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How to Capture Lightning Photos with your Camcorder or video camera.

I noticed my Tutorial on Photographing lightning has been getting many hits a day.  I figured I might as well share my secret on getting lightning photos with a camcorder or video camera.  Believe it or not, 30% of my photos were actually part of a video that I recorded.  This method will no doubt make Lightning photography very simple even during the day.  The biggest challenge with daytime lightning photographs is trying to eliminate the light of the day and still be able to capture a light source (lightning).  With a camcorder you eliminate exposure and fstop settings and will get a quality image each time. 

Here are the pro’s of Lightning shots from a Video camera.

1. you dont have to worry about timing the lightning to catch it.  Just have your camcorder recording in the direction of the storm.

2. Depending on the size of tape or disk or memory card on your camcorder the more time you can sit back , relax and let the camcorder do all the work.

I can list many more as well.

 

Now for some Cons……..

1. Quality of a lightning photos from video compared to an actual photograph from a camera will vary.  Camcorders are slowly getting higher frames per second and this will allow for better clarity of your image, however if your using a 7+ megapixel Camera the video photos will look like 3 or 4 megapixel photos.  However you will have more lightning shots comapred to just a digital camera.

2. You need to know how to Transfer your video to your Computer with either a firewire or usb transfer which could take a while.

3. You end up doing more work for the finished product compared to a digital camera which produces your shot immediately, however with a camcorder you are cheating and the extra work should be worth it. 

 

LETS MOVE ON……………….

Things you will need.

1. Camcorder

2. Tripod  ( if you dont have a tripod then set your camera on a flat surface.  Any video with lightning while the camcorder is moving will result in a blurry image.

3. Virtual Dub software (free software)  http://virtualdub.sourceforge.net/

4. Image editor to paste the captured frame.

5 Common sense and weather knowledge.  Dont risk your life for a shot.  If you can do your recording from a car or under a roof then do it.  Dont be the only person in the middle of an open field while lightning is striking all around you.  PLEASE NOTE:  While I write this tutorial to help you achieve the ultimate, I cannot be held responsible for any injury caused to you or death from use of this guide.  I write this in hopes that you practice any activity during a storm as safe as you can as I do myself. 

 

Waiting for the storm…..

Assuming you know your way around Radar software and weather forecasts as well as the storm prediction centers forecast tools  (    http://www.spc.noaa.gov/exper/    ) I will believe that you know when a storm is expected.   WHEN you have a storm in range set your camcorder on your tripod with a fuilly charged battery in the direction of the lightning.  Also note that the storm is always moving so move your camcorder with the storm or in the direction of the most active lightning.  Try to watch the storm while the camcorder is recording.  With every lightning bolt try to remember the time on the tape (this will help in the production stage).  After you are pleased with an amount of lightning recorded on your camcorder simply take everything inside, its now time to see what you got.

PRODUCTION STAGE………………

After you have transfered your media to your pc and have installed VIRTUAL DUB (see things you need) it is now time to see the lightning bolts.

1 .     OPEN VIRTUAL DUB

2 .    Load your Video and let Virtual Dub do its thing when opening the video file. 

PRESS PLAY………………………………….

FIND FRAME WHERE LIGHTNING SHOWS IN FULL.  [[PLEASE NOTE]] YOU WILL HAVE MANY FRAMES OF LIGHTNING FOR EVERY BOLT.  MAKE SURE TO GO FORWARD A FEW CLICKS OR BACK A FEW CLICKS TO CHOOSE THE OPTIMIM VIEW.

GO TO VIDEO TAB THEN “COPY SOURCE FRAME TO CLIPBOARD”

 

Now you need to open your image editor and Paste the Frame into the editor.  Mostly Right click and paste as new image or use “edit tab” and paste image. 

 

Your end result will be

 

I hope you find this tutorial very helpful.  If you have any questions please leave a comment or email me and I will be glad to help. 

 

Have fun out there and sTay SAFE…….

 

-gerrit gulden

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