The making of “30 Minutes of Lightning over Bulimba”

I recently posted a picture which was taken of a large storm with lots of lightning over Bulimba. It was on the 29th of Dec last year. Usually I would post a picture like the one below of ONE big strike captured in one shot.

ligthning over bulimba
ligthning over bulimba

To capture this sort of picture, I have set-up my camera on a tripod, I have set the camera to manual focus, and pre-focused on the tree in the distance, then set the camera to a manual setting that suited the night, on this occasion it was aperture F9.5 ISO 400 and shutter speed of 30 seconds (this is a long exposure). Then I wait for the lightning to do its job.

But while the storm was passing over, I noticed that the lightning was quite regular. The storm was so large that there  would be lots of strikes. So I had an idea, if I took lots of images of the strikes and then put them all into one shot, what would it look like?

This style of processing is called “stacking”, to do this I have used some free software called Startrails, its usually used to stack images of stars tracing across the sky into a star trail, like the picture below. You can download their software here.

110514 Startrails1

So I reset the camera with this in mind, all I wanted was the shots with lightning in them, so I set the camera to F9.5 ISO 400 and 4 seconds. Using a remote shutter trigger, I locked the camera on so it took continuous shots of the storm as it passed over.

The result was about 450 shots taken over 30 minutes. Of those there were 75 images with lightning bolts in them, here are a few of the images.

ligthning over bulimba
ligthning over bulimba
ligthning over bulimba
ligthning over bulimba
ligthning over bulimba
ligthning over bulimba
ligthning over bulimba
ligthning over bulimba

Please note that the buildings in the foreground and the clouds are not lit up by these four pictures above, but a couple of the closer stronger bolts of lightning actually lit up the houses and clouds like this one.

ligthning over bulimba
ligthning over bulimba

Those 75 were then processed by Startrails and the result is below.

ligthning over bulimba
ligthning over bulimba

The difference in the lightning bolts colour and size were the first things that amazed me. Not to mention the amount of bolts that hit very similar spots!

If you note the camera settings above, this could have been taken on a 100D Canon or a D3200 Nikon with a standard kit lens.

The extras that you would need are a remote shutter cable release depending on your camera brand and model they range from $20 to $100, and a tripod.

Please leave a comment if you have any questions.

Michael

2 thoughts on “The making of “30 Minutes of Lightning over Bulimba””

  1. Thanks Michael, that’s amazing to know. Great to see if you have a good thinking process about what is going on and some patience you don’t need a ridiculously expensive camera to create an amazing shot

    1. Hello Kent,

      Thanks for the comment, yes most cameras have the ability to take amazing shots, its a matter of understanding how and making it work for you, the way you want it to. That’s what we teach!

      Michael

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