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how to photograph lightning – easy mode

It is summer. It is hot. It is thunderstorm season! Time to grab the camera and hunt some lightning! Here is an easy method, how to capture lightning during nighttime without using any fancy equipment. All you need is a camera with bulb exposure mode, some patience and of course your favourite thunderstorm.blitze_000The problem with capturing lightning is, that you never know when and where it will appear. When you see the flash it is already too late to pull the trigger (That is, unless your name is Lucky Luke). The idea of the technique described here, is to capture a large area of the sky almost constantly, to not miss a single thunderbolt.

Camera settings
lens: the widest angle you can find (the settings I used with the Nikon D 90 in () | 18 mm lens)
ISO: lowest setting possible (~ ISO 100)
aperture: close your shutter depending on how much environmental light you want to capture (4.0 – 8.0)
focus: set to manual, infinite focus distance or focused on foreground object (almost infinite)
white balance: depending on your environmental light (auto WB)
quality: raw format is strongly recommended. The lightning will almost certainly produce clipped color values. The two or three stops of extra dynamic range might save your ass in a few shots. (fine jpg + raw)
shutter speed: bulb – expose as long as you pull the shutter (bulb)

blitze_003

getting the shot. First decide on what your foreground motive shall be. I took these pictures from the balcony on the first floor. Since the most exciting objects around are some rooftops and trees (boooring…), I chose to have as little sharp foreground elements as possible. Much rather I wanted to create some spooky effects.
Next get yourself a drink and turn up your music good! I recommend a melodramatic soundtrack, worthy of underlaying the raw powers of nature. In either case don’t forget to tell your neighbour to complain to their favourite god, for having the nerve of being thundering loud at night.
Allright. Camera is set. Mood is set. Time to get some shots! Point the camera towards the horizon. (A wild Mr. Obvious appears and mentions: “It is more likely for a lightning to appear in the distance than directly above you. And if it did, you would be toast anyway. Ha ha h…” nobody laughs as Mr. O. disappears in the dark corner of shame.) Start exposing and move the camera around freely, scanning the sky. If there are no light sources in your near environment, everything will become motion blurred. The foreground objects will only show through the light of the flash. Release the trigger shortly after you have seen a thunderbolt or if the exposure time gets too long.

blitze_001

exposure. In this shot (~ 10 sec exposure) you can see the lightning having a little fight with our neighbours garden lamp. Choose a darker location, if you don’t want the city lights to take over the show.
Test how long you can expose, without having the picture lit up too much by the ambient light. You can close the shutter even more or go for shorter exposure times to allow the pictures to be darker. I ended up using aperture 8.0 and about 10 seconds exposure time.

blitze_002

keep shooting. The movement of the camera and several lightnings in a row produce some creepy multiple exposure effects. You will notice that the longer you expose, the longer it will take your camera to process the picture. This means waiting time, before you can get the next shot. Most likely the coolest lightning will appear shortly after releasing the trigger. If you don’t belive in Murphy’s law, try this, and let natures striking random generator teach you a facepalming lesson.
However there is a trick to avoid long processing times. Directly after an uneventful exposure switch the camera off an on a again (sounds familiar?). You are back in the game in only half a second. This makes it possible to expose almost constantly and miss no nothing.

blitze_004

side effects. The long time exposure on an almost black photo, will as well reveal some unpleasant sides of your camera. Check out the constant noise the sensor produces. You might find some hot pixels as well. By turning the camera off, during image processing the hot pixels seem to show up even more. Here is my theory (prove my wrong!). The automatic hot pixel correction, seems to be one of the last steps of image processing. Shutting the camera down aborts the process. The correction is not run and the file gets written as seen by the sensor. The picture above is a 100 % crop showing the effect.

blitze_006

statistics. To conclude this, here is some data of my successful (? what do you think?) shoot.

shooting time: 1 h
pictures taken: 81
lightnings captured: 22
totally burned out shots: 5
times water on lense: 2
beer: 1

blitze_008

Let me know, if you give it a try. I would love to see some of your results!
…and what is your thunderstorm soundtrack?

image licenseĀ  Creative Commons Lizenzvertrag

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Nuke copy pasta #001 : custom light wrap

Nuke is the compositing software we all use and love. The nuke copy pasta series is a collection of useful, every day setups. Copy, paste, have fun! Let’s start with a simple light wrap.

teapot_lw_compare

Nuke has a built in light wrap tool, which is quick and easy to use. However sometimes it is more convenient to built an own light wrap, giving a lot more flexibility.

Here is a basic setup:
custom_light_wrap_script

You can copy paste the code below, or download the nuke script (images included).

set cut_paste_input [stack 0]
version 6.3 v1
BackdropNode {
inputs 0
name BackdropNode1
label "light wrap"
note_font_size 33
selected true
xpos -1035
ypos -381
bdwidth 322
bdheight 484
}
push 0
NoOp {
label "FG\nwith alpha"
selected true
xpos -1139
ypos 32
}
Dot {
name Dot2
selected true
xpos -1009
ypos 41
}
set N5f520c0 [stack 0]
Dot {
name Dot12
selected true
xpos -1009
ypos 124
}
set N21fe6df0 [stack 0]
EdgeDetectWrapper {
channels alpha
erodesize 1
name EdgeDetectWrapper3
selected true
xpos -1043
ypos 194
}
push $N21fe6df0
Dot {
name Dot6
selected true
xpos -674
ypos 124
}
RotoPaint {
inputs 0
curves {AnimTree: "" {
Version: 1.2
Flag: 0
RootNode: 1
Node: {
NodeName: "Root" {
Flag: 512
NodeType: 1
Transform: 0 0 S 0 0 S 0 0 S 0 0 S 0 1 S 0 1 S 0 0 S 0 1024 S 0 778
NumOfAttributes: 10
"vis" S 0 1 "opc" S 0 1 "mbo" S 0 1 "mb" S 0 1 "mbs" S 0 0.5 "fo" S 0 1 "fx" S 0 0 "fy" S 0 0 "ff" S 0 1 "ft" S 0 0
}
NumOfChildren: 1
Node: {
NodeName: "Rectangle1" {
Flag: 576
NodeType: 3
CurveGroup: "" {
Transform: 0 0 S 1 1 0 S 1 1 0 S 1 1 0 S 1 1 1 S 1 1 1 S 1 1 0 S 1 1 1094 S 1 1 349.5
Flag: 0
NumOfCubicCurves: 2
CubicCurve: "" {
Type: 0 Flag: 8192 Dim: 2
NumOfPoints: 12
1 S 1 1 0 S 1 1 -296.333 0 1 S 1 1 670 S 1 1 796.4 0 1 S 1 1 290.667 S 1 1 0 0 1 S 1 1 -290.667 S 1 1 0 0 1 S 1 1 1530 S 1 1 794 0 1 S 1 1 0 S 1 1 -296.333 0 1 S 1 1 0 S 1 1 296.333 0 1 S 1 1 1530 S 1 1 -95 0 1 S 1 1 -290.667 S 1 1 0 0 1 S 1 1 290.667 S 1 1 0 0 1 S 1 1 670 S 1 1 -92.6 0 1 S 1 1 0 S 1 1 296.333 0
}
CubicCurve: "" {
Type: 0 Flag: 8192 Dim: 2
NumOfPoints: 12
1 S 1 1 0 S 1 1 -296.333 0 1 S 1 1 0 S 1 1 0 0 1 S 1 1 290.667 S 1 1 0 0 1 S 1 1 -290.667 S 1 1 0 0 1 S 1 1 0 S 1 1 0 0 1 S 1 1 0 S 1 1 -296.333 0 1 S 1 1 0 S 1 1 296.333 0 1 S 1 1 0 S 1 1 0 0 1 S 1 1 -290.667 S 1 1 0 0 1 S 1 1 290.667 S 1 1 0 0 1 S 1 1 0 S 1 1 0 0 1 S 1 1 0 S 1 1 296.333 0
}
NumOfAttributes: 43
"vis" S 0 1 "r" S 0 1 "g" S 0 1 "b" S 0 1 "a" S 0 1 "ro" S 0 0 "go" S 0 0 "bo" S 0 0 "ao" S 0 0 "opc" S 0 1 "bm" S 0 0 "inv" S 0 0 "mbo" S 0 0 "mb" S 0 1 "mbs" S 0 0.5 "mbsot" S 0 0 "mbso" S 0 0 "fo" S 0 1 "fx" S 0 0 "fy" S 0 0 "ff" S 0 1 "ft" S 0 0 "src" S 0 0 "stx" S 0 0 "sty" S 0 0 "str" S 0 0 "sr" S 0 0 "ssx" S 0 1 "ssy" S 0 1 "ss" S 0 0 "spx" S 0 1024 "spy" S 0 778 "stot" S 0 0 "sto" S 0 0 "sv" S 0 0 "sf" S 0 1 "sb" S 0 1 "nv" S 0 1 "view1" S 0 1 "ltn" S 0 1 "ltm" S 0 1 "ltt" S 0 0 "tt" S 0 7
}
}
NumOfChildren: 0
}
}
}
}
toolbox {selectAll {
{ selectAll ssx 1 ssy 1 sf 1 }
{ createBezier ssx 1 ssy 1 sf 1 sb 1 tt 4 }
{ createBSpline ssx 1 ssy 1 sf 1 sb 1 }
{ createEllipse ssx 1 ssy 1 sf 1 sb 1 }
{ createRectangle ssx 1 ssy 1 sf 1 sb 1 tt 7 }
{ brush ssx 1 ssy 1 sf 1 sb 1 }
{ eraser src 2 ssx 1 ssy 1 sf 1 sb 1 }
{ clone src 1 ssx 1 ssy 1 sf 1 sb 1 }
{ reveal src 3 ssx 1 ssy 1 sf 1 sb 1 }
{ dodge src 1 ssx 1 ssy 1 sf 1 sb 1 }
{ burn src 1 ssx 1 ssy 1 sf 1 sb 1 }
{ blur src 1 ssx 1 ssy 1 sf 1 sb 1 }
{ sharpen src 1 ssx 1 ssy 1 sf 1 sb 1 }
{ smear src 1 ssx 1 ssy 1 sf 1 sb 1 }
} }
toolbar_brush_hardness 0.200000003
toolbar_lifetime_type all
toolbar_source_transform_scale {1 1}
toolbar_source_transform_center {320 240}
colorOverlay 0
lifetime_type "all frames"
motionblur_shutter_offset_type centred
source_black_outside true
name RotoPaint1
selected true
xpos -975
ypos -22
}
push $N5f520c0
Dot {
name Dot5
selected true
xpos -1009
ypos -114
}
set N5f523f0 [stack 0]
Keyer {
invert true
operation "luminance key"
range {0.01773313805 0.08494734981 1 1}
name Keyer1
selected true
xpos -975
ypos -124
}
Blur {
size 4.8
name Blur6
selected true
xpos -975
ypos -88
}
push $N5f523f0
Dot {
name Dot7
selected true
xpos -1009
ypos -226
}
set N5f52a50 [stack 0]
EdgeDetectWrapper {
channels alpha
erodesize 1.2
name EdgeDetectWrapper2
selected true
xpos -968
ypos -235
}
Blur {
size 8
name Blur3
selected true
xpos -968
ypos -198
}
Dot {
name Dot8
label "\n\nfine lw matte"
selected true
xpos -934
ypos -156
}
push $N5f52a50
Dot {
name Dot3
selected true
xpos -1009
ypos -302
}
EdgeDetectWrapper {
channels {-rgba.red -rgba.green -rgba.blue rgba.alpha}
erodesize -3
name EdgeDetectWrapper1
selected true
xpos -865
ypos -311
}
Blur {
size 16.4
name Blur2
selected true
xpos -865
ypos -273
}
Dot {
name Dot4
label "big lw matte"
selected true
xpos -831
ypos -233
}
Merge2 {
inputs 2
operation plus
mix 0.725
name Merge4
selected true
xpos -865
ypos -159
}
Grade {
inputs 1+1
channels alpha
white 0.63
name Grade1
selected true
xpos -865
ypos -88
}
set N16306f00 [stack 0]
Merge2 {
inputs 2
operation stencil
name Merge3
selected true
xpos -865
ypos -22
disable true
}
set N16307230 [stack 0]
push $cut_paste_input
NoOp {
label "BG\n"
selected true
xpos -514
ypos -317
}
Dot {
name Dot1
selected true
xpos -480
ypos -41
}
set N16307890 [stack 0]
Blur {
size 36.5
name Blur1
selected true
xpos -621
ypos -50
}
Dot {
name Dot11
label "blurred bg"
selected true
xpos -587
ypos -14
}
push $N5f520c0
Merge2 {
inputs 2+1
operation plus
mix 0.57
name Merge2
selected true
xpos -865
ypos 37
}
set N16307ef0 [stack 0]
ShuffleCopy {
inputs 2
name ShuffleCopy1
selected true
xpos -708
ypos 37
}
Premult {
name Premult2
selected true
xpos -611
ypos 37
}
push $N16307890
Merge2 {
inputs 2
name Merge1
selected true
xpos -514
ypos 37
}
set N16308ee0 [stack 0]
Blur {
inputs 1+1
size 2
mix 0.625
name Blur4
selected true
xpos -514
ypos 194
}
Dot {
name Dot13
label "slight edge blur\n(be careful with grain)"
selected true
xpos -415
ypos 203
}
push $N16308ee0
Dot {
name Dot14
label "fg over bg"
selected true
xpos -404
ypos 40
}
push $N16307ef0
Dot {
name Dot15
label "plus edge blur\nover fg"
selected true
xpos -831
ypos 76
}
push $N16307230
Dot {
name Dot10
label "mask out area"
selected true
xpos -762
ypos -19
}
push $N16306f00
Dot {
name Dot9
label "reduce lw in dark areas"
selected true
xpos -762
ypos -79
}