Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Capturing lightning with a Sony A7r

First off, this is extremely dangerous. I've written about how dangerous shooting in slot canyons can  be.  Capturing lightning is even more dangerous.  With slot canyon photography you can plan ahead by checking the weather out to around a 50- mile radius and if there's even a hint of rain or thunderstorms you need to rethink your plan.   Not so with lightning.  You are actively looking for a storm with thunder and lightning.  In most instances you'll be outside or under some sort of cover shooting on a tripod which contains metal, a camera which also contains metal; both of which can be a great attraction to lightning.  If you're lucky and lightning does hit, the most that will happen is you fry your camera.  The other extreme is that you fry yourself.  Have I mentioned how dangerous this is?

I feel better posting the above before going into the blog.  This will more of a teaser than our normal blog as we only have 2-images to share. 

- First lightning captured using the Sony A7r, 665nm infrared, 14mm Rokinon lens, f/8, 1/125 ISO 100.  Captured at 4:17 PM.

Using a Sony A7r which I had converted to capture 665nm infrared, I attached a Lightning Trigger.  This "trigger" senses the lightning and captures it.  That's the explanation - I strongly suggest a visit to the website for more in-depth information.

- Second day of testing the Lightning Trigger.  Same camera and lens, I believe this was shot at f/22, 1/15 ISO 50 at 3:12 PM.
Both images were processed using a combination of Capture One Pro and Photoshop CC with the help of NIK HRD Efex Pro.   
We'll be writing/sharing more in the future so once again please consider this a teaser.



  1. I've shot a lot of lightning, but never with a trigger. The latency inherent in hauling the mirror up and opening the shutter means the camera often misses the branching discharges and records only a 'pencil' of the main bolt. I don't have huge interest in daylight lightning, but would like to extend the twilight/sunset range beyond what is possible with simple machine-gunning. Being mirrorless, the A7 should have an advantage over a classic DSLR in this respect. As a future A7 owner, I look forward to any further A7 + lightning articles. Thanks.

  2. Hi Greg, I've found the difference between shooting with the 1DsII and 7r remarkable mainly due to lack of mirror. Shooting with a trigger helps catch the trails from the instant they begin all the way to their death - of course that depends on the shutter speed. I was late in the season here in the southwest this year and haven't been able to do a lot of lightning however I do see great promise next year and looking forward to shooting more with the 7r and the trigger. Don

  3. Thank for the first-hand report!

    It looks like the shutter latency is only 'fair' on the R model. http://www.imaging-resource.com/camera-reviews/sony/a7r/ Time ranges from ~1/4 second in manual to ~1/8 with the shutter partially depressed (pre-focus mode).

    The base model (same site) is much faster, with a pre-focus latency of only 0.023 seconds (Fantastic, if this measurement is accurate.)
    Do you know if any of the triggers can hold the camera in this 'armed' state? Of can a simple mechanical 'finger' pressing on the shutter do the same? There's got to be a hack of some sort in here.... :)


  4. Greg, I'd strongly recommend contacting the folks at Lightning Trigger and discuss this.

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