An Impromptu Lightning Photo Opportunity

Seattle experienced a record-setting high temperature of 96 degrees (F) yesterday, and with it came an unexpected lightning and thunder show. We don’t often see lightning here, so I was thrilled to sit in my living room with all the windows open and watch the display. And then I realized I should try to take a photo and see what happens. Here’s the result:

Lightning cropped

How did I make this shot?

First, I set up my Nikon D90 on a tripod and set it up on my deck facing the storm. I already had a Nikon 18-135mm lens on the camera, which was nice and wide to try to capture as much of the sky as I could. (I switched to a Sigma 10-20mm lens later, which gave me more sky but by then the storm had moved north out of my field of view.)

Since lightning happens so quickly, I couldn’t hope to trigger the shutter when a burst happened. Instead, I set the camera to Manual mode and dialed in a shutter speed of 30 seconds. There’s quite a bit of street light in my neighborhood (a major road runs past our house), so I cranked the aperture to f/18 to limit the amount of light that would come through the lens. That way, I hoped the sensor would better capture the flash and strike of lightning without as much ambient light.

Then I stood outside and pressed the shutter button (actually, a remote cable release to minimize camera shake) over and over in hopes of capturing something. This photo was actually the third frame I recorded. Here’s what it looks like unedited:

Lightning original

I imported the photos into Lightroom on my Mac and quickly reviewed and rated the 47 photos (using the techniques I recommend in my book, Take Control of Your Digital Photos on a Mac). Next, I chose this photo as the one to share and cropped it to highlight the lightning.

Other than cropping, I didn’t do too much editing: I brought the white balance down to 4046 to remove the reddish cast in the clouds, and pushed the Clarity up to +57 to bring out more of the lightning. Lastly, as an experiment, I added a Radial Filter over the lightning area and increased the Highlights to 54 and nudged the Clarity just a bit more (to 19) to make the bolts really pop.

Lightning lightroom

The sensor in the Nikon D90 doesn’t compare as well as modern cameras, especially in darkness, so the shot is pretty grainy. I could have tried to remove noise, but I kinda like it.

The final step was to move the photo to a collection that I use for syncing with Lightroom mobile. On my iPhone, I opened the app and saved the image to the Camera Roll. That let me open it in Instagram and share it there.

It’s not a photo that will win any awards, but I had fun shooting (and standing outside as the air cooled from the storm—did I mention it was really warm?) and editing something to share.

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Part 3 of iPad Photography in the Field: Rate, Tag, and Export Photos

iPad field3 bikes

The third and last article in my iPad Photography in the Field series at Lynda.com is now up! It’s an extra long entry that covers how to use the iPad to sort your good photos from the not-so-good ones. It also explains how to apply essential metadata like keywords and IPTC information to your photos so you don’t need to do it later when you’re back at the computer, saving a ton of time.

Read the article here: iPad Photography in the Field: Rate, Tag, and Export Photos.

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Free Chapter from the Third Edition

Want to check out the latest edition of The iPad for Photographers? Peachpit has posted Chapter 4, “The iPad in the Studio,” online and as a downloadable PDF. The PDF is a great way to get a feel for the full print or PDF edition of the book. (I absolutely love the design of this book, with lots of big color photos and screenshots.)

Click here to download Chapter 4 as a PDF, or read the chapter online.

Also, a reminder: The book is currently Peachpit’s Ebook of the Week. Until July 19, you can get the ebook (which includes PDF, EPUB, and Mobi/Kindle files) for just $9.99!

Chapter 4: The iPad in the Studio

Free Web Presentation July 15, Ebook Deal of the Week

iPad for Photographers Third EditionThis Tuesday, July 15, join me online for a free Peachpit Photo Club Web presentation about The iPad for Photographers. The video event kicks off at 5 p.m. PST (8 p.m. EST), when I’ll be talking about options for using the iPad in the field, and working with Lightroom mobile, Photosmith, and other apps. Although the video should be available later, I encourage you to watch it live if possible so you can ask questions

Coinciding with the presentation, Peachpit has named the new, iPad for Photographers Third Edition its Ebook of the Week, pricing it at just $9.99 (50% off)! That includes PDF, EPUB, and Mobi (Kindle) formats—perfect to have as a reference on your iPad during photo excursions.

Not sure if the book is for you (or for someone who’d enjoy it as a gift)? Peachpit also put up a free chapter to sample.

Part 2 of iPad Photography in the Field: Review Photos on Location

The second article in my series at Lynda.com about using an iPad in the field for photography is now posted. (You can read the Part 1 here.) This one takes us out into the field itself, where I discuss the advantages and the how-to of reviewing photos on location. I talk about using the Apple camera adapters and also wireless options like the Eyefi, which lets you review shots on the iPad while you’re shooting. I also offer ideas for recording location information and getting on-the-spot model releases easily.

Here it is: iPad Photography in the Field: Review Photos on Location

iPad literally in a field

New Article: iPad Photography in the Field, Part 1

I have a new article up at Lynda.com, the first in a series of “iPad Photography in the Field” pieces that takes you on location to see how an iPad is useful for photographers.

Part 1, “Prepare for Adventure,” is all about the preparation: Using an iPad (and/or iPhone) to scout photo locations, plan ahead, learn which direction the light will be coming from, and more.

Ipad field tulip field

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iPad for Photographers 3rd Edition Gets 5-Star Review in Photoshop User Magazine!

Photoshop User Magazine, one of the top resources for Photoshop users and photographers, reviewed the latest edition of The iPad for Photographers and gave it a 5-star rating!

The author introduces and discusses more than 50 iPad apps that can be used for everything from wirelessly downloading from your camera to your iPad to editing photos, music, and movies on the iPad to controlling your DSLR from the iPad… I started using three of them even before finishing this review.

Psuser review

Aperture’s Golden Hour

Aperture sunsetIt seemed fitting that I heard the news that Apple is sunsetting Aperture while I was attending a photo seminar. Aperture has been largely dormant for the past three years, and as I commented to Jackie Dove in an article at The Next Web, “I have to admit, on one level I’m a bit relieved that we finally know what’s happening with Aperture, instead of the limbo it’s been in for the last few years.” (Is it weird to quote myself on my own blog?)

What does this news mean for photographers who’ve invested countless hours and gigabytes of photos to Aperture? In short, we need to wait and see what Apple’s new Photos for OS X application will bring, but I’m not optimistic it will meet everyone’s needs, especially right away.

I explain in more detail at TidBITS in a new article: “Aperture’s Golden Hour.”

In photography, the “golden hour” is that slice of time just before and after sunset when the sun is low in the sky and the light is often bronze-hued and dramatic. It’s one of the best times of the day to capture photos, but the good light too soon rolls over into darkness.

Apple’s professional photo-management application, Aperture, has enjoyed an extended golden hour. Although Adobe Photoshop Lightroom long ago dominated the market, Aperture has held on in development limbo — working fine (but sludgy, in my experience) for those who use it, but not updated in any meaningful way. Now, its light is close to winking out: Apple announced last week that it will soon halt development of Aperture.