A step leader is a smaller current (ionized air and moisture) developed between the cloud and ground before a lighting strike. Most video cameras created an optical illusion phenomena that appears to precede an actual full framed image strike. Many Youtube videos inaccurately state that the step leader can be viewed only a few feet from the shooter, bouncing off the hood of a vehicle or the dashboard. This is false. This video shows what really happens. This actual bolt was 900 feet from the camera based on sound. The furthest trees are 250 feet from the camera. Just prior to the strike a small stream is visible. This is a half frame from instant over exposure. You can also see in HD the first fine strike, a white dot surrounding the top of the false leader strike. This is the cloud base where the lightning met the cloud. This may seem impossible because that actually took place well out of frame and far above the camera view. Because lenses are spherical, they can pickup reflection completely out of frame especially when set to wide angle. Normally on interlaced video shooting you cannot see frame interlacing or any object way out of frame, but due to high exposure it overlaps and appears to fall before our trees. Most video digital footage on youtube is deinterlaced for smooth viewing, the stream pattern matches exactly the top half of the visible bolt and usually exposes the cloud base not in the frame. Also the elements of a camera lens can produce a "sister" or "twin" bolt in the same frame as the actual strike. Multi bolts appear at super wide angle, lens bolts appear on zoom due to internal lens configurations. Most lighting video is shot in wide angle. Not a step leader, just an illusion. Step leaders are usually invisible to the naked eye and are rarely photographed.
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