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Old 5th of May 2006 (Fri)   #1
Mammatus
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Default Best lens for shooting lightning?

I'm a meteorologist who loves storms and am only now getting more into the photography aspect. I recently purchased a 30D along with the canon 70-300 IS USM which I love...and the kit lens has treated me relatively well also.

What I'm wondering is what the best lens for photographing lightning is. These would generally be long exposures - anywhere from 2-20 seconds. A long lens is not needed, as a anything with a moderate wide to moderate tele would cover the portion of the sky I'd like to frame.

Does anyone have any good experience shooting lightning? With what lens? What exposure settings did you find to be the best?

Thanks in advance.
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Old 5th of May 2006 (Fri)   #2
S Taylor
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Default Re: Best lens for shooting lightning?

A quality wide angle. I shoot lightning frequently and most often use my 17-40 f/4L. I've also used the 35 f/1.4L with excellent results as well, but I often get within closer than most when photographing lightning, so the 17 end of the wide zoom is most handy.
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Old 6th of May 2006 (Sat)   #3
StealthLude
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Default Re: Best lens for shooting lightning?

All i have is a 10-22 and thats the lens ive used when i TRIED to shoot it...
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Old 6th of May 2006 (Sat)   #4
Raymate
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Default Re: Best lens for shooting lightning?

Quote:
Originally Posted by William Taylor
A quality wide angle. I shoot lightning frequently and most often use my 17-40 f/4L. I've also used the 35 f/1.4L with excellent results as well, but I often get within closer than most when photographing lightning, so the 17 end of the wide zoom is most handy.
Can you give us any tips for this, I have the 17-40 and want try and get some lightning shots
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Old 6th of May 2006 (Sat)   #5
GyRob
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Default Re: Best lens for shooting lightning?

Set camera on 30sec exsposure i use f5.6-f8 iso 100 and take shots pointing at the storm,if i get a good strike after say 10sec i cover lens till the other 20sec's have gone then start again.
Rob.
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Old 6th of May 2006 (Sat)   #6
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Default Re: Best lens for shooting lightning?

Quote:
Originally Posted by gyrob
Set camera on 30sec exsposure i use f5.6-f8 iso 100 and take shots pointing at the storm,if i get a good strike after say 10sec i cover lens till the other 20sec's have gone then start again.
Rob.
Good advice... cheers
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Old 6th of May 2006 (Sat)   #7
Blue Deuce
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Default Re: Best lens for shooting lightning?

I use a remote cable release and keep the shutter open for x amount of seconds until a strike happens and then wait for the usual secondary flashes then I close the shutter. I usually try not to exceed 30 to 45 seconds. I just dont like having it set to a predetermined length.

I dont use the noise reduction custom function either because if you have the shutter open for lets say 30 seconds you wont be able to trip the shutter for another 30 seconds. With a low iso noise isn't usually a problem and if it is I just use Neat Image to clean it up.

The Bogen 3292 car window pod comes in handy also. It enables me to get as close to the action as possible and still maintain a acceptable risk of safety as well as comfort in a storm.

Mammatus, I figure this thread is right up your alley. http://photography-on-the.net/forum/...light=Mammatus

Last edited by Blue Deuce : 6th of May 2006 (Sat) at 11:54.
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Old 6th of May 2006 (Sat)   #8
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Default Re: Best lens for shooting lightning?

ah yes, the famous mammatus shot. Love that picture.

Aside from the usual things, such as tripod and cable release, I recommend around a f/5.6 stop, give or take a little depending on ambient lighting, with enough shutter time to expose the scene. An excellent lightning photographer passed this advice along to me a few years ago - shoot the scene, not the lightning. Often people will try to time lightning or close the shutter after a strike, but thats usually not enough! You want to properly expose your scene and hope the storm cooperates with some beautiful, branching CGs within your exposure.

The more electrically active a storm is, the higher # of keepers in your batch of exposures. But the key is, once you've determined your ideal settings for shooting the scene, keep firing that shutter after each close, for as long as you want or as long as the storm is cooperating.

Good luck
WT

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Old 6th of May 2006 (Sat)   #9
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Default Re: Best lens for shooting lightning?

Quote:
Originally Posted by gyrob
Set camera on 30sec exsposure i use f5.6-f8 iso 100 and take shots pointing at the storm,if i get a good strike after say 10sec i cover lens till the other 20sec's have gone then start again.
Rob.
30 seconds is pretty long for lightning, unless you are capturing multiple strikes and you are in fact stopped down enough. You must have pretty dark skies around your storms. For me, there's often city light around the storms, unless I'm on a chase trip in the plains, so I keep exposure times anywhere from around 6 to 12 seconds.

Why cover the lens for 20 seconds? If you aren't recording anymore light in your exposure, close the shutter. Otherwise, that added 20 seconds of darkness also just added noise to your image. I agree with your recommended ISO of 100, which I forgot to include in my previous reply.

WT
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Old 6th of May 2006 (Sat)   #10
Blue Deuce
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Default Re: Best lens for shooting lightning?

Quote:
Originally Posted by William Taylor
30 seconds is pretty long for lightning, unless you are capturing multiple strikes and you are in fact stopped down enough. You must have pretty dark skies around your storms. For me, there's often city light around the storms, unless I'm on a chase trip in the plains, so I keep exposure times anywhere from around 6 to 12 seconds.
Good advice about shooting the scene as opposed to the lightning itself.

I usually can get by by using a longer exposure since most of my lightning shots are on a waters edge with no artifical light except the little ones on boat docks across the horizon which you cant expose for unless you use a longer exposure.
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Old 6th of May 2006 (Sat)   #11
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Default Re: Best lens for shooting lightning?

Ah, you lucky dog! I just noticed where you live, lol. Man, you aren't to far from the lightning capital of the world (as i'm sure u know!). I would be a very happy camper during the summer months if I had your location... lightning for days!!!

WT
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Old 6th of May 2006 (Sat)   #12
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Default Re: Best lens for shooting lightning?

I wish I was brave enough to take pictures of lighting
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Old 7th of May 2006 (Sun)   #13
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Default Re: Best lens for shooting lightning?

I wish we got some lightning to take pictures of. Alberta has been so dry for so long, it's not even funny. The farmers aren't exactly doing well.
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Old 7th of May 2006 (Sun)   #14
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Default Re: Best lens for shooting lightning?

Hi Mammatus. Best shots I've taken were done in a very rudimentary fashion. I used my 17-40 f/4 set at 17mm, ISO 200. Set the exposure for 5 seconds at f/8. I leaned against a metal pole (as you do in a storm) and simply took exposure after exposure, deleting those that didn't have any lightning on them. The exposure worked pretty well and I'd say the 17-40 was an ideal lens for this task. The lightning was however very close and frequent (and in Texas - we don't get anything quite so impressive in New Zealand).

P.S. I used to be a marine forecaster, and spent many years in our Meteorological Service. I've used the name "mammatus" a few times in the past too!
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