More Sky and Water – Maybe a Little Lightning

Posted in Mixed Nuts on October 14th, 2009 by MadDog
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I’ll start today with a couple of images that I got a few nights ago when I was trying to capture lightning in a thunderstorm. Here is an amusing image of a boat tied up at the south side of the compound near the airport. You can see the lights of the airport glowing in the distance and off of the bottoms of the nearby low clouds. The lighting on the boat and the fence and trees is from the main wharf which is at least a half-kilometre away:Boats in the light from the main wharf a half-kilometre away

The shot took fifteen seconds to expose. You can see a bit of motion blur on the boat, as it was bobbing around in the gentle waves.

This is the only shot of the thunderstorm that showed any lightning. My Canon G9 only allows up to fifteen second exposures. I wish I could get a full minute out of it. There wasn’t enough lightning in this cloud to make more than one or two flashes in fifteen seconds. This was the best shot that I got. I’m going to try again soon:A bit of lightning in a Cumulonimbus cloud

Strangely, this year has been almost absent of thunderstorms.

Here is a shot of Coconut point in the morning sun. I got this one on the drive into town a couple of days ago:

Coconut Point in the morning sun

It’s not a bad sunrise shot, but not as spectacular as some. What is interesting is that I accidentally caught a mob of Flying Foxes returning to town after there night-time raid on the gardens. You might have to click to enlarge to see them.

I got some nice images last Sunday on the way back from Blueblood on Mike Cassell’s boat, Felmara.  Here is a shot into the lowering sun with the Canon G9 set with the Night Snapshot scene setting and the flash forced on:Wake spray of Felmara in the afternoon sun I really enjoy having specific settings on the camera in the form of Scenes. It takes care of most of the adjustments that you need for particular shooting conditions. I could have recreated this shot using manual settings, but I would have to think a lot more. With the G9 I simply had to set the camera on Scenes, choose the Night Snapshot by spinning the wheel until it appeared on the screen, push the flash control until I could see that it was on demand and fire away.

This strange apparition is a lenticular cap on a Cumulonimbus cloud:

Lenticular cap on a Cumulonimbus at sunset

The cloud (called a pileus [Latin for cap] – thanks, Steve Goodheart) is rising up so quickly into the upper atmosphere that it is pushing warmer, moister air above it in a sort of shock wave. The warm, moist air can’t get out of the way, so it gets moved up to colder regions and the water in the air condenses into a small lens-shaped cloud that sits on top of the thunderstorm. There was much more of a rainbow effect visible to the naked eye. I couldn’t capture those nuances with the camera.

Though a US$4,000 camera and lens could do a much better job on this very technically demanding shot, for US$400, I’m quite happy with what my Canon G9 gave me:

Canoe in the late afternoon sun

The problem here is what is called dynamic range. I don’t know what the real numbers are, but I’d guess that there is at least 100,000 times as much light in the sun glowing through the thin cloud layer than there is in the trees in the foreground. The little sensors in point and shoot camera simply cannot handle this difference. So, everything gets compressed into a smaller range.

However, the technical aspects of this shot are not what I’m thinking of now. What I am thinking of is the gift that I got when the opportunity arose. There was a good deal of luck involved. Felmara  was moving at a rapid pace. I was shooting a medium telephoto shot from a bouncing boat. I had maybe a one-tenth of a second window for the shot.

Luck was with me.

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