Tuesday, August 3, 2010
Chase The Storms
Gear up for the wild weather of late summer to get some intense landscapes
While it would be nice to have a device that caused lightning to fire on cue, a lightning trigger actually doesn’t affect the lightning. But it does something almost as good: It fires your camera when lightning occurs. At night, you can open the camera shutter and just wait for a strike (although that’s kind of hit-or-miss), but during the day, there’s too much light to keep the shutter open for minutes at a time (not to mention the draw on the camera battery). With the Lightning Trigger from Stepping Stone Products, you don’t have to keep the shutter open; the camera automatically fires when lightning occurs, day or night. (The Lightning Trigger also can fire your camera when it detects a burst from an electronic flash unit, or even fireworks.)
If you’re working from your car, you can keep your gear there. If you’re hiking to a location, you’ll want a convenient photo backpack with a rain cover to protect your gear. A bag or case is a good way to keep your gear organized in your car, too.
A metal tripod makes a perfect lightning rod, so isn’t the best choice for a summer-storm camera support outdoors. A bean-bag support contains minimal metal (either none at all or just a camera-mounting screw) and lets you put the camera almost anywhere—including spots a tripod won’t fit. Of course, the camera itself contains metal parts, so it’s always wise to stay a safe distance from the storm (see the “Lightning Strikes!” sidebar).
Artificial Light For Nearby Subjects
A flash unit like the Nissin Di866 can provide pleasant fill light for nearby subjects in your summer-storm shots. All DSLR manufacturers and several other companies make shoe-mount flash units. If you’re doing videos with an HD DSLR, you might find the Litepanels MicroPro Hybrid or Flashpoint FPVL112 handy; the MicroPro Hybrid serves as a flash unit for still photos and can provide continuous light output for videos.
The key to using flash for outdoor photos is subtlety: You just want the flash to lighten shadows and maybe add a catchlight to an animal’s eye. You don’t want the photo to look flash-lit. Most newer DSLRs allow you to adjust the flash-to-ambient light ratio; experiment with different settings, starting with -1 for the flash compensation.
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