Posts Tagged ‘thunder’

First Rain

October 2nd, 2012

It had been building up for a few days now. The air was heavy. It was hot, humid. Stifling. Then, early this afternoon, it broke with a flash of light, followed by a thunderclap: Beirut’s the first rains after the summer.

I had the most extraordinary view from my balcony. The sky grew dark surprisingly fast. Strong winds threatened to blow away my laundry and had the heavy rain falling at a sharp angle. And the lighting! I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much lightning.

At some point, while standing on the balcony transfixed  - watching the changing landscape, listening to the rain, the wind, the incredibly loud cracks and the rolling rumble of thunder, smelling the wonderful scent of wet earth – I thought of my camera. I’d never taken pictures of lighting. Never really had the opportunity to.

To get a good shot of lightning, you need to set up properly, and to have a measure of patience.

First, the setup. Ideally, you need to set your camera up on a tripod, and in an area which is sheltered from the lashing winds and the rain. Water droplets on your lens can ruin a shot. And worse, water in your camera can, well, ruin your camera. Second, you need a remote trigger, or a cable release. This is to eliminate any vibrations from your finger depressing the shutter button on the camera.

As regards settings, I set the camera to manual mode, set aperture at f22 (the narrowest I could do with the particular lens), ISO at the lowest possible setting, and shutter speed at as slow a speed as I could to get a properly exposed image (in this case, I varied it at between 1 second to 2 seconds, depending on how dark it got). The relatively long exposure time makes it doubly important to ensure that there is no vibration – hence the tripod and cable or wireless trigger – and the long exposure time also helps in increasing your chances of catching lighting (more on that in a moment). It also gives your camera breathing space. Every camera has a buffer – if you take too many shots in rapid succession, you can overload the buffer, which means there may be a lag between one shot and the next while your camera’s processor struggles to keep up. This lag can mean the difference between getting the shot, and not.

Next, you need to ensure you have a big memory card with lots of free space on it. See, since it’s impossible to know where lightning will strike next, and when, you need luck and patience. The trick is to compose your shot in an area where you see a lot of activity, and then fire away. Just keep shooting continuously, shot after shot after shot in immediate succession. There’s just no way you can hope to catch lightning by pressing the shutter button just when you see it. So you just keep shooting, wait patiently, and hope for the best. Hence the memory card with the lots of empty space and the patience.

Unfortunately for me, of the above gear, I had virtually none at my immediate disposal.

No tripod (it broke on my last trip and I haven’t had the chance to replace it yet). No cable release (it’s in my other bag). No memory card with oodles of space (While I’ve downloaded the pics from my last shoot, I haven’t backed them up yet, so until I do, I don’t delete them from my memory cards – You never know). So I improvised as best I could. The balcony table was too low and too wobbly for my purposes, so I took two dining room chairs, plonked them outside on the balcony, each chair facing away from the other and about 15 cm apart. I then placed a stack of books on the crests, forming a bridge between the chairs. I placed my camera on this and used my SB900 strobe’s diffusion dome as a lens support to allow me to tilt the camera and compose my shots.

Once I’d composed my shots and set up, I’d fire away for a while. Then pause, rapidly look through the images and delete the one which didn’t capture lightning (something like 90% of them). Rinse. Repeat. I lost a lot of spectacular opportunities this way. Worse, the whipping winds sent periodically sent rain flying all over the place. Invariably, it ended up on the lens and the camera. Which meant running back inside to wipe off, then come back out and set up again once the rain focused it’s attention elsewhere.

Despite all this, I think I got some pretty decent shots, especially for a first try. :) Do let me know what you think.

And yep, I aim for this to mean that I’ll start posting regularly again. I seem to be shooting a lot of weddings lately, and so may post something on that soon. Stay tuned!

Cheers!

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Looking Out at the Rain

December 20th, 2009

The night of my arrival in Beirut I was greeted with violent thunderstorms. So violent were they that, on landing, the plane shuddered and shook a bit more than most passengers were comfortable with.

The day after was no different.

I love looking out at the rain from the cosiness of my warm, dry, armchair.

The Rain (D700, Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 @ 105mm, f11, ISO 200, 1/320sec)

The heavy rain slows everything down, and allows you time to rediscover things at home, like books.

A Passion for Books (D700, Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 @ 105mm, f3.2, ISO 200, 1/100sec)

Of course, every so often, the showers would stop for a moment or two, allowing a furtive burst of sunlight to pass through a break in the cloud cover, before the black clouds would regroup and double their efforts at drowning the world.

A Break In the Cloud (D700, Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 @ 105mm, f2.8, ISO 200, 1/200sec)

And yes, the colours  in the picture above above are as is – untreated.

More pictures coming soon.

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