Setting up the 6D in a flash for lightning photography

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Y Hafting
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Setting up the 6D in a flash for lightning photography
4 months ago

Yesterday night i watched the thunderstorm that passed north of Lillestrøm (Norway) close to where i live. This summer has been very hot compared to Norwegian standards, so there have also been a few thunderstorms, however this was a rare occasion for photography, as there were virtually no rain on my terrace, and the thunderstorm also passed in a safe distance and a viewable direction from my home.

Now of course being an amateur mostly focusing on capturing my family, I'm not always fully prepared for this type of event; however i have made pictures in similar conditions (mainly shooting fireworks at new years eve), so i do know the basics i want to achieve.

Ideally i will be shooting at ISO 100, around 10 seconds per frame (depending on the lightning frequency, which in this case was around 1 per minute). The FOV should be wide enough that i can assume capturing the lightning, yet narrow enough, that the framing will be usable without heavy cropping. Aperture should be small enough that i can get most of the scenery in focus. The camera should also be positioned in a good spot to get a reasonably good framing of the spectacle, and i should be shooting using my smarpthone as a wireless remote.

Now since this event is rare, and i cannot predict duration of the event, i grab my camera and the tripod, and run out on the terrace to try get some captures before either the thunderstorms dies, moves away or the rain starts pouring down.

The first mistake i do is not turning on the terrace light for attaching the camera to the tripod. Time spend attaching the camera does cost a couple lightnings to pass, which of course is regrettable. I miss the lightning causing a brief power-down for Lillestrøm city, before i have the camera attached.

The first few images i take without going full manually, which i count as the second mistake, as the images turn out too bright, now this is easily fixed, however fumbling cost me about one minute as i turned the dial to Av and not M by mistake (the next image thus takes 25 seconds and not 10 which was my aim). After correcting this the camera is basicly ready, however as my tripod is a flimsy one, the results are far from perfect:

The instability shown in this image is mainly caused by pushing the release button while the camera is standing on a fully extended lightweight tripod (which i consider the third mistake, since i already knew i would get camera shake this way).

The next thing i do is grabbing my smartphone to try set up wireless shooting. This of course also takes some times fiddling with, so another couple of lightnings is missed. The images captured now, at least seems to hold a decent technical standard:

Now the focus is to position myself and the camera better and try find a good framing for whatever is left of the event:

I believe this is the best capture i got, although i am afraid a zoomed in a little bit too much, so i lost some on the right hand side:

All in all i captured five lightning strikes (and two flashes where the lightning was concealed behind a cloud) in a period of 25-30 minutes before the rain started pouring down. If I had been better prepared, the number could have been around 10-15.

Now apart from the mistakes i have already stated, i reckon there are places where i can only hope that canon will pick up the thread and make better options for the future. This goes especially with the android remote shooting app, and the camera wifi setup.

To allow for fast wifi setup i would like the camera to have a dedicated switch for wifi. Ideally this would be a selector allowing for choosing between at least two predefined wifi setups. Apart from the off setting, the first available option would then be having the camera making its own network (intended for field use), while the second would be the one choosing the home or studio network. I do not mind that setting up the network initially is buried in menus, but the point is having the wifi option readily available, whether it is for occasions as this, or family events where i do not want to spend time fiddling with the camera too much.

To allow for faster and more continuous style shooting, i would like to be able to download images from the camera while it is making a captures. This is extremely important in the case of lightning and firework capture where the camera is making captures more or less all the time, and i do not want to wait for pictures being downloaded to my smartphone while i am shooting continuously using time values of several seconds.

However i do like to retain the ability to review the images in case i need to make changes from one picture to the next. Thus the second option i would like to have for remote shooting is to allow for changing settings for the next capture while making the capture. I am aware that i would likely not get a preview at that point, but that is less of a concern. I would also like to have the option of selecting all settings for the camera (even with the camera dial being on P, AV, or M) from the remote app. The app should, ideally allow me to set all these independently at all times, without spending much time: - time value (including auto TV) - aperture (including auto Av) - iso (including auto iso)

Please post your comments if you have any, whether it is suggestions for better remote apps, how to make the setup faster/better (without adding heavy equipment), or suggestions on how the remote shooting could or should work.

Cheers!

-Yngve

Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM Canon EOS 6D Samsung Galaxy Note
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