About this iReport
  • Not verified by CNN

  • Click to view davidmonson's profile
    Posted August 23, 2014 by
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Severe weather

    More from davidmonson

    Arizona Monsoon Lightning

    Arizona monsoons bring some of the most spectacular lightning shows. Perched on the bank of a wash in Mesa, Arizona, I was able to be a spectator to a truly great storm. Striking just at sunset, I was able to catch a wide range of colors of red and purple in my first composite shot. The second was shot just after sunset and pulled in some particularly beautiful hints of turquoise. The third was more of an experiment to see what would happen by pointing the camera towards Phoenix SkyHarbor Airport with the lightning striking around it. This shot is actually a compilation of over 2 hours worth of lightning strikes and has an apocalyptic feel to it. The addition of the plane lights as they were taking off and landing (on the left of the picture) only added to the effect.

    Want to create shots like this of your own? I'll give you a rundown of my process. I'm using a Canon 6D with standard zoom lens on a tripod. I use a wired remote with a lock and set my exposure to 10 seconds on repeat. ISO depends on the time of day/evening but usually can be close to 100 or other near daytime settings as lightning is very very bright. My aperture varied between f8 and f10. I aim the camera towards an area of high activity, manually focus on something in the distance and press and lock the trigger (which causes the camera to continuously take 10 second exposures one after another until i unlock it). Once I feel like I've captured what i need, I import to Adobe Lightroom and batch edit my shots and bring out some of the more dramatic colors. After exporting the individual shots I use a piece of freeware called Starstax, which is typically used for star photography and compiling star trails. The concept behind it is that it will combine and compare all photos uploaded and let the brightest pixel of all of them shine through. If done right, only the lightning will shine through and the rest of the photo will remain crisp. (note: this is just the quick and dirty method and doesn't always work perfectly if the clouds and sky are bright as well in which case you should apply a gradient filter which darkens the sky of all the photos but one.) Now you have your final composite lightning shot! You can continue to edit and crop that image if you'd like but the bulk of the work is done. Now go find a great storm to shoot! But make sure you take common sense precaution and avoid getting hit by lightning yourself! Enjoy!
    Add your Story Add your Story