after the other) so being able to make dozens of exposures basically for free, and being able to see them right away should make it easier to get something nowadays. Oh yeah, if you don't have a lot of ambient light or streetlights/buildings, etc in your photos, you can turn the ISO up higher than 100 so your exposures aren't so dark. Another advantage to digital, you aren't stuck with one ISO per roll.
I have a Nikon D40 and usually set it to "HI ISO" when I shoot with itat night, but the images can get kind of noisy/grainy that way. Shorter exposures or better depth of field though.
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Home Grown Tele



Joined: 10 Jul 2006
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 29, 2010 12:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The easiest way to get a good lightning picture is wrap your head in tinfoil and run around on the roof. It works every time!! Twisted Evil Twisted Evil Twisted Evil
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Steve-O



Joined: 14 Aug 2008
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 29, 2010 6:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

A high ISO- or Speed film/Digital setting, results in an increased graininess in the final image. Not to mention with the high intensity of the lightning, it would be much easier to control the overal exposure of the image by using a slower setting/ film.
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74 Strat



Joined: 23 Feb 2008
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 29, 2010 7:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Slower shutter is what you need. Depending on how dark it is out. The following photo looks like it was taken at dusk. It is actually a several minute exposure.

Opening the shutter for a long time has the same effect as using a higher ISO at a shorter shutter speed. It will get grainy.

Taking lightning shots is just like taking fireworks shots. Just point the camera in the direction and shoot before it happens and keep the button pressed right until it is over.

I hope I was able to help...Dean


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pattycakes77



Joined: 17 Jan 2008
Posts: 2093
Location: Cedar Rapids, Iowa

PostPosted: Wed Jun 30, 2010 8:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the help/tips everyone. I've got a plan of attack for the next outing, but unfortunately it's going to be 7 blissful, sunny, low humidity, perfect days in a row here! Laughing I'll post up what comes of the next storm system. Thanks again!
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