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  #1  
Old 16-11-2011, 04:43 PM
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multiweb (Marc)
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Lightning Trigger

I'm interested in taking lightning/storms picies. Lately with the weather it just seems to be a logical progression into the hobby.

With some help from Alex C. I now have all I need to run my Nex-5 with a Canon Remote. It triggers an IR remote that fires the Camera.

I'm enquiring on how lightning triggers work. I googled them a bit and it looks like most fit on the flash shoe of the camera. I'm thinking there must be a way for a standalone system to trigger a voltage and fire the IR remote in the same way.

Has anyone any info/links specifically on how the lightning triggers work?
TIA.
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  #2  
Old 16-11-2011, 05:31 PM
Poita (Peter)
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They are pretty basic, I have designed a few over the years.
The last one I made was yonks ago, so there are probably better ways to do it now, but I used to use a darlington phototransistor to turn the lightning flash into an electrical pulse, amplify it with an LM324 quad op-amp and filtering it to only respond to fast changes in light, and to only trigger on large pulses. Then just some basic components to trigger the electronic shutter release on your camera.
Probably about $10 in parts.
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  #3  
Old 16-11-2011, 05:34 PM
adman (Adam)
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they obviously work - but I would have thought that by the time the flash had happened, and then triggered the camera it would be too late.

I guess the only other way is to close the aperture and reduce the film and shutter speeds to the point where you can take sequences of images of a few seconds duration each and hope to catch something by sheer luck.
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  #4  
Old 16-11-2011, 05:39 PM
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Bassnut (Fred)
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Leave the shutter open (on B) with low iso/aperture and let go as soon as you see a flash?
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  #5  
Old 16-11-2011, 05:43 PM
Poita (Peter)
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From memory the July issue of Silicon Chip magazine had a lightning detector circuit published, you could just add a simple trigger to it to fire off the camera.
I tend toi know a lot of people just keep the shutter open during storms until the lightning hits.
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  #6  
Old 16-11-2011, 05:44 PM
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I've taken lightning shots before. I did what was mentioned here- turn the ISO down as low as possible and hold the shutter open for as long as possible.

It works best at night. Also lightning often has a repeating interval - a bright lightning bolt every 30 seconds so you can wait until you think one is imminent and then open.

I usually kept the shutter open for about 30 seconds hoping to catch something. I got some good results.

It'd be a lot harder in daylight. Although I did a great one once with an approaching storm and frequent large bolts. In Sydney at least, storms are usually late afternoon or early evening and an approaching heavy storm makes conditions a bit dark anyway.

I wouldn't suggest sitting on a metal roof in the rain to take one like I did but I did get the great shot!

Greg.
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  #7  
Old 16-11-2011, 06:02 PM
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sheeny (Al)
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I usually just take a series of 30s shots and toss out the ones that don;t have lightning in them. To help do this during twilight I have a few ND filters I put on the lens (also useful for smooth water shots) but I don;t have enough to get 30s in full daylight.

As for the lightning triggers, the theory is that the lightning strike is actually 4 to 6 short strikes over the same track spread out over many milliseconds. The first strike is detected by the trigger, and the shutter is opened before the last strike.

Al.
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  #8  
Old 16-11-2011, 06:10 PM
Poita (Peter)
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The last lightning trigger I made was for catching shots of lightning during the day.

I'd say now you would just use an arduino or similar to do it, along with a simple sensor. They are cheap enough now, especially the clones.
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  #9  
Old 16-11-2011, 07:17 PM
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My meteor camera picks them up all the time. It's a video camera with time shifting using UFOCapture. The quality is terrible though - it usually just washes out the entire image. Usually has rain on the lens and lots of clouds too.
James
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  #10  
Old 16-11-2011, 09:29 PM
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Thanks for the info and all the ideas guys. I found some info here and emailed them for further details. The trigger output is a 2.5mm audio jack similar to the TC-80N3. the various camera specific cables also look very familiar so I'm confident that the voltage output will be close to what a standard intervalometer would provide. I know what to look for and can work out the wiring. The only unknown at this stage is timing. I don't know how much lag there is between the IR firing and the NEX-5 shutter release. I guess triggering within the ball park is better than nothing but I would assume it is as fast as a direct cable connection?
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  #11  
Old 16-11-2011, 10:08 PM
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You might want to contact Astroman on this forum, he built his own trigger and apparently it works a treat.
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  #12  
Old 17-11-2011, 01:46 AM
Poita (Peter)
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If you are going to spend that sort of money, then get something more versatile like this:
http://www.cameraaxe.com/wiki/index.php?title=Main_Page
http://www.dreamingrobots.com/store/...=index&cPath=1

or this:
http://www.doc-diy.net/photo/smatrig...htning_trigger
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  #13  
Old 17-11-2011, 07:09 AM
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Thanks all.

PS: as some people asked me for more info about the remotes here's a pic of the set-up. The wiring details are available on Alex C. blog. You can also get an AC adaptor from SONY or eBay to run the NEX-5 off the main and a 32GB card should give you 16h worth of imaging. Bit over 6000 subs. So plug n' forget type of thing.
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Click for full-size image (SONY_NEX-5_rig.jpg)
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Last edited by multiweb; 17-11-2011 at 09:10 AM. Reason: added pic
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  #14  
Old 17-11-2011, 08:22 PM
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Astroman (Andrew Wall)
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I built my own trigger using a circuit from http://www.solorb.com/elect/lightning/ Works good during the day, but I tend to use the "old fashioned" method for night time stuff. The critical part is the shutter lag. On my Canon 400D the shutter lag can be quite long, I think it was something like 100ms or so. This is very hit and miss with lightning. If the Lightning pulsed then I could almost guarantee I would get it. But many types of lightning have various effects. If you are running an IR system to release the trigger it may be similar to my 400D or slightly longer, only experimentation will prove if it will work or not. During the day I also use an ND filter so I can slow the shutter speed down a bit, just in case there are secondary bolts.

The triggers you see attached to the hotshoe are only there because of convenience, it's just handy to have it sitting there pointing in the same place as our lens. My trigger uses a 9v battery which powers the unit for months. Handy since I have large switches and sometimes they get bumped on.

I think by what I have just read the NEX-5 only has IR remote, so unless you hack into the camera you can only use the IR to control the trigger. So looking at the image above if you use the trigger in place of the intervalometer then you should be able to trigger the cameras shutter.

The circuit above is very adaptable and can even be made on breadboard, I made my own PCB but I cannot find the drawings for ir now... Here are some pics of it, which may help..

This was the first one I made, I modified the box to make it fit better.
http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/o...tpcblayout.jpg

Here is the finished unit on the camera.
http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/o...trigger001.jpg

and here is a strike taken by the camera/trigger
http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/o..._untouched.jpg

and...
http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/o...ther/lls05.jpg

All taken with the 400D and the trigger.

If you want to shoot lightning at night then there are other methods you could try, if you want help with that let me know so I can look up the manual of the NEX-5 to work out a plan.
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  #15  
Old 18-11-2011, 03:16 AM
luigi
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sheeny View Post
I usually just take a series of 30s shots and toss out the ones that don;t have lightning in them. To help do this during twilight I have a few ND filters I put on the lens (also useful for smooth water shots) but I don;t have enough to get 30s in full daylight.

As for the lightning triggers, the theory is that the lightning strike is actually 4 to 6 short strikes over the same track spread out over many milliseconds. The first strike is detected by the trigger, and the shutter is opened before the last strike.

Al.

I do the same, I program the intervalometer to take 20-30 second shots on continuous mode and then examine what I got in them.
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  #16  
Old 18-11-2011, 07:53 AM
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multiweb (Marc)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Astroman View Post
I built my own trigger using a circuit from http://www.solorb.com/elect/lightning/ Works good during the day, but I tend to use the "old fashioned" method for night time stuff. The critical part is the shutter lag. On my Canon 400D the shutter lag can be quite long, I think it was something like 100ms or so. This is very hit and miss with lightning. If the Lightning pulsed then I could almost guarantee I would get it. But many types of lightning have various effects. If you are running an IR system to release the trigger it may be similar to my 400D or slightly longer, only experimentation will prove if it will work or not. During the day I also use an ND filter so I can slow the shutter speed down a bit, just in case there are secondary bolts.

The triggers you see attached to the hotshoe are only there because of convenience, it's just handy to have it sitting there pointing in the same place as our lens. My trigger uses a 9v battery which powers the unit for months. Handy since I have large switches and sometimes they get bumped on.

I think by what I have just read the NEX-5 only has IR remote, so unless you hack into the camera you can only use the IR to control the trigger. So looking at the image above if you use the trigger in place of the intervalometer then you should be able to trigger the cameras shutter.

The circuit above is very adaptable and can even be made on breadboard, I made my own PCB but I cannot find the drawings for ir now... Here are some pics of it, which may help..

This was the first one I made, I modified the box to make it fit better.
http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/o...tpcblayout.jpg

Here is the finished unit on the camera.
http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/o...trigger001.jpg

and here is a strike taken by the camera/trigger
http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/o..._untouched.jpg

and...
http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/o...ther/lls05.jpg

All taken with the 400D and the trigger.

If you want to shoot lightning at night then there are other methods you could try, if you want help with that let me know so I can look up the manual of the NEX-5 to work out a plan.
Wow! Thanks for that. Very involved for my electroninc knowledge though.

Quote:
Originally Posted by luigi View Post
I do the same, I program the intervalometer to take 20-30 second shots on continuous mode and then examine what I got in them.
Yes - I will try that as well.
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  #17  
Old 18-11-2011, 10:21 AM
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ZeroID (Brent)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Astroman View Post
..... The critical part is the shutter lag. .
Make sure you have turned off the Autofocus. Mine is almost instantaneous but it's a semi pro camera.

There are plenty of remote shutter/flash control toys out on the interweb. Lightning normally lasts about half a second or more for serious flashes, the current maintains the strike. If using a light detection trigger set the shutter for about 1 second to get it all.
Otherwise the open shutter, hope and wish system is the next option.
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  #18  
Old 18-11-2011, 11:07 AM
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philiphart (Phil Hart)
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Not so much for Marc, but the reason for having a trigger and not simply doing continuous bulb exposures is that it allows you to shoot lightning in quite bright conditions.

you can only do the bulb approach at night, but with the lightning trigger, you can set say a 1/4 sec exposure, f8, ISO100 and catch lightning during the day (if conditions aren't too bright). trying to do 1/4 sec exposures continously without the trigger soon fills up your memory card!

i've been using one in a few storms here and getting a bit more used to it. this is not the unit i have but has good info:
http://www.lightningtrigger.com/Tips...hotographytips

Phil
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  #19  
Old 18-11-2011, 11:32 AM
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multiweb (Marc)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ZeroID View Post
Make sure you have turned off the Autofocus. Mine is almost instantaneous but it's a semi pro camera.

There are plenty of remote shutter/flash control toys out on the interweb. Lightning normally lasts about half a second or more for serious flashes, the current maintains the strike. If using a light detection trigger set the shutter for about 1 second to get it all.
Otherwise the open shutter, hope and wish system is the next option.
Yes - I always focus manually.

Quote:
Originally Posted by philiphart View Post
Not so much for Marc, but the reason for having a trigger and not simply doing continuous bulb exposures is that it allows you to shoot lightning in quite bright conditions.

you can only do the bulb approach at night, but with the lightning trigger, you can set say a 1/4 sec exposure, f8, ISO100 and catch lightning during the day (if conditions aren't too bright). trying to do 1/4 sec exposures continously without the trigger soon fills up your memory card!

i've been using one in a few storms here and getting a bit more used to it. this is not the unit i have but has good info:
http://www.lightningtrigger.com/Tips...hotographytips

Phil
I ordered one with a Canon/Pentax 2.5mm cable that will be compatible with my IR remote from here.
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  #20  
Old 18-11-2011, 02:06 PM
Poita (Peter)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ZeroID View Post
Make sure you have turned off the Autofocus. Mine is almost instantaneous but it's a semi pro camera.

There are plenty of remote shutter/flash control toys out on the interweb. Lightning normally lasts about half a second or more for serious flashes, the current maintains the strike. If using a light detection trigger set the shutter for about 1 second to get it all.
Otherwise the open shutter, hope and wish system is the next option.
That is why decent lightning triggers can also set the 'half press' of the shutter button, so that it sits in that state until the lightning appears. It speeds up the shutter firing considerable in cameras that don't have full manual functions.
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