Today we would like to discuss the photos you have seen circulating around the internet that are alleged to be columns of light in the sky.
Very commonly, cell phone cameras have rolling shutters. When photo is snapped with a rolling shutter it scans whatever you are photographing one column at a time at a very high speed. When one happens to take a photo while lightning strikes, lighting up the sky, the shutter captures that split second in a column giving the photo the appearance that there is a column of light.
Lightning isn’t always responsible for these pillar like artifacts in photos. Sometimes this can occur with the camera flash or other camera flashes in settings where multiple people are taking photos. You probably have noticed several people arguing that the pillar of light is coming out of a cloud or out of a pyramid. This occurs when the flash of light is behind the object in question. As you can see in the photographs below this effect can be easily recreated.
Rolling shutters are also responsible for a lot of photos you may see with partial motion blur as well as the panorama is captured in columns.
–Photographs courtesy of Mick West.
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