A couple of nights ago, thanks in large part to Sheryl’s encouragement, I fulfilled a long-time goal and sucessfully took a few good photos of lightning. We went up to Coronado Heights around 11pm where we found it cloudy, but not too windy and there was no rain. Though it was clear the storm was at least 5 miles away paranoia and inexperience led me to take the photos from within the car.
Using the dashboard for a tripod proved steady enough, but the photos did need straightening during post-processing. The windshield did compromise the image quality a bit, mostly by adding some color fringing (and perhaps a little noise due to previously unseen bug splatter on the windshield). I removed the color fringing by desaturating the image; there wasn’t any real color present in any event. The bug splatter was basically out of focus and not really visible, with one exception (which I’ll leave to the viewer to find … hint: it is one of the pictures on this page).
I used my Canon Rebel XT to take the photos, and took advantage of its special noise reduction feature, though I’m not sure how well it worked, or was needed, as most of the images were exposed for under 30 seconds (the recommended threshold for turning on the noise reduction software).
To get proper exposure and focus, I set the focus for infinity, and the exposure to f/8, at ISO 100. I then used the bulb exposure, and kept the shutter open until 2 or 3 lightning strikes had occurred. The exposures varied between 9 and 111 seconds, but most were in the 20 second range. Use of the Canon remote aided in reducing camera shake when triggering the shutter.
All in all, it was a very successful lighning photo shoot, and I can’t wait till I get a chance to try again!
(Click on any image below to see it on Flickr, or (better) follow this link to see the entire Flickr set of 8 Kansas lightning photographs.
The last image is taken facing northeast, towards Salina; from an astromer’s perspective, Salina’s lightdome is quite offensive, but that’s the subject of another story.