Natural hazards such a lightning and storms can produce stunning photographs. A flash in the sky seems hard to capture but there really is no hidden tricks about photographing lightning. If you've got a little preparation, persistence, ideal (bad) weather under your belt you’re good to go. Below, I've helped you out a bit with the ‘know-how’.
Forget about photographing a storm that’s already happening, composition will fly out the door. Plan your location before the storm actually arrives. Look for a striking foreground and other features that will be interesting if silhouetted against a strike of lightning. Your location should be away from the city lights. It should also be somewhat sheltered, so you can stay relatively dry during the rain while you snap away.
Make sure to keep both eyes on both short-term and long-term weather forecasts. If storm looks like it’s about to hit, keep your camera gear such as tripod and rain covers close and ready.
The Perfect Storm
Not all storms were made equal. If the storm is too far away, if it is weakly electrified they might not be suitable for lighting photography.
The Set Up
Turn off the auto-focus feature when setting up your shot. It simply won’t work in the dark. Instead, manually focus the lens on infinity, and leave it there for the whole shoot. To capture the lightning you’ll need long exposures and a lucky charm that lightning will strike when the shutter is open. It is best to shoot at f/8 for fifteen to thirty seconds, with the ISO set at 100. As always when working with long exposure use of a tripod is vital to avoid the shaky hand effect.
Most digital cameras have a built in noise-reducing feature that reduces noise during long exposures. Turn it off! The camera is out of action while this feature operates, and you won’t want to miss any lightning that comes your way. If the camera is at ISO 100, the noise will be minimized anyway. Noise can always be fixed up in Photoshop at a later time.
Remember, no photo is worth dying for. Pay special attention to where a storm is moving, and don’t cross its path, you never know how things will turn out. Unpredictability is what it’s all about, it makes photographing lightning exciting and special. Next time you hear of a storm brewing, view it as an opportunity!
About the Author
Sam is a amateur photographer and a journalist who is passionate about photography and gadgets. He is still searching for that perfect shot.