Monday, August 25, 2014

Ocean Lightning by Andre Kleynhans

Lightning strike over the ocean near Key West, Florida ~ © Andre Kleynhans
Nikon D800 • Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8 lens @ 24mm, f/3.2, 5 seconds, ISO 160
Andre Kleynhans of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, captured these two spectacular lightning images at night from the 12th deck of a cruise ship, sailing out of Key West, Florida.

Lightning strike over the ocean near Key West, Florida ~ © Andre Kleynhans (click to enlarge)
Nikon D800 • Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 lens @ 70mm, f/2.8, 5 seconds, ISO 200
Both images were cropped slightly to Andre's taste. In the top image, he was trying to get the reflection across the water; and in the bottom image his goal was to dramatically fill the frame as much as possible.

Technique: Andre used a five-second exposure time in order to capture as many single lightning strikes as possible. The camera was set to fire continuously, until he had obtained the captures he desired. By keeping the shutter speed to only 5-seconds, Andre hoped to eliminate second lightning strikes within the same frame.

"I am aiming to catch only one lighting strike per exposure. If you leave it open for longer and you do get another lightning strike in the same exposure your 2nd strike will throw off your image due to the fact that the ship is constantly moving, so it will look like you have two images on top of each other, but not aligned —and you could not fix that in post," cautions Andre.

During hurricane season, one can find a lot of thunderstorms in the Caribbean. "The strong winds are usually more prominent along the railing of ship, [but] if you just move a couple of feet back you can escape the most of it," advises Andre.

Challenges: Standing on the open deck of a cruise ship leaves one at the mercy of the elements.

"You have heavy winds, lots of movement and rain that can come out of no where, as it is very dark out in the middle of the ocean. As long as you have a sturdy tripod, and you are set up in such a way that if the rain catches you by surprise, you can pick up your gear and make a run for cover. Make sure you are focused to infinity and try to shoot a little wider than the active part of the cloud; this way you can catch all the action. You can always crop a little bit in post," says Andre.

Tools: A steady tripod was essential. "When I took this image I was standing on deck 12 of the ship (in the front). It is entirely exposed to the wind, so I had to make sure I place my tripod in [a way] to try to avoid as much of the wind as possible. Taking these types of shots at 5 seconds does give you a bit of room to play. A soon as the lightning hits, your image is exposed and you just pretty much wait for the shutter to close again. Its so dark out there in the ocean it actually makes it an easy environment to shoot lightning," says Andre.

Andre used Adobe Lightroom to do the minimal adjustments that he did to the images.

Satisfaction: This was the first lighting storm Andre was able to shoot since upgrading to the Nikon D800, and his expectations were very high. "When I saw that first exposure on the LCD I did a little dance, because I knew that I captured a winner. The satisfaction came when I zoomed in and checked that it was tack sharp. This made standing out there in the 85-degree heat of the Caribbean worth the effort."

Andre Kleynhans was born in Pretoria, South Africa. Andre lived in South Africa until he was 25. After that, he started working on cruise ships, and has been on them now for over six years (he is currently a PADI Instructor). Having the opportunity to see the world ignited his interest in photography.

Andre had always loved taking his dad’s camera from him and being the one taking the family pictures. His career on cruise ships gave him the opportunity to invest in his first camera. Andre learn pretty much everything he knows about photography through self-studying, and is a big supporter of a website called CreativeLive.

Today, Andre shoots with a Nikon D800. He loves landscape photography —anything from sunsets/sunrises, seascapes, the moon or stars —if he has a nice dark evening. He also enjoys doing panoramas, and finds it very interesting to cut up a scene with the camera and recreate it in post production. More of Andre's photography can be found on his website.


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