Galveston Pirate's Beach Weather Station
Located in Pirate's Beach, Galveston Texas
Latitude: 29 degrees 12' N -- Longitude: 94 degrees 5' W
Lightning Strikes

Invaluable technical support provided by Rusty Ross

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Pirates' Beach Lightning Strikes Explained

Capturing Lightning in a Photograph - The Explanation

The process I used to capture these lighting strikes in still photographs was actually quite simple.

I set up my high resolution digital video camera and took about 15 minutes of continuous video of the lightning storm, repositioning the camera direction as I could see the storm shifiting a bit.

That video records at 30 frames of the picture per second.

After loading that digital video into iMovie on the Macintosh, it was fairly simple to find the specific frames in which the lighting bolts appeared and to capture that single frame as a still photo.

Each frame represented 1/30th of a second, and that was fast enough to capture each lightning bolt.

Explanations Offered by Web Site Users

A number of you sent in explanations as to how the lightning shots were made.

Winning Explanation: The only person to get it exactly right was Andrew Wright-Broughton of Galveston, whose explanation was "stills from a digital video camera."

Most Interesting Explanation: The most interesting explanation (although wrong) was offered by Professor Roger Parks of the University of Indiana. He offered:

"the camera changes focal point every N minutes within a relatively small arc [seem to be pair or so of photos with same focal
point] - but then how it is triggered fast enough to catch a lightning strike ...? yo no se - my digital camera sure does not fire fast enough!"

Roger was one of my fraternity brothers from M.I.T. and you can certainly see his engineering education at work here.

First Runner-Up: for the best explanation comes from Dr. Richard Alexander, our neighbor at Pirates' Beach: "I am guessing you asked the neighbor across the street to go out and fly a kite to draw the action closer to get the shots."

Second Runner-Up: Chris Sanders of Houston offered: "you can set your camera on some setting that detects the light and it takes the photo of the lightning at just the right time".

Thanks to everyone who sent in an explanation. Hope you enjoyed the photographs.

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