Storm Highway by Dan Robinson
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                   Friday, August 19, 2011 - 8:39AM CDT

Upward lightning at KMOV tower in St. Louis - August 19

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When doing long exposures on my Canon XSi in continuous mode (locked down with the cable release), there is a gap of roughly one second in between each exposure as the camera closes then opens the shutter again. I usually do 15-second exposures at F9-F10 when shooting in a city environment (longer exposures are impractical due to all of the urban lights). This means that the shutter is closed one out of every 16 seconds, and I am amazed at how many times lightning happens during the 1/16th of the time the shutter is closed for 1 second. Because of this, I missed two nice anvil crawlers back-to-back in Chicago last year (I was incredulous) - and this morning, one nice CG was missed, and I was about 1/1000th of a second from missing this one. The shutter closed for one second, the sky started lighting up, then right as it opened again, the tower gets nailed. I thought I missed it, and was fuming until the LCD lit up at the end of the exposure.

KMOV tower lightning
Click to enlarge

I thought tonight was a loss for storms in St. Louis, until radar showed a developing MCV turning the complex more easterly just to the south of the city. There was some weak electrified stratiform precip moving toward the metro, which is pretty useless for anything but upward tower lightning. So, I passed up the city scenes for the KMOV tower south of town. This was the only hit to the tower during the storm.

Here is a frame from video of the CG the camera missed, thanks to that 1 second gap in between exposures:

August 19, 2011 lightning

And here is a video frame of the upward flash - this is exactly the frame you hear the shutter go 'click' to open for the first shot above:

August 19, 2011 lightning

Since I only have two lightning clips from tonight, I won't post a video yet. I have a compilation file of KMOV tower strikes that I'll eventually post to Youtube after I get a few more shots to add to it.

Lastly, here is the only other still from the night, a few branches from a mostly off-camera anvil crawler/positive CG combo:

August 19, 2011 lightning

Youtube and Google+ usage rights grab

Speaking of Youtube - if you care at all about protecting the copyright of your material, you might want to be careful about how and where you post it. Youtube, for example, has an updated terms of service (I'm not sure how long it's been in effect), that essentially gives third parties (such as businesses and TV networks) the right to air your footage with no permission or compensation to you! Respected professional storm chasers are finding their work on places like CNN and Fox without ever being asked or paid. As a result, I pulled all of my videos from Youtube. I'm in the process of heavily watermarking them and will eventially get them all added back in.

Google Plus is the other promising new service, but unfortunately they too are in on the media rights grab when it comes to photos, videos or anything else you post. If you post any of your work there, make sure you watermark it to the point it can't easily be used commercially without the user contacting you for a licensed, paid clean version from you. I checked Flickr's TOS, and thankfully they're not in on the rights grabbing - yet. Reading the fine print is becoming ever-more imperative when posting your work anywhere - and not just when you sign up, as the TOSs can change that will affect anything new you post.

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