11 October 2011

Lightning Not Lighting

Over the weekend I made an impromptu trip 90 miles north of my normal location in Afghanistan and lucky for me I had my DSLR and the rainy season decided to show up early.  I was headed back to get some rest at around 2200 (10PM for you civilian types) from the other side of camp and noticed some pretty gnarly lightning off in the distance and figured it to be a perfect chance to try my lightning photography skills (or lack thereof).  My first instinct as it was very dark was to try bulb with the aperture set as low as possible to suck in as much light as was available.  In this case I was shooting my Canon 50mm f/1.4 USM so I left it wide open at f/1.4 with a 5 second shutter speed...what a train wreck that was!!!  With all the ambient lighting from vehicles, buildings, flood lights, etc, the pictures were washed out with no semblance of a nighttime environment.  In addition, my depth of field was very shallow and not much was in focus.  I stopped down to f/13 tried a few shots and eventually settled on f/22 and snapped away.  An hour later, 250-300 shots, and right before the rain came pouring down, I was able to capture about 10 decent shots.  Below are a some of the shots:

Lessons Learned:

  • Even dark can be light...watch the ambient lights and adjust your stops accordingly.
  • Learn how Aperture Priority (Av) Shutter Priority (Tv) and Manual Mode (M) work for your camera.  I could only adjust shutter AND aperture in Manual Mode on my Canon T3i.
  • Use your surroundings for tripods.  I forgot mine, so set my camera on top of a concrete IDF bunker and used my head scarf to aim the lens.
  • When doing bulb shots, either use a shutter remote (which I did not have with me), or set a 2 second delay self-timer so you don't shake the camera while pressing the button (believe me, it looks horrible).
  • Always be ready!!! I took my camera even with no idea what I was going to shoot and I got lucky with this unbelievable lightning storm.

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