Jun 10, 2009


As a bit of a wanna-be photojournalist and weather geek, having large storm systems roll through the region makes me a bit antsy.  Sitting home with lightning flashing in the distance proved to be too much to handle, so I grabbed a camera, tripod and shutter release cable and found a bridge to sit under.  I like to sit by a road so that the long exposure times also give me a trail of lights for visual interest and perspective.

First thing to note for Lightning photography is that you cannot wait until you see a bolt to push the shutter button.  Patience is the name of the game.  

You have to manual focus your lens, so choose whether to focus on something else that will be in the frame (for visual interest), or set it out to infinity to get the lightning bolts as clearly defined as possible.

After that, it is a matter of taking a lot of pictures and some good luck.  Inevitably, great strikes will happen between frames, off to one side or the other, behind you, and as you are driving away.

Some of the lightning will just light up the clouds.  If you put something in the foreground of your shot, even that can be interesting.

Point and shoot cameras can be somewhat effective with a lot of patience and luck.. use the "fireworks" preset for longer shutter speed.

I took a 14mm lens on a Canon 40D in hopes that the wide angle would catch more sky in each shot.  This worked, but the lens is also very prone to flare from direct light, so there was a lot of interference from the car headlights.  Also, these pictures are all cropped down a lot from the original wide angle view.

Here is one from June of 2008, this time looking at an approaching storm.  This was without a tripod, so you can see that the foreground elements are fuzzy.
June Lightning

Without a tripod, it is possible to use the dash of your car and shoot through the windshield.  Use a t-shirt or sandbag to keep the camera positioned.  
June Lightning

Well, enough of that.  If you can get out to shoot safely, lightning photos can add some electricity to your portfolio.

Did I just say that? 

Happy Shooting,

don j.

1 comment:

  1. Neat shots, I was out on my porch last night with the tripod, but it was really only cloud lightning. Nothing good here except the thunder, and I havent figured out how to photograph that.