How many cameras do you need?

Geoff Boyle

I just want to get a figure on how much camera equipment you guys use to capture certain meteorological events, such as lightning. If you can give me some relative cost figures, that would be great. I never tried my hand at getting some lightning on film, but if it's within my budget I think I might give it a shot next upcoming season.

Also, is conventional or digital camera's better for that kind of job?
Well it could cost as little as 50 dollars with just buying a cheap SLR with a tripod and some film ( I like slide film). And you can find some cheap SLR's on ebay and could go all the way up from there, like into digital cameras and such. So if you would like to do this I would set a dollar amount of what you want to spend and go from there. I started out with a Canon Rebel G and some slide film and I have just got my Nikon D70 which I will start using for my lightning and storm photos more but wont stop using the film camera all together.

I also head that there is a device that you can mount by or on your camera that detects lightning. After it detects a flash, it will trigger your camera to take a picture at that very moment.

Now am I totally off my nut here, LOL, or does this thing really exist?

If it does, how well does it work and how much does it cost?

Thanks again!

Catching lightning on film is very affordable. Getting it right is the expensive part.

You can buy the film camera very cheaply, but getting it right on all that film is the expensive part. Although, with digital it is the other way around...expensive for the camera, cheap to take pictures. Also, with digital it is much easier to do trial and error as you can see the result right away. With film you have to take diligent notes to determince what you did right or wrong.

With lightning you need long exposures and digital cameras are still weak in that area. Good processing techniques make this less of a problem.
I started out with a cheap ($75.00) SLR with a 'BULB' setting and 100 speed film. I have just recently tried a Canon Digital Rebel SLR and it seems to work as well. Like one of the earlier posts stated, you can get a cheaper camera and spend more money on film or spend more money on the camera and weed out the pics you don't like (and also experiment more with different settings). In the long run, the digital will most likely be the cheaper route.

There are several sites on the internet telling of ways to photograph lightning, just check around and get out when you can and try different settings.
Back in the days when it used to actually storm in Oklahoma I would shoot lightning. One way I kept the cost down was to shoot print film and have the lab do a process only (no prints) for a $1.50 a roll, then I would have them make prints of any that looked good. I would use fuji 36ex 100 speed but I am not sure if they make 36ex any more.
There's a IR triggered device called "The Lightning Trigger". It's a rather expensive ($150 or so) IR triggered device that hooks in through a cameras electronic shutter release port. It doesn't work with the older manual cameras that I'm aware of.

Any flash of light in it's reception frequency will trigger it. I don't remember the specs on the frequency it triggers from, but I do know that my TV remote would set it off. Add to this lightning flashes, so it had to have a pretty broad range. The problem I had with it, is just that. Dang near anything would kick it off. Flashes from behind, or flashes outside the view area, etc. I've still got it, but it hasn't been used in quite some time. I keep it around in case I need to set up an IR trigger for something.

Your best bet is to start out with print film and do like Charles does. Print film is considerably cheaper. Have only the film developed and no prints, until you have one you want to keep. Use ASA 100 speed film. Use long exposures and a tripod (or something you can mount to your vehicle if you don't want to get out).

Take a look at where the lightning is coming from. Where it's striking. Is there a pattern, is there a concentrated area? Frame your shot, go with an aperture of about f5.6 (Less if your lens will do it), use your shutter release and have at it. I would start out with about 1 minute (night time) exposures up to about 3 or 4 minutes. If you get a good flash, move to the next frame.

Check out the web. There's plenty of resources out there to give you a good idea of how to proceed.

Oh yeah, you CAN do digital. It's a lot harder and more expensive to start up with, but you will eventually get enough back in film/processing savings to make up for it.