Special FX: Slow-motion lightning is hyper-reality, recorded in-camera

In my last few years of pro video camera toting, I have only managed to capture the wonder of lightning strikes on two occasions. Both of these were while staying on Kangaroo Island, a beautiful natural getaway a few hours drive south of Adelaide, South Australia. I chose to shoot the subject on a slow shutter speed (not to be confused with slow-mo) to heighten the sensation of the ‘flash’ but at the time I had wondered what lightning might look like in slow motion. Now I’ve seen it… and you’re about to follow suit, thanks to the joy of embedded video.

Video cameras capable of high quality slow motion (until very recently) have been prohibitively expensive. It was for this purpose Emma Sterling and I shot slow-motion sequences for our experimental short documentary A Shift in Perception on Super8 film cameras. By comparison, the cost of film stock and developing was offset by the affordability of used cameras, capable of producing highly professional images and sold for silly prices due to perceived obsolescence. These days, the video slow-motion options are more feasible though, as new hybrid breeds of digital SLRs and even ‘point & shoots’ are coming equipped with the feature.

I’ve been inspired by the above example of poetry and natural wonder in the sky and I will definitely be looking into slow-motion video options again as we gear ourselves up for the year ahead in production. The results of good slow-motion photography can reveal the hyper-real, almost seeming super-natural. Images like the above require luck and timing sure… but you won’t be able to capture them without the right technical knowledge and equipment either.

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