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Old August 23rd, 2008, 10:57 AM   #1
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You Can Pretty Much Forget About Shooting Lightning......

Multiple lightning strikes all night long.
Every possible setting. Shutter off, shutter on, every shutter speed, every SLS, every shutter angle......
Nothing could keep me away from the dreaded CMOS!

I'll be out tonight with a HV30 to see if it fairs any better.

Optimistic? Um..... yeah.
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Old August 23rd, 2008, 11:12 AM   #2
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You may want to talk to Alister Chapman. He seems to get lighting documented well.

He posted this a while back:

"One week in April
A week of severe thunderstorms, hail, lightning and a tornado. All shot with my EX1.

One Week in April (Storm Chasing in the USA) on Vimeo "
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Old August 23rd, 2008, 11:13 AM   #3
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I just found Alister's recommendation for a 32 frame shutter with 1 second intervals.

Elemental Project Tucson Storm on Vimeo

Nice work.
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Old August 23rd, 2008, 11:15 AM   #4
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Thanks Benjimin :)
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Old August 23rd, 2008, 01:14 PM   #5
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If you want to shoot a timelapse sequence then 32 frame EX slow shutter at 1 frame every second works very well. You should use -3db gain, but there will still be some noise. I get rid of the noise in post by applying a heavy noise reduction filter that uses frame averaging, then I key the lightning back in over the top with a luma key. This way I get very clean noise free background while retaining all the detail of the lightning.

If you are not doing timelapse then shoot progressive either without any shutter or with a 2 frame shutter. You will get some shots with split frame effects, but it is my experience that the majority of shots will be fine. I shoot lightning a lot spending many weeks storm chasing around the world. This year primarily with EX1's and EX3's. I agree that CMOS isn't the best choice, a CCD camera will generally do a better job at lightning but if your careful CMOS will produce good results more often than not.
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Old August 23rd, 2008, 03:25 PM   #6
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Hi Alister, Very kind of you to chime in.

Fantastic work! Always inspiring to see nature in all her glory.

So I just need some small clarification.

So far I'm shooting at night (black sky)

"If you want to shoot a timelapse sequence then 32 frame EX slow shutter at 1 frame every second works very well."

- The thing is, why would I only want the shutter open for one second at a time (Interval Recording right?). It would be a shame to have the shutter open as a strike happens only to have it close because of a one second setting while the rest of the lightning rolls across the sky.

Looking forward.....
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Old August 23rd, 2008, 04:09 PM   #7
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If you use the 32 frame slow shutter recording 1 frame every second you won't miss any lightning strikes as the shutter is open for the full second (and a bit more depending on the frame rate). Using this method you should capture any lightning that happens. That's how I did the final sequence in this clip:

Elemental Project Tucson Storm on Vimeo

It works and is a technique I use a lot to create dramatic lightning timelapse. Otherwise I use progressive with no shutter or 2 frame SLS. I shoot for 30 seconds, if there is no lightning press last clip delete (assigned to a button) and roll again only keeping takes that contain lightning.
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Old August 23rd, 2008, 04:43 PM   #8
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Right on Alister....

"If you use the 32 frame slow shutter recording 1 frame every second you won't miss any lightning strikes as the shutter is open for the full second (and a bit more depending on the frame rate)."

- This means shutter on........... right?
- This must mean that you are shooting interlaced right?

"Otherwise I use progressive with no shutter or 2 frame SLS. "

- I tried this all last night and got split screen garbage. Do you mean progressive with no shutter AND a SLS of 2 frames together at the same time?

Language is so difficult here. A simple point form step by step on how to would really save time here.

Looking forward......
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Old August 24th, 2008, 04:11 AM   #9
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You can use the shutter with progressive or interlaced. I always shoot lightning using progressive with the EX or any other camera. Lightning shot using interlace, even with a CCD camera can exhibit some odd artifacts as often only 1 of the two fields has the lightning, the other being blank. As I am in the UK I normally shoot 25P. If you are in the US or other NTSC region I would should lightning at 24P. The key with a CMOS sensor is to have the shutter open for longer than the lightning takes to flash so that the sensor readout takes place while there is no flash.

So my main methods for shooting lightning are:

25P Shutter Off (occasional split frame effect)
or
25P 2 frame SLS (almost no split frame effect)

In NTSC regions use 24P

For timelapse:

32 Frame EX slow shutter, 1 frame every 1 second, -3db gain. You can use 16 frame slow shutter for less noise, but you may miss some lightning.

I haven't tried it but using S&Q motion and shooting progressive at a frame rate less than 15fps should also help prevent split frame effects, but will give faster than real time playback unless you adjust the speed in post..... Hmmm, must try that on the next shoot.... should be a good trade off between timelapse and real-time.
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Old August 24th, 2008, 06:08 AM   #10
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Thanks Alister,

Well..... you must have a special version of the EX1 because at 24P NTSC with the shutter off and on I got something like 30 strikes that were garbage. Strange to hear that you have mostly good results.

I'll try your suggestion of "32 frame EX slow shutter at 1 frame every second" but even this is confusing. "32 frame EX slow shutter?" EX what? What is EX? The camera? Of course we are talking about the EX1. Why are you calling it a "32 frame EX slow shutter?" Is there something I missing here?

I'm not even really sure how time lapse lightning strikes would even work. I mean, to me, the idea of having the camera cycling through an on/off period while strikes are happening means that the camera could be off (not recording) when a burst of lightning happens..... which for me seems counter productive. Why not just let the camera roll?

I appreciate you time and insight. I hope to get this wrapped as we are having an enormous nightly display here in South India!
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Old August 24th, 2008, 06:26 AM   #11
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Hi Alister....

I found the EX Slow shutter function you are talking about :)
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