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Thread: Tripods in lightning storms?

  1. #1

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    Tripods in lightning storms?

    When photographing storms with lightning hitting is it any safer using a Wood tripod or Carbon Fiber over a Metal one?

    I photograph as the storms move in - but generally from in an enclosed vehicle - trying to stay safer while still getting some lightning images.

    For the times I am out of the vehicle does it make any real difference what the tripod is made of?
    "My forumla for successful printing remains ordinary chemicals, an ordinary enlarger, music, a bottle of scotch - and stubbornness." W. Eugene Smith

  2. #2
    Foamer
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    Re: Tripods in lightning storms?

    Doubtful it makes much difference. Air is a good insulator and ligthtning goes through thousands of feet of it.


    Kent in SD
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    miserere nobis.

  3. #3
    Louie Powell's Avatar
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    Re: Tripods in lightning storms?

    My first response is to ask why you raise this question? If you are seriously considering going out into a lightning storm with a camera and tripod, my answer would be 'Don't do it!'.

    But if you are asking the question just out of curiosity, then my response would be different. Lightning obeys the usual laws of electrical physics, but what happens during a lightning stroke sometimes appears unexpected because unexpected and seemingly trivial factors can become part of the electrical circuit. The general rule is that strokes will be attracted to the point of highest elevation, and unless the photographer is unusually short, or the tripod is unusually tall, that point would be the top of the photographer's head. But if the photographer is wearing shoes that are good insulators, then a conductive tripod might be a more likely target. But one can also devise scenarios where the electrical circuit comprising the photographer's body in parallel with an adjacent tripod present a greater exposure than either standing alone.

    While speculation about these scenarios is intellectually interesting, common sense says that they are not something that you want to experiment with. So the best advice for photographing lightning is to do it from a distance and from within a shelter.

    Ultimately, lightning is an electrostatic discharge - trapped electrical charge accumulates in one area to the point where a dielectric breaks down to allow that charge to be transferred to another area. That breakdown and transfer is what we see as a lightning stroke. Statistically, most strokes involve discharges between clouds, but the most interesting and visually dramatic are earth-cloud discharges. Earth-cloud discharges are usually the most dangerous when people are in the vicinity of the point of attachment, but cloud-cloud discharges can cause damage to structures on the ground and possible danger to humans.

  4. #4
    Tin Can's Avatar
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    Re: Tripods in lightning storms?

    3 timer Lee Trevino and many golfers

    https://www.golfdigest.com/story/how...ur-pros-learne
    wear mask or NOT

    is ???

  5. #5
    Robert Bowring
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    Re: Tripods in lightning storms?

    If you get hit by lightning it will not make any difference what your tripod is made of.

  6. #6

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    Re: Tripods in lightning storms?

    Metal is best, taller the better. Standing on a metal later holding an umbrella over the camera!

  7. #7
    Vaughn's Avatar
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    Re: Tripods in lightning storms?

    I remember reading about a pitcher that got killed by lightning and the rest of the infield got knocked on their asses.

    I am 6'3" of conductive tissues linked together by a slightly salted watery solution -- a metal tripod shorter than I am standing next to me will not make a lot of difference. I have seen lots of interesting after-effects of lightning strikes in the wilds.
    "Landscapes exist in the material world yet soar in the realms of the spirit..." Tsung Ping, 5th Century China

  8. #8
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: Tripods in lightning storms?

    I've been in many many severe lightning storms in the mountains. The secret to survival is to move FAST to the safest location, generally downhill, and don't have anything conductive nearby. Don't have metal around you period. Of course, if you're way out in the middle of a lake in an aluminum boat, you need luck too. If you start smelling ozone, have the hair raise on your arms, and there's a buzz in the air, you probably have less than a minute. Sometimes there's St Elmo's Fire, a strange iridescent glow around metal. If you see that, it might be the last thing you ever see.
    Every year people die from lightning strikes in our mountains. My nephew once climbed Mt Whitney up the climber's route. There were a number of people who had come up the trail standing around the summit hut. A tiny black cloud arose over the next ridge a few miles away. He yelled at them to get off the summit as fast as possible. They ignored him. He and his climbing buddies ran down the trail, ready to toss their metal climbing gear over the cliff if it started glowing. About the second switchback down, they paused to look back up. The sky was black. People had gone into the summit hut instead of downhill. One of them was instantly killed by a lightning bolt. Another was revived using CPR. A third person had his arm literally microwaved in that hut, and had to have it amputated.
    I could tell many stories of my own about lightning victims I've seen. Once a dozen Boy Scouts were killed crossing a bare patch of granite at the same time. Quite a few people over the years have died atop Half Dome in Yosemite by ignoring the sign warning them not to go up during a storm. Even if you survive, you might have severe burns. There's a special term for anyone who gambles with lightning : they're called a Fool.
    If you want to photograph lightning, don't do it out in the wide open with a big storm cell above. In the mountains, don't be similarly exposed on a bare area or near the prow of a hill, and especially not atop a peak or pass. Look around you, are the trees unscathed, or are there burn scars on them? Lightning is fairly predictable where it strikes in the mountains. You always want to photograph from a sheltered vantage point.

  9. #9

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    Re: Tripods in lightning storms?

    Taking shots of lighting is something I will definitely use my 35mm gear for. Iíll bring the 200-500mm zoom and do it from a safer distance (nothing is 100% safe). They also sell you this trigger detectors so that you can catch them, like

    https://www.photographytalk.com/land...e-buying-guide


    Definitely donít want be shooting close-up lightning with my 4x5 and a 65mm lens ;-)

  10. #10
    Vaughn's Avatar
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    Re: Tripods in lightning storms?

    That is what was nice working in the Yolla Bollys -- I never had to see someone hit by lightening...not enough people around. Sitting in a FS truck on top of a mountain during lightening storms (the lookout itself was condemned) was 'fun'. I would have loved playing with the fire-finder in the lookout, but instead I had to get the smokes' located from maps. Not tough if you like maps and familiar with the 360 degree view...and I like maps.

    But I have had to hold back crew members who wanted to run back to camp when a storm hit...much safer where we were than running along a ridgetop for three miles. And sometimes one has no choice but to hunker down when one has white-out conditions with the buzz and then lightening, and there is no way to go up or down.
    Last edited by Vaughn; 11-Oct-2020 at 15:45.
    "Landscapes exist in the material world yet soar in the realms of the spirit..." Tsung Ping, 5th Century China

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